It was interesting to know that during my research for our Butuan-Bislig-Davao exploration trip, I found a connection to the Champa Kingdom of Vietnam in Butuan. I was able to visit the My Son Champa Ruins in Vietnam before and it made me wonder if Butuan had any relics recovered pertaining to their trade in the 10th Century. I only know of the Balangays here in Butuan so I was looking forward to discover what else I can find here even for a day.
Butuan was only meant to be our entry point to Surigao del Sur heading to Bislig, but I thought it would be better if we stay here overnight and explore what we can of the city. We arrived late due to the stormy weather in Manila which delayed our flight. But landing at Butuan’s Bancasi Airport, we were welcomed by sunny skies. We took a multicab to the city proper. After checking out a few lodgings, we decided on the Royal Plaza Hotel, an old but well-kept hotel with large rooms for its price.
There were controversy involved in Butuan’s history as others claim that the first mass was originally held here. Butuan, whose name originates from a sour fruit called Batuan or the respected Datu Buntuan, the chieftain in the Kingdom of Butuan, was believed to be trading with Ancient Cities of nearby countries. This was confirmed when they discovered the 9 balanghais (large sea-going outrigger boats) believed to be more than 1000 years old. It is also considered as the first ever watecraft excavated in South East Asia. The idea of ancient civilizations excites me so we visited the nearby Butuan National Museum of History next to the Town Hall.
We were hoping to see a Balangay there but found out it was just the museum. We did check out the museum as well and thought they had a very good collection of artifacts, some dug out from the Balanghai site like human bones, death masks, potteries, jewels and porcelains. Intriguing where small statues which looked more like a Hindu or Thai goddess. Pictures were not allowed in the site but this is really worth a visit.
Finding a tricycle to take us to the Balanghai Shrine Site was a little tricky since not all the drivers know the place except for the Balanghay Hotel which was just nearby. But we did find one who has an idea where it was and hired for a return trip. The Boat Site is about 4.7km from the town inside a residential area of Baranggay Paradise. We found the Shrine which is more of an open museum where the artifacts are encased in glass. It was fascinating to see them but they were strict with the no photos policy which was kind of a downer. It’s hard to promote a place with that policy but they claim some people sell the pictures and make money out of it. Good thing the lively kids nearby were more accommodating.
In the afternoon when we got back, we decided to check out the Old Magsaysay Bridge, one of the many rivers crossing over the might Agusan River which reminds me a lot of Mekong River in Indochina. But Butuan has no Ancient Civilization here, it is just one of those rural cities with only a few traces of history, visible only for those who are looking way past the zooming multi cabs and crowding tricycles. I’m sure there are a lot more treasures here way out of town but for now, I’m just looking forward to leave and head down south to Bislig.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.