Sunday, July 3, 2011

Philippine Bancas

Friend and contributor Capt. Rob Whitehurst sent me a bunch of photos of Philippine bancas that he shot in the 1980s on both sides of the San Bernardino Strait, which separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro. The banca is a double-outrigger canoe. Most have inboard engines, although some of the smaller ones still use sail.

Lest anyone fear that the banca might have disappeared in more recent years, Rob did some searching on Google Earth and provided several satellite photos of the same area, of which one is shown below. As can be easily seen (click the image for an enlarged view), bancas are still quite numerous -- they're the water-bug-like structures floating all along the waterfront. They are used for both cargo and passenger transportation and for fishing.

There's much variety apparent in the boats in Rob's photos -- enough to form the basis for at least two blog posts, of which this, the first, will look at general hull and outrigger configurations.
Three bancas of different sizes, each with a very different stem treatment. (Click any image to enlarge.)

A lightly built sailing banca in the shadow of a much larger motor banca.

A large motor banca in the background: in addition to its raised, decorated transom end, note the deeply rockered form of its outrigger floats. In contrast, the boat in the right foreground has dead-straight outrigger floats and narrow stems. In the boat on the left, note the hull's deep, narrow, flat-bottomed shape.

The large banca in the background, apparently round-bottomed, has well built-up stem and stern with nicely curved transitions to the keel line. Four lengths of bamboo have been lashed together to provide extra flotation on the outrigger float. The smaller boat in the foreground appears to use a solid log for its float. The outrigger booms are consistently lightly built.
The boat in the far background has slab sides tacked to the upper outside edges of a vestigial dugout base, with false stems added at both ends.. The boat in the middle ground is a deeply-rockered dugout with strakes added carvel-fashion to provide greater freeboard. In the extreme foreground, the curved, multi-part outrigger booms are quite unlike all the other simple straight booms seen elsewhere.
With all this variety, it appears that the banca is not a highly specific type. Instead, it must be a general term in the Philippines for any double-outrigger boat. More bancas to come in future posts. (With the exception of the Google Earth satellite photo, all photos here are property of Rob Whitehurst; used by permission. Permission is not granted for further re-use.)


  1. Great site and great posts. I wrote a piece published in Duckworths many years back and now on my web site titled 'The Banca Builders of Malapascua' Feel free to have a read here and if you wish to reproduce the text and photos you have my permission. I can supply the originals for better reproduction. Your site does a great service to enthusiasts. I was pointed here by my net-mate Wolfgang Brink. Cheers Perry

  2. I can assure you that bangcas are alive and well. If you show any narrow boat to a filipino fisherman he will immediately suggest that you add outriggers and bamboo amas. First and foremost most bangcas are rafts for working t sea and so stability is king. But fast access from the shore to the workplace off shore is essential as well. So the narrow hulls, easily driven by very inexpensive single cylinder pump motors. I have tried and tried but it is damn difficult to design a boat that is a better match to the requirements of the typical Filipino than the bangca.

    Flat bottom bangcas built of plywood are emerging. Planing boats, very fast on and off shore. Many variations but all have the classical bangca outrigger setup with bamboo amas.

    Photos of our bangcas here
    and here

  3. I have been to the Philippines three times in the last three years and the banca is alive and well. They vary in size from 8ft to 80ft, not many have sails now, the large ones used as passenger ferries between the larger islands have large diesel motors and can travel at 25 knots.

    1. Yes, we went to the Philippines last year and went island hopping on these boats. They really are amazingly durable for being hand made!

  4. Some banca models can be seen also in the Naval Museum from Madrid, Spain.

    1. We published three blog posts about our visit to the Madrid Naval Museum. We show a banca and some other boats from the Philippines in this one: