We have reached the stage in construction when the wooden planks which make up the sides of the boat need to be sealed. For this we are using a traditional method combinating tree resin and palm fibres.
First, a resin called balau from the apitong tree (Dipterocarpus grandiflorus) is heated until it melts. The sticky liquid is then painted onto the wooden planks.
Next, fibres called labok labok ng barok from an idiok palm tree (Caryota cumingii) are placed on the balau resin. The next plank is then placed on top, sealing the two pieces of wood together.
Both the resin and the palm fibres are local forest products, traditionally used for Filipino boat building. The balau is harvested by native Tagbanua people on Palawan’s west coast and the barok is collected from palms near to the boat building site along the Babuyan River.
The process we are following is based entirely on local knowledge – originating with Gener and the boat builders themselves. However we have found similar techniques documented by historian William Henry Scott in his paper on Boat Building and Seamanship in Classic Philippine Society.