House pushes bills declaring waling-waling, balangay as national symbols

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines may soon have two new national symbols – the waling-waling and the balangay – if two bills being pushed by the House of Representatives becomes law.

On Tuesday, November 19, lawmakers approved on 2nd reading House Bill (HB) No 4952 declaring the rare waling-waling as the national orchid through viva voce voting or a vote of ayes and nays. 

Just minutes later, the chamber also passed on 2nd reading HB No. 4953 that seeks to make the balangay as the national boat of the Philippines. 

This is not the first time lawmakers attempted to make the waling-waling a national symbol. Since 2012, several bills have been filed seeking to declare the waling-waling as the national flower, replacing the sampaguita. But these bills did not fly in Congress. 

House committee on education chairperson Roman Romulo, who sponsored HBs 4952 and 4953 in the plenary, previously said lawmakers in the 18th Congress agreed to amend the bill to make the waling-waling the national orchid instead “since it is difficult to overturn [the] sampaguita as our national flower.” 

The waling-waling (Vanda Sanderiana) is known as the “Queen of Philippine Orchids.” The orchid is endemic to Mindanao, particularly in Davao, Cotabato, and Zamboanga, and was first discovered back in 1882.

The balangay is a plank boat joined together by a carved-out plank edged through pins and dowels. Every year in May, Butuan City celebrates the Balangay Festival to commemorate the arrival of Austronesians who sailed to the Philippines on board the balangay. 

On December 14, recreated ancient balangays are set to sail from Butuan, the site of a precolonial kingdom, to visit different parts of the country until 2021. (READ: Lapulapu gets spotlight in Philippines' quincentennial celebration

“The balangay is a testament to the early Filipino’s boat-building genius and seafaring expertise, and an embodiment of the Filipino community’s ideals of solidarity, unity, resilience, courage, and bravery,” read HB 4953. 

Both the waling-waling and the balangay bills will have go through a 3rd and final reading before they successfully hurdle the House.

The House plenary is also set to tackle House Resolution No. 408 urging the government to promote the gesture of placing the right palm over the center of the chest with a simultaneous slight head nod as a "customary Filipino gesture of goodwill, praise, and respect."

Unlike HBs 4952 and 4953, however, the resolution will not have the full force and effect of a law if passed by the House. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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