While the small boat has a rich history and diverse significances in the cultures of these islands, the “Balangay” is a poignant symbol of how Mindanao lost sight of its own histories because of contrived Filipino nationalism. Not content with robbing Butuan of its relic boats, the nation-state imagined from Manila even denied us the right to be who we are. In its eagerness to invent one civilization out of the archipelago, the Philippines imposed the boat as a metaphor for all pre-colonial settlements. In the process, it ignored the completely non-boat related genesis of many ancient settlements in Mindanao (in the case of terms like “ingod,” – both “village” and “world” – so much fruitful discourse needlessly silenced). Worse, the imposition threatened to erase the other beautiful metaphors which Mindanao’s cultures came to form around the boat: for the Obo Monuvu, the “ballangoy” is a gift, given by parents to their estranged children to encourage reconnection; while to the Ata it is the Skyboat of epics, descending from the heavens to take the hero and his chosen people to the realm of the gods. “Balangay” aims to reclaim all of that lost significance, and as it defies oppressive and deceptive Filipino homogenization, it celebrates the many beautiful ways of being Mindanawon.

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