Monthly Archives: November 2013

Traditional Pala’wan carving

Simpio and Oten, Pala'wan CarversFor the past ten days, two master carvers from the Pala’wan tribe have been working on the paraw, decorating the boat with their distinctive designs and surat, traditional lettering.

Simpio, 35, and his nephew Oten, 25, are from Española in southern Palawan. Both incredibly hardworking, supporting young families, they travelled to Maoyon to add their traditional designs to the paraw.  “We are used to working until 1am and starting again at 5am,” says Oten. Upon hearing this Gener gave them head-torches to make their work easier.

Simpio has been carving since he was nineteen years old. He learned from his uncle, also a master wood carver.

“The tradition of wood carving is in our family, it’s in our blood,” he says.

They come from a family with a rich traditional and ritual life. Their designs include images of Palawan wildlife such as turtles, rays and fish.

“We want to preserve the traditional carving techniques of our ancestors,” says Oten. “Sometimes I invent a new pattern but usually I follow the designs of uncle Simpio, as he is my teacher.”

According to archaeologists studying the Tabon Cave in the municipality of Quezon, Pala’wan culture can be traced back 50,000 years and they are among the first people known to have inhabited Southeast Asia.

Paraw-5126Their native script, or surat, as they call it is one of only three pre-hispanic scripts still in use in the Philippines today. The lettering on the paraw’s stern (pictured above) reads “Balatik“, “Orion” in English.

Although Pala’wan culture remains rich and vibrant, it is under threat. Learn more about the Pala’wan tribe from Survival International

Download an article on Pala’wan ancient script from Discovery Channel Magazine.

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Paraw intact after the typhoon!

Around 1am, early morning of November 9, the river water rose by around three metres – a combination of the new moon high tide, intense rains and a  storm surge caused by super typhoon Haiyan,  a couple of hundred kilometres to the north.

The carpenters abandoned their riverside camp, which was soon underwater, and stayed on the boat secured to nearby trees. Nobody slept. The wind blew and the rain poured well into the day time.

Thankfully, we were not in the direct path of the typhoon or it would have been much more dangerous.

We are so thankful to have such a knowledgeable and experienced team of boat-builders. They knew exactly what to do to keep themselves safe and prevent the paraw from getting damaged. Well done guys!

Eddie and Gener on the Paraw, roughly 2 months from completion

Eddie and Gener on the paraw November 4

“A visit to the jungle to check the building of the Paraw sail boat. Few months more and we will be cruising the island with this gem.” Eddie Brock, Nov 6, 2013