Bulusan’s indispensable bancas


Bancas at the mouth of Bulusan river, for ferrying passengers to nearby villages, to transport farm produce and for fishing.


A passenger/fishing banca takes a rest as local boys watch their playmates dive and plunge under the bridge.


Windbreaks provide shade to a banca in Sitio Riroan.


A simple little banca is an indispensable tool for a ‘parapadagat’ (fisherfolk) like Inggo.

Afternoon banca rides such as this one are the stuff of memorable summers for these two boys.


Parked bancas near the seawall as viewed from Sabang bridge.


A rustic banca for this local fisherman blends perfectly with the serene lake. Bulusan Lake, 2012.


A parking space for local bancas near the river in the Poblacion can be viewed from a jeepney parking lot where this picture was taken. Also in the photo is a boy with karagumoy hats on his way to the plaza to deliver the hats to hat traders. (Bulusan, 2014).

Bulusan's indispensable bancas

Bancas are ubiquitous in almost all the coastal villages of Bulusan. These indigenous boats predate history and are regular part of the local landscape and culture.


Bulusan river traversing the Poblacion provides safe shelter for bancas. This river view is just a block away from the public market.


A banca maker in the coastal village of Dancalan is finishing a small banca ordered by a neighbor for the summer vacation. He can do also large bancas for fishing and transport purposes with motorized engines depending on the specifications of the client, says this banca maker.


Home to this banca is the river bank separating the villages of Sabang and Central.


A Bulusan made banca – sturdy and utilitarian stands by ready for the day’s foray to the sea (Sitio Riroan, Mabuhay, Bulusan, 2013).

The bancas in Bulusan’s coastal areas are so common that these are most of the times taken for granted. But after stumbling upon an article on the Philippine indigenous bancas, my photos of local bancas suddenly popped out in my mind like a waiting cache of treasures waiting to be rediscovered.

Of the 24 villages of Bulusan 18 are coastal communities (i.e. the ocean’s edge is just minutes walk away from the villages) plus one mountain side village with a lake. This means bancas are constant fixtures on our shores and beaches. Utilized for fishing, transporting farm produce, travelling from the villages to the town centers or simply for leisure like for example an afternoon banca ride (above photo).

Interestingly, the local bancas of my town have their own peculiar names specifically designated for each kind of locally made bancas. These are: sibid- a small banca, sibiran – next in size to sibid, kasko – a banca without the outrigger, paraw – banca with sail, baruto – bigger than a paraw.  For many of us though who are living in the center of town, the banca is simply referred to as ‘sakayan.’

Thanks for sharing information* on the importance and beauty of the Philippine indigenous bancas, I can now begin to fully appreciate the  true value of this under appreciated Filipino heritage. This time, I know I will never look at the familiar bancas of my town’s villages the same way again.


Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon

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