A Sama-Bajau fishing vinta in Zamboanga with the characteristic colorful sails (c.1923)
A small Sama-Bajau tondaan with sails deployed (c.1904)
Two large Moro vinta from Mindanao in the houseboat (palau) configuration (c.1920)[1]

The vinta is a traditional outrigger boat from the Philippine island of Mindanao. The boats are made by Sama-Bajau, Tausug and Yakan peoples living in the Sulu Archipelago,[2] Zamboanga peninsula, and southern Mindanao. Vinta are characterized by their colorful rectangular lug sails (bukay) and bifurcated prows and sterns, which resemble the gaping mouth of a crocodile. Vinta are used as fishing vessels, cargo ships, and houseboats. Smaller undecorated versions of the vinta used for fishing are known as tondaan.[3]

The name "vinta" is predominantly used in Zamboanga, Basilan, and other parts of mainland Mindanao. It is also known as pilang or pelang among the Sama-Bajau of the Tawi-Tawi islands; dapang or depang among the Tausug in Sulu; and balanda or binta in Yakan in Basilan. It can also be generically referred to as lepa-lepa, sakayan, or bangka, which are native names for small outrigger vessels.[3][4]


The vinta has a deep and narrow hull formed from a U-shaped dugout keel (baran) built up with five planks on each side. It is usually around 4.5 to 10 m (15 to 33 ft) in length. The most distinctive feature of the vinta hull is the prow, which is carved in the likeness of the gaping mouth of a crocodile (buaya). It is composed of two parts, the lower part is known as saplun, while the flaring upper part is known as palansar, both are usually elaborately carved with okil motifs. The stern has two upper extensions (the sangpad-sangpad) which either emerge from the back in a V-shape, or are separated by a space in the middle. The stern may or may not feature okil carvings like the prow. Vinta hulls are traditionally made from red lawaan wood; while the dowels, ribs, and sometimes parts of the outrigger are made from bakawan (mangrove) wood.[2][3]

Detail of okil carvings on a vinta stern (c.1920)[1]
Plan, midships section, and lines of a vinta (Doran, 1972)
A small Moro vinta (tondaan) from the Philippines (c. 1905) showing the bifurcated stern

The hull is covered by a removable deck made of planks or split bamboo. It has a central house-like structure known as the palau. This is used as a living space especially for vinta which are used as houseboats by the Sama-Bajau. The palau can be taken down to convert the houseboat into a sailing boat. However, this is usually only done when absolutely necessary for vinta which function as houseboats. When traveling, vinta are usually paddled or poled in shallow and calm coastal waters, with frequent stops along the way for supplies. They only sail when crossing seas between islands in a hurry.[3]

Vinta have two bamboo outrigger floats (katig) which are supported by booms (batangan). Large boats can have as many as four batangan for each outrigger. The floats are slightly diagonal, with the front tips wider apart than the rear tips. The front tips of the floats also extend past the prow and curve upwards, while the rear tips do not extend beyond the stern. Additional booms (sa'am) also extend out from the hull and the main booms. These provide support for a covering of planks (lantay) which serve as extensions of the deck.[2][3][5]

Vinta are usually rigged with a rectangular lug sail locally known as bukay, on a biped mast slotted near the front section. These are traditionally decorated with colorful vertical strips of the traditional Sama-Bajau colors of red, blue, green, yellow, and white.[3] The patterns and colors used are usually specific to a particular family or clan.[5]

Smaller sailing versions of the vinta used for fishing are known as "tondaan." They are usually undecorated and lack the upper prow and stern attachments. They are rigged with a mast and a sail at all times, though a temporary palau can be erected amidships if necessary. Modern vinta are usually tondaan instead of the larger houseboats. Like other traditional boats in the Philippines since the 1970s, they are almost always motorized and have largely lost their sails.[3][6]

Along with the balangay, lightly armed vinta were also used in the civilian squadrons of the Marina Sutil ("Light Navy") of Zamboanga City and Spanish-controlled settlements in Mindanao and the Visayas in the late 18th to early 19th centuries, as defense fleets against Moro Raiders.[7][8][9]


Vinta are usually carved with okil designs, similar to the lepa and djenging boats of the Sama people. The three most common motifs are dauan-dauan (leaf-like designs), kaloon (curved lines), and agta-agta (fish designs). All three are used in carving the buaya design of the prow. The hull of the vinta is decorated with one to three strips of curvilinear carvings known as bahan-bahan (meaning "bending" or "curving"), which are reminiscent of waves. In new boats, these designs can be painted with the same colors as the sails, but once the paint wears off, it is usually not repainted.[3]


In 1985 the vinta Sarimanok was sailed from Bali to Madagascar to replicate ancient seafaring techniques.[10][11]

Zamboanga City celebrates vintas in the annual Regatta de Zamboanga during the city's Zamboanga Hermosa Festival each October. The participants are usually Sama-Bajau fishermen from the coastal areas of Zamboanga. Many of these modern "vinta" however, are not vinta, but are other types of bangka (like bigiw) that merely use a vinta-patterned sail (often non-functional).[6][12]

In 2016, Jolo, Sulu, also started holding an annual Vinta Festival each February 14.[13]

Other uses

"Vinta" is also the name of a Moro dance that commemorates the migration of Filipinos into the archipelago. In the dance, dancers imitating the movements of the vinta (vessel) by balancing perilously on top of poles. Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF) schools in the Philippines have adopted the vinta as their symbol.


See also


  1. ^ a b Hornell, J. (1920). "The Outrigger Canoes of Indonesia". Madras Fishing Bulletin. 12: 43–114.
  2. ^ a b c Doran, Edwin Jr. (1972). "Wa, Vinta, and Trimaran". Journal of the Polynesian Society. 81 (2): 144–159. Archived from the original on April 11, 2021. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Nimmo, H. Arlo (1990). "The Boats of the Tawi-Tawi Bajau, Sulu Archipelago, Philippines" (PDF). Asian Perspectives. 29 (1): 51–88. S2CID 31792662. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 15, 2019. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  4. ^ "balanda'". Yakan Dictionary. SIL Philippines.
  5. ^ a b "Vinta". Samal Outrigger. March 7, 2017. Archived from the original on October 21, 2019. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Pareño, Roel (October 9, 2016). "Colorful Vinta Regatta Draws Thousands to Zamboanga City". Philstar Global. Archived from the original on November 15, 2019. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  7. ^ Warren, James Francis (2002). Iranun and Balangingi: Globalization, Maritime Raiding and the Birth of Ethnicity. Singapore: Singapore University Press. p. 109. ISBN 9971-69-242-2.
  8. ^ Mallari, Francisco (1986). "Muslim Raids in Bicol, 1580–1792". Philippine Studies. 34 (3): 257–286. JSTOR 42632949.
  9. ^ Dery, Luis C. (1989). "The Era of the Kris: Moro Raids in Sorsogon and Kabikolan and Their Impact on Philippine History, 1571–1896" (PDF). Transactions National Academy of Science. 11: 145–166.
  10. ^ "Across the Indian Ocean, Aboard Prehistoric Ships..." Windows on the World of SipaKV. November 21, 2005. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  11. ^ "Navigation Instruments". Sundials Australia. Archived from the original on December 23, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Almonia, Chrisel (October 6, 2019). "200 Vintas Color Regatta de Zamboanga 2019". ABS-CBN News. Archived from the original on November 15, 2019. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  13. ^ Abadicio, Camille (February 17, 2016). "Vinta Festival in Sulu aims to bring peace, progress to the province". CNN Philippines. Archived from the original on May 29, 2023. Retrieved May 29, 2023.