Second Outrigger Canoe Blessing in Cebu: A Ceremony of Love for Nature and Culture

On a windy Thursday morning along the shoreline of Mactan Newtown Beach, a small group of about twenty well-wishers gathered around the canoes for the blessing of the second 6-man ocean canoe (OC6), the female canoe, Bulakna.

The solemn outrigger canoe blessing was facilitated by a renowned “wisdom keeper” and outrigger canoe paddler from Hawaii, Uncle Kimokeo Kapahulehua. The blessing is organized by Island Buzz Philippines, in collaboration with the Oceana Philippines, STEPS, and the Department of Tourism Central Visayas (DOT 7) under the leadership of Regional Director Shahlimar Hofer Tamano.

The canoe blessing is the second one that they did in Cebu. The first one was a male canoe named, Maharlika and now the second one is the female canoe named, Bulakna.

The significance of the solemn ceremony is to invoke divine care for those things and/or persons who fulfill our lives through prayer and ceremony. It is a gesture of honoring, giving thanks for all the natural gifts that are given to us. The ceremony is also a symbol of encouragement to the ancestors that we are going to take care of the natural gifts and pass it on the new generations to come.

At the start of the ceremony, they blow the shells to the East where the sun rises everyday. They use the sun, moon, and the stars — which all rise in the East and set in the West — for navigation. Since they believe that the ocean, waves, and the tide move the canoe either slowly or quickly. After blowing the horn, they greet with a chant to all the natural elements given to us by the people in heaven.

The Hawaiian elder, Uncle Kimokeo, who has been with Island Buzz for four years discussing canoe making, also came to Cebu and partnered with Oceana Philippines to promote islander culture, outrigger canoe paddling, and zero plastic environment. “We need to have a plastic-free world to make a better place for the ocean and for the Filipinos,” he said.

As part of the solemn blessing tradition, the paddlers get into the canoe and paddle out to make the offering however due to unforeseen weather conditions, the winds are too strong for them to paddle all the way through the Cebu Yacht Club, so they paddled along the waters to Tambuli area then went back to Mactan Newtown Beach, for their safety.

For the first time, the paddlers from Hawaii and some representatives from Oceana Philippines, STEPS, and DOT 7 Chief Tourism Operations Officer of the Planning Division, Dr. Gelena N. Asis-Dimpas, used the only two 6-man ocean canoe (OC6) that can be found in the Philippines.

Buzzy Budlong, the founder of the paddling, surfing, and sailing company and organization, Island Buzz Philippines, spearheaded the outrigger canoe blessing with a vision to “make Cebu the paddling capital of the Philippines.”







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