Friday, April 27, 2018

Bigiw-Bugsay: 3 Years of Upholding Traditional Sailing Culture

Wazzup Pilipinas!

A five-day expedition followed by a regatta was held in several areas hemming in the Tanon Strait in the Central Visayas to honor the traditional culture and heritage of seafarers and navigators who use dugout canoes called Bigiw.  

Since the first Bigiw-Bugsay event was staged in 2016, a growing number of fisherfolk have joined the regatta. This year, over 60 participants registered for the youth, women and men’s Bigiw paddling and sailing races. 

The regatta was held at the Seaside Park in Moalboal last 22 April. To make its 3rd year more exciting, the organizing group Island Buzz Philippines, a water sports company which aims to promote the use of non-motorized watercraft to protect the environment while reviving islander cultural lifestyles, embarked on a Bigiw expedition from 16 to 20 April, featuring 3 Bigiw sailors led by Buzzy Budlong, a renowned Visayan paddler who holds the record for paddling 3025 kilometers from south to north of the Philippines in 88 days.

The other two Bigiw sailors are Gary Neil Benedicto, a longboarding skater champion and Panie Lagon, a lifeguard and fisherman from Moalboal.

During the expedition, the group conducted free Bigiw paddling and sailing clinics for locals. 

Oceana Philippines, the world’s largest nonprofit solely dedicated to marine conservation, joined the clinics to give environmental lectures. “We support Island Buzz Philippines in promoting fibreglass boats which use wind and paddle power. Fibreglass is not only lightweight – it frees fishers from relying on our thinning forests to build and repair boats. Sails harness the wind so fishers need not rely on dirty fossil-fuels,” says Oceana Philippines Director for Communications Gregg Yan. Oceana also distributed primers on the country’s Amended Fisheries Code to better help local fishers in protecting their home coasts.

The expedition and Bigiw clinics covered a number of municipalities, including Bindoy, Manjuyod, Tanjay and Amlan before heading back to Moalboal for the Bigiw regatta and the launch of the ‘Hybrid Bigiw’ – an innovative sailing canoe which is more compact, lightweight and efficient than currently-used designs. Most importantly, the watercraft is environmentally-friendly as making one will not be at the expense of a tree. 

Some Bigiw canoes can still be found along the Tanon Strait, being used by fisherfolk from both Cebu and Negros. Some can also be found in Samar and Leyte. However, because more fishermen are inclined towards motorized boats, the design and most especially the skill of paddling and sailing these Bigiws might be lost in the future.  

Concludes Buzzy Budlong, “We don’t want this to happen. We shall continue with our advocacy of promoting the Bigiw and we will keep on improving its design without losing the local touch. With the help of our sponsors, supporting local government units and the Department of Tourism Region-7, the use of the Bigiw, its pointed and slim hull, triangular sail, plus traditional methods of navigating can be passed on for generations to come, as a source of pride and most especially as a lifestyle.”

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