“In the beginning there was no Philippines…but there was Butuan.”
Welcome to a city that has seen over 1,695 years of recorded history.
Butuan City is located in the Northeastern part of Mindanao known as Caraga Region. It is the capital of Caraga Region where it serves as the regional seat of government for national agencies and non-government agencies. It is one of the Highly Urbanized City in the Philippines. Historically, it is also known as the Home of the Balangays, or the Ancient Kingdom of Butuan due to the presence of rajahnate, such as of two known brave king brothers in Butuan, Rajah Kulambu and Rajah Siagu.
Butuan Got its name from word batuan, a mangosteen-related fruit common in Mindanao. Other sources came from Datu Bantuan, a chieftain who once ruled Butuan, or possible indication is a rhinoceros ivory seal with design carved in ancient Javanese or early kawi script (used around the 10th century AD ) which, according to a Dutch scholar, was deciphered as But-wan.
The Historic City
Butuan is rich in history. One notable event is the discovery of Golden Tara (in the picture above) in 1917, a 21-carat gold Buddhist figurine which is the earliest known image of Sailendra Period of Sri Vijayan in the 10th AD is now placed in Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. The discovery of the 9 Butuan Boat or known as Balanghai Boat, with about 50 thousands archaeological relics and cultural materials (numerous porcelain jars, pots, plates, golds, etc.) excavated in Libertad, became the best evidence to prove that Butuan established trading relations in Asian countries, and even reaching beyond uncharted seas around the globe.
One of the balanghai boats was dated 320 AD, and is now placed in National Museum, Manila, while the others, dated up to 10th AD, and now placed in Balangay Shrine Museum, Butuan City.
Other Notable Events
Before Magellan left Butuan, a mass was held in Mazaua Island offered by Fr. Pedro Valderrama on March 31, 1521, in the presence of two Butuanon kings, and later on, became the celebrated First Easter Mass in the Philippines (contesting Limasawa of Leyte as disproved by Geo-morphologists and Archeologists).
According to the Chinese Soong Shi (history), Butuan has recorded the first appearance of the Butuan Tributary Mission at Chinese Imperial Court on March 17, 1001 AD, that is 50 years earlier than Manila.
During that period, Butuan has already established regular trading relations in the kingdom of Champa (now known as South Vietnam) and intermittent contact with China in the early 10th AD. Furthermore, Sri Vijayan Empire of Sumatra in the 8th – 14th AD and Madjapahit Empire of Java in the 13th -15th AD (both now part of Indonesia) added as the trading partner in the Prehistoric times.
Butuan is the first site of the formal evangelization of Mindanao on September 8, 1597, as the Jesuits built the first Catholic Church in Mindanao, and now it is the oldest church ruins in Mindanao as it was burned by Moro pirates in 1753.
It was in Butuan where the first and formal hoisting of the Philippines flag and the playing of the music of the Philippine National Anthem in Mindanao on January 17, 1899.
Vast of Precious Metals
Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer commissioned by King Phillip II of Spain, sets foot in the sands of Butuan and met the two Butuanon kings, and found the natives were packed of golds and other precious artifacts in their homeland, he was so amazed on how they acquire such riches on earth.
Pigafetta, a chronicler and one of Magellan’s men, describe much on his writing, “pieces of gold exist everywhere, as large as walnuts and eggs. In the king’s house was well set-up, and even some portions are made of gold, and all the dishes are gold too.” He went on, “huge gold ornaments, long dagger and handles made of gold that surrounds the king’s body.”
What amazed him were the skills of Butuanon to create beautifully crafted pieces of golds and other precious metals, and mixing them too to produce unique items as the best in the history. All of the things they found in Butuan established already a throng of highly civilized people exist on the other end of the world.
Gold has always figured in Philippine history. Since ancient times, the Philippines have been an active producer of this and other precious metals. In that respect, Butuan owes its existence largely to gold mined at the headwaters of Agusan River in the Diwata mountain range. Then as now, it was known as a major source of this metal during the 11th century. Today, nearly 70% of the Central Bank of the Philippines’ prehispanic gold collection comes from Butuan and its neighboring areas. It has grown into one of the most important gold collections in Asia.
Butuan City has a land area of 81,662 hectares which is roughly 4.1% of the total area of the Caraga Region, making it as the third largest city in Mindanao, next to Davao and Zamboanga. The existing land use of the city consists of agriculture, forestland, pasture land, commercial and residential.
Butuan lies flat along the banks of Agusan River, the third largest and longest river in the Philippines. In the distance were mountains and hills stretching across for miles, as if, surrounded the city but forms part of Agusan Valley. The highest peak was Mt. Mayapay, standing majestically, and got its named from Madjapahit Empire.
Butuan City has a swampland areas near the coastal area which is interconnected with the waterways joined by the Agusan River. Butuan City has only two fishing ground barangays facing Butuan Bay, they are Lumbocan and Masao. Butuan City is composed of 86 barangays with 15 are urban areas and 71 are rural areas and a total population of 337,063 in the 2015 census.
People and Economy
The aborigines of Butuan were the ancestors of the present day Mamanwas who were driven to the hinterlands by the first wave of Malay immigrants coming from Borneo and Celebes. These people, in turn, sought the protection of the interior jungles because of the forays and the constant raids of “Moro” pirates. The “Moros”, being seafaring people, confined themselves to the coastal areas where they started settlements, leaving the forestall areas to the Manobos.
Butuan was Rajahnate ruled by Rajah or King and established the Kingdom of Butuan with its rulers.
Before Ferdinand Magellan came to the Philippines, the Portuguese explorer as commissioned by King Philip II of Spain, Butuan was already the center of trade and commerce in the Philippines (although there was no Philippines yet) in the 11th AD.Through most part of the Middle Ages, specifically between the 5th to the 14th century AD, Butuan was a flourishing and highly-civilized community.
But during the Spanish time, the influence of the Western world has put a tragic death of the Kingdom of Butuan as it the last king subjugates to the power of Spain. There is oftentimes a miserable circumstance that occurs after contact with colonizing powers from the European side of the world.
During the 1940s to the 1970s, Butuan’s industry specialized in timber, earning it the nickname, “Timber City of the South”. The plentiful trees of the area invited many investors to the city and inspired then-congressman Marcos M. Calo to file a bill elevating Butuan for cityhood. On August 2, 1950, this was passed converting Butuan into a city. However, in the early 1980s, logging industry started to decline, but small and medium business, and large scale projects able to propel Butuan City into Highly Urbanized City in 1995. Then, on February 1995, the Region of Caraga was created making Butuan City as the commercial, industrial, and administrative center of Caraga Region.
The Modern Butuan
At present, Butuan strategic locations in the province of Agusan del Norte makes it a natural gateway to the different prime destinations in Mindanao such as Davao City (going south), Cagayan de Oro City (going north), Surigao City (going east), and soon to be materialized national highway – Bukidnon (going west) and Tandag City. It hosts one of the busiest airports in the country, the Bancasi Domestic Airport, serving around 525,000 passengers in 2012. Meanwhile, the nearby Nasipit International Port and in-city Masao Port are providing for its shipping and cargo needs.
As further proof of its dynamic economy, Butuan City’s local income reached P330,510,000 in 2013 besting other major cities in the country. By 2014, its local income is expected to reach P513,870,000.00 and total income (including IRA) will be P1,515,970,000. Butuan City was ranked 4th and 16th Most Competitive City for the years 2012 and 2014 by the National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines.
Butuan is also fast-becoming a cosmopolitan city. Currently, more than 260 financial institutions are operating in the city which includes the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. There are three major commercial centers catering its populace. These are Robinsons Place Butuan, Puregold Price Club, and Gaisano. Leading mall developer, SM, is expected to break ground by the end of 2016. High-end real estate developers, such as Filinvest and Vista Land, have started their residential projects in the city. The A. Brown Group is also developing another exclusive community with a 9-hole golf course. More low- and medium-cost housing projects are sprouting in the outskirts of the city evident of the city’s strong market for shelter. Famous food brands have also opened shops in the city such as Jollibee, McDonald’s, Chowking, Greenwich, Mang Inasal, Red Ribbon, Goldilocks, Gerry’s Grill, Max’s and Bo’s Coffee.
Map of Tourism
Well, visiting the historic Butuan draw your attention in the Balangay Shrine and the Butuan National Museum. In these places witness how Butuan became the icon of history that traverse from prehistoric times up to the present period.
Don’t forget the first Catholic Church and the oldest church ruins in Mindanao found in barangay Banza which is known as Banza Church Ruins. Its tower is the only remaining structure and was envelope with roots of ficus tree for a long period of time.
The First Easter Mass Eco-Park, Bood Promontory of barangay Pinamanculan where the image of the cross that towered in a hilltop as the celebrated First Easter Mass took place in the Philippines.
National Shrine of the Philippine Flag in Mindanao in Butuan City Rizal Park where the first formal hoisting of the Philippine flag in Mindanao takes place on January 17, 1899.
Agusan River is the third longest river in the Philippines and the first in Mindanao. It is the most navigable river compare to other rivers in the country.
The majestic Mt. Mayapay stand high above other mountains and plateaus overlooking the skyline of Butuan and the Butuan Bay. It will show you the beauty and appreciates natures when trekkers and bikers love to see when they go up there.
Ramon Magsaysay Bridge: The old Magsaysay Bridge in Butuan, an arched-type steel bridge built during the early sixties spans the mighty Agusan River. For years this bridge serves as a lone vital conduit of the city to the rest of Mindanao island until its new more modern pair came at the city’s southern side. The bridge links the main urban center to eastern suburbs of Baan and Ampayon.
Bood Promontory Eco Park: This historic hill is believed to have been the site where Magellan and his men celebrated the first Catholic Mass on Philippine soil and erected a cross when he landed in Mazaua on March 31, 1521. The highest elevation nearest the seaside village of present-day Masao, Bood is a wooded area at a bend in the Masao River (El Rio de Butuan), overlooking Butuan Bay and ancient Butuan as well as the serpentine Masao River. Today, the indigenous Hadlayati tree abound, lording over a clonal nursery and tree park, amidst fishponds and archaeological treasures. According to the chronicles of Spanish historian Pigafetta, the event took place on the afternoon of March 31, 1521 after the Easter Mass was celebrated in the morning of the same date. Two Butuanon brother kings attended these Easter ceremonies. Pigafetta also noted the surrounding fields and balanghai boats on the bay that could be seen from the hill. The eco-park was established to provide the people of Butuan and its visitors a place to rekindle the past amidst a relaxing natural setting.
Masao Island Beach Resort escape with your family to the most in-demand beach resort in Butuan City.
Delta Discovery Park was developed when waterfalls existed in the mountains and became a tourist haven. For those who love to cool yourself from too much heat of summer then climb up in the mountains, and splash in man-made pools!
Diosdado Macapagal Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the entire Mindanao which has 13.21-km bypass road with 11.4 meters wide became the longest road span in the Philippines as well as in the whole world that will compare to England’s London Bridge. This road span traverses Iligan-Cagayan-Butuan City Road on the north and General Santos-Davao-Butuan City Road on the south.
Kahimunan Festival is celebrated every third Sunday of January in celebration of the city patron Sr. Sto. Niño. This celebration is a Butuanon version of the Sinulog festival of Cebu City. Kahimunan is a Lumad term which means “gathering”.
Balangay/Balanghai Festival is the annual fiesta for the celebration of the city patron St. Joseph every whole month of May, with the exact feast day of St. Joseph on May 19. The city holds many events such as summer league basketball championship games, thanksgiving mass, and more.
Butwaan Festival: The newest festival is a feast day celebration of St. Joseph, patron of Butuan, which is held every May 19. This was created last 2013 as a replacement to Balangay Festival during the specific date. Both festivals will still celebrate the feast of St. Joseph with Butwaan focus on the Church activities while Balangay will focus on the city government activities.
Abayan Festival, a part of the Cultural Festival, is held in celebration of St. Anne, patroness of Agusan River, which is celebrated every last Sunday of July.
Palagsing Festival is a local delicacy popularly made in Banza, one of the old poblacion of Butuan City. The popularity of making Palagsing in Banza is attributed to the abundance of Lumbiya (Metroxylon sagu Rottb.) where Unaw or lumbiya starch is harvested from the palm tree. Another popular ingredient is young coconut meat. The mixture of unaw, young coconut and brown sugar make palagsing moist and chewy. They are delicately wrapped in banana leaves and are boiled for 30 minutes to create the soft consistency of palagsing. The Palagsing Festival usually held on Adlaw Hong Butuan Celebration every 2nd day of August.
Adlaw Hong Butuan is the charter day celebration of Butuan, which includes a thanksgiving mass, motorcade, palagsing festival, street party recognitions of outstanding Butuanons and City Government Employees’ Night.
Unaw Festival is usually held on Adlaw Hong Baan Tres Celebration every 3rd or 4th Week of June.