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).
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.
Their 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.
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!