Category Archives: Traditional

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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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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Portrait of Mindoro

Jaime Maltos, Senior Boat Builder

Jaime Maltos, Senior Boat Builder

I took this portrait of senior boat builder, Jaime “Mindoro” Maltos during the boat launch earlier this month.

Mindoro is 66 years old. He grew up in Romblon and sailed to Palawan [via Mindoro Island] when he was a young man.  He has lived on Palawan’s west coast for 22 years with his wife Filipina.

Mindoro began sailing when he was just ten years old. When he was fourteen his father, a fisherman and boat builder, taught time how to build his own small outrigger boat and sail alone using the wind and the stars as a guide.

To read more about our amazing team of carpenters, check the Maestros page on this blog.

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Launch Day


On Thursday September 5, the day of the new moon and the highest monthly tide, the hull of the paraw was launched into a  tributary of the the Babuyan River.

Over a hundred men, women and children came to help push and pull the boat into the water. A film crew came from Manila and others joined from Puerto Princesa but the majority came from the surrounding area of Mauyon.

It was amazing to see true Filipino bayanihan spirit in action. Local villages were all but abandoned during the launch. For those few hours, everyone had left their daily tasks to help get the paraw safely into the water.

The paraw, which had been on trestles, was lowered onto heavy logs, on which the hull could roll. Gener then set up a system of ropes and pulleys around the coconut trees. These ropes kept the boat from tipping to side to side while allowing a great number of people to pull the hull into the water.

It was a nerve-wracking process which took longer than expected. On three or four occasions the paraw leaned dangerously over and everyone rushed to the other side to correct it. The high tide (which peaked at 10am) had actually started to recede by the time the bow of the boat touched the water for the first time. By around noon the hull was afloat and just a small team continued to work to secure its position in the river.

The paraw will remain here for one or two months until it is ready to be fitted with outriggers, masts and sails.


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A Huge Thank You!

Pushing the paraw into the water

A huge THANK YOU to the 102 people who joined us to launch the hull of the paraw:

Jose Yniguez, Alex Reyes, Marcus Swanepoel, Boy Yniguez, Pepito Juanzo, Maritess Juanzo, Noelle Reyes, Rosario Paduga, Christian Kattinger, Bonievie Budao, Zack Seracarpio, Solomon Mendoza, Andy Boehm, Leonisa Delos Angeles, Lorna Gacol, Agusto Vargas, Emma Dela Cruz, Irene Castro, Al Canta, Zaldy Sabanes, Boysi Bosi,Ana Maria Saavedra, Camilla Alaska, Gifford, Claveria, Alvin Solomon, Arnaldo Solomon, Jonathan Alaska, Edwin Pagkaliwangan, Bryan Bundac, Angelo Saavedra, Ryan Gacot, Nolito Monton, Lorna Luna, Chita Castro, Columbus Paguia, Roy Delos Angeles, John Del Sauren, Blas Paduga, Teodoro Senosa, Jun Tabang, Danilo Fantilanan Sr., Martillano Canopin, Candido Castro, Allan Palma, Francisco Agnas, Francismar Badenas, Francisco Villamor, Ronel Corpus, Ian Felizarte, Jay Paduga, M.J Aguire, Amparo Paduga, Romnick Arabi, Manuel Salba, Andrew Arabi, Morahge Canopin, Dhoy Bosi, Jacob Dela Cruz, Phing Alapaguia, Jun Monton, Roberto Bucsit, Armando Abrea, Nestor Dangan, Elmer Magdayao, Larry Launio, Edwen Asya, Incieto Sakling, Dominic Dacer, Jomer Andao, Dexter Rey Pantilanan, Adela Canopin, Lenie Luna, Danilo Pantilanan Jr., Darwin Padrones, Jayboy Dela Cruz, Irish Andao, Vargas Bornok, Ton-ton Vargas, Reymando Delos Santos, Jose Cabildo, Ian Magdayao, Dexter Castro, Ricky Sauren, Marlon Felipe, Ruben Delos Santos, Mark John Delos Santos, Ivan Sarenas, Randy Olorga, Marlon Bacosa, Moreto Bundac, Steven Padrones, Atong Abadiano, Richard Castro, Reymark Evangelista, Reynald Luna, John Carlo Fantilanan, Jerald Monton, Ellen Asya, Effren Asya and Denis Baruga.

Take a look through this brief selection of black and white images. [A colour photo-story documenting the whole day will follow in our next blog post.]

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Upate from the carpenters

The bow

Here’s the latest documentary update from the carpenters’ camera.

Rainy season is beginning here in Palawan but progress still continues apace.

Great work guys!

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A visit from some Palawan experts

Last week the paraw was visited by Dr Carlos Fernandez, Bituin Gonzales and Jane Urbanek.

Mission Statement

Excerpt from the mission statement

The Palawan paraw project has so many different elements to it – traditional skills, Palawan history, working with local communities and a reforestation project, to name a few. We have written a mission statement to outline everything we are doing.

It is available to download as a pdf here: Palawan Paraw Mission Statement

We would welcome your feedback, ideas, suggestions…

Please feel free to post comments below or email us at

Early May on the construction site

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.