“In the beginning there was no Philippines…but there was Butuan.”
Welcome to a city that has seen over 1,687 years of recorded history. The line was so pure in the hearts and minds of any historian that symbolizes Butuan as “the Prehistoric Destination of the Philippines.
The symbol became the theme: you can see it everywhere in any public place, as well as public utility vehicle “Historic Butuan: ato ini, kadyawon ta.”
When I was a child, I used to ask my uncle to where Butuan got its name, then he said was “boto-an”, and everyone burst into laughter including me because it refers something that is beneath your… underwear (hehehe).
But nonetheless, Butuan got its name from the sour fruit called “batuan”, and some sources came from the name of a chieftain “Datu Buntuan”, who once ruled Butuan.
Pieces of History Has Started
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 was 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.
World Before Magellan
But Magellan and his men did not know something of the place they are in. Before the day they came on March 29, 1521, and established the first ever recorded blood compact in the history of the Philippines between him and the two Butuanon brother kings, Rajah Siagu and Rajah Colambu, Butuan was already the center of trade and commerce in the Philippines (although there was no Philippines yet) in the 11th AD.
The discovery of the 9 butuan boats or known as balanghai boats, 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 in the globe.
One of the balanghai boats was dated 320 AD (well it’s moving closer to the life of Jesus Christ!), 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.
The numerous porcelain jars and artifacts discovered were originated from the Chinese (10th–15th AD), Khmer/Cambodian (9th-10th AD), Thai (14th-15th AD), Pre Thai Satingpra (9th-11th AD) and Haripunjaya (8th-9th AD), Pre-Trade Vietnamese (11th-13th AD), and Persian (9th-10th AD). Some of these relics are now placed at Butuan National Museum in Butuan City. While the others can be found to some private individuals who are involved in illegal digging activities at the height of archaeological excavations in 1976, but lucky enough to find some rare pieces, and sold to private collectors.
Other Historical 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 trading partner in the Prehistoric times.
One notable events 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.
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.
Wheww!…that was the riches of history!
Butuan In The 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.
Bonbon Eco-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 a man-made pools!
I love to escape myself and my family to Masao Island Beach Resort the most in-demand beach resort in Butuan for having no other beach around hehehe.
At present, Butuan was one of a highly Urbanized City (first class city) in the Philippines. It is the regional center or capital of Caraga Region. Its land area was about 81,728 has., but one-third only to the size of Davao City. But Davao City is considered as the largest city in the whole world, although Butuan is not in the line, but it is one of the largest city in Mindanao, as well as in the Philippines.
Butuan lies flat along the banks of Agusan River. 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 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).
Currently, there are two structural man-made landmark in Butuan City, the 2nd Magsaysay Bridge and the Butuan City Hall Complex. Another, soon to be realized, is the 12,000-seater Butuan City Coliseum.
Festivals and Events
1. Kahimunan Festival – third Sunday of January
2. Mazaua Discovery Day – March31
3. Balangay Festival – May 1-31
4. Fiesta of St. Joseph – May 19
5. Abayan Festival – Last Sunday of July
6. Adlaw Hong Butuan – August 2
7. 1st Recorded Trade Mission from the Philippines Islands to China – October 3