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Culture Scope: Philippine Vinta

This month, we scope out a traditional boat from the Philippine islands of Mindanao. The Vinta is a vessel that mixes art and functionality in one convenient floating package.

While it looks stable in the water, the Vinta’s thin body was not made for long ocean travel and was mostly used for pearl diving or quick fishing trips during fine days since back in the day. The vertical colors on the sail are often vibrant shades and are said to represent the many colors that are representative of Muslim culture. While it is often depicted as colorful geometric shapes, some Vinta boats can have plain sails or sails with pictures of objects sewn or painted onto it (these are considered non-traditional Vinta).

The boat is more commonly known as lepa-lepa or sakayan in the local language. The bigger boats used for high seas crossing are the kumpit and sahpit or the Indonesian parao. The sahpit was used either as a large houseboat or for transporting cargo.

While Vintas are not being used regularly, the seashore is often lined with their colorful sails, especially along seaside resorts, for tourists who want a bit of color on their journey.

Zamboanga hosts a Vinta Regatta each year, featuring a fleet of Vinta’s that cross close to the 23 kilometer wide Basilan Strait. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the area.