Category Archives: Forest product

Approaching final stages

Painting "balaw" resin onto the lower hull of the paraw.

The above photograph shows Ray Concha  (24) painting “balaw”, a natural tree resin, on the paraw’s hull. Ray is the nephew of Bernardo and has been part of our team since May, he learned carpentry from his older brother and grew up with sailing small boats in Cagayancillo.

“I’ve known how to sail small boats since I was in grade five. Most people in Cagayancillo have some sailing knowledge. But even when I was a boy there were no more large traditional sailboats. I’m happy to see a big paraw like this and I’m enjoying the work  – I’m learning a lot.” Ray Concha

The paraw is approaching the final stages of construction. We aim to attach the masts and outriggers next week and launch the sail for the first time on January 31, during the new moon.

Inside the cabin, our new carpenter Jaime dela Cruz is working on beds for the guests made out of “ulandeg” wood, which has a beautifully patterned grain.

The construction site now has a resident otter (a short-clawed Asian otter).

Paraw Jan 2014-7570

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Tree sap and palm fibres

Painting balau resin onto the planks

Painting balau resin onto the planks

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.

Dipterocarpus grandiflorus

Dipterocarpus grandiflorus

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.