The Philippine Banca Boats
You may be familiar with the term "Banca" if you have tried a vacation in the Philippines. Banca boats are local and traditional boats in the Philippines. In general, banca boats are known as outrigger canoes.
This week, get to know more about the banca boat, history of the banca boat, and why you should tour with a banca boat.
What is a Banca boat?
Banca boats, also locally known as Bangka, pump boats, baroto, etc., are the primary water transportations of locals in the Philippines. Banca boats are commonly used for fishing, transporting goods, and island hopping tours. If farmers have carabaos for farming, fishers have banca boats for fishing.
Banca boats (or outrigger canoes in English) are built with outriggers on one side or both sides of the narrow main hull. Traditional banca boats are made of wood. The outriggers are made of bamboo to support and stabilize the boat. Unlike other canoes, banca boats travel faster and sail better even when paddled on rough waters.
History of the Banca boat
The outrigger canoes, or Banca boats, were initially developed by the Austronesian-speaking people in Southeast Asia. It was made mainly for sea travel during their migration period. The Austronesian people can travel as far as Polynesia, New Zealand, and across the Indian Ocean to Madagascar with the outrigger canoes.
In the Philippines, Banca boats have always been a staple for residents living in the coastal area. Early development of boat-building can be dated back to the pre-hispanic era. The archipelagic nature of the Philippines urged the locals to depend on Banca boats for navigating at sea, trading with other islands, and traveling from one community to the other.
Today, Banca boats are still widely used in the country, usually for fishing and island hopping tours. Filipinos, Malays, Malagasies, Micronesians, Melanesians, and Polynesians remain to be the primary users of outrigger canoes for fishing and traveling to nearby islands.
Why are there different sizes of Banca boats?
Banca boats are built in different sizes according to their purpose. The size should also depend on the capacity of people it can carry.
Small bancas are made customarily for fishing and traveling at short distances in lakes, rivers, and sea. Small bancas use sails (like Paraws) or are paddled on one side. Because of its outriggers, banca boats can withstand normal waves of the ocean.
Bigger bancas, especially those used for island hopping tours, boat dives, and sightseeing tours, are built with motorized engines, tables, bench seats, a mini bathroom, and even a small captain's quarter. Big banca boats like this are spacious, can carry more than ten people, and can travel at great distances despite gushing waves.
Fisherfolks who have big bancas sometimes use it for island hopping tours because they earn more with tourist activities than with fishing. Most fisherfolks in the Philippines are naturally skilled boat-builders and sea navigators.
Types of Banca Boat
There are different types of banca boats all over the Philippines, but the most popular ones are the Paraw and Vinta boat.
The Paraw boat is an outrigger sailboat of the Visayan region. Paraw boats are distinguished by their big and triangular sails. Paraws were used for fishing and transporting people or goods, but now, Paraw boats are popular for boat rentals in Boracay. Paraw sailing is a must-do attraction in Boracay. In Ilo-Ilo city, the Paraw Regatta Festival is a well-known annual event for paraw boat racing.
The Vinta boat is a traditional outrigger sailboat in the Mindanao region. It is distinct for its wide and rectangular sail with assorted vertical colors and design. The colors represent the colorful history and culture of the Muslim community in Mindanao. Vinta boats, locally known as Lepa-Lepa or Sakayan, were used for transporting people and goods in the ancient times. Today, Vinta boats are commercially used for tourism as a way to promote the culture and history of Zamboanga city.
Island Tours with a Banca Boat
Because of its large outriggers, the Banca boat glides smoothly on the water as you travel to your island destination. Touring with the Banca boat is also relaxing. You won't feel seasick because the outriggers provide stability. The Banca boat is open, spacious, and offers a 360° view of seascapes and the open water.
Banca boats used for tours also have retractable ladders on the side of the main hull, so it will be accessible for you to get down from the boat if you want to swim or snorkel. All banca boats can sail on shallow water which makes it convenient when you want to drop by on marine sanctuaries, beaches, or islands on your island tour.
If you want to rent a Banca boat or experience an island hopping tour with the Banca boat, it is always recommended that you set sail with a reliable boat crew and boat captain. Knowing you are in good hands at the open sea will make your island tour more enjoyable. A Banca boat should be completely equipped with life vests, a first aid kit, other equipment for emergencies, and knowledgeable boat staff on board.
The Downside of Banca Boats
Banca boats are made of hardwood, often the hull is a semi-dugout tree, and although it may seem eco-friendly, it is the complete opposite. Because of the continuous demand of banca boats for tourism and the fishing industry, numerous trees are cut down illegally to supply plywood and trees needed to build the bancas. One banca boat approximately need one fully-grown tree to make, depending on the size. The constant need for wood to create the banca causes deforestation which can result to flood and landslide.
The motor engine of the banca boat needs to be maintained more often than usual as they are not a marine engine. If not, it will pollute the water with leaked fuel and oil which is harmful to the ocean. It can also pollute the air and be hazardous to the animals and people around the banca boat.
In an effort to save the trees and help fisherfolks with the cost of banca boats, different organizations have been teaching and educating boat-builders and fishers on how to build and maintain fiberglass banca boats. Fiberglass banca boats are cheaper and easier to maintain because it lasts longer than wood and has less fuel-consumption since it glides better on the water.
Banca Boat Researches and References
If you want to know more about Banca boats, take a look at our references below.
Below are few links we have used as references, images we use are from Patrice Laborda and Paul Cowell.
- The Philippine Indigenous Outrigger Boat
- Outrigger Canoe
- Philippine Bangka Outrigger and Boom Variations
- The History and Culture of Boats and Boat-Building in the Western Visayas
- Travelling by Banca
- Pump Boat
If you are interested in a boat rental or island tour, know more about it here.
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The Research and Media Team at Scotty's.