Revisiting History in Butuan

The trip to Butuan in November 2016 would be the last official trip for the year.  I am not one to go to a place and not explore and enjoy it, however short the stay.  It’s my first time too in this city.  What is in it that we can relish and be part of our good memories of the city?  I did a little research and found that there are few tourist spots to go to in Butuan.  If we want the kind of enjoyment I always look for, we have to travel some more….. to another province actually, Dinagat Island… yes, the conclave of the Eleos, the ruling clan of the province.   One of the scions of its ruling clan is the controversial   Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr., the “supreme master” of cult group Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA)  who has been a fugitive for graft and parricide.  Time wouldn’t permit travel to that elusive paradise though.  Maybe, next time…. For now, we will contend ourselves with what Butuan has to offer ….

Butuan has seen over 1,683 years of recorded history. It was the original site of the first Easter mass in Philippine soil. It was the site of the first formal hoisting of the Philippine flag in Mindanao. And it was the home of the “Balanghais“ or Butuan Boats, famous pre-historic native boats in Southeast Asia.

Butuan is situated in the northwestern part of the Caraga Region (Region 13). It is the seat of government of the region and serves as its trading center as well. The city’s strategic location makes it a natural gateway to the different prime destinations in the region.

It’s a three-day trip, an average length of stay for an official trip.  Our schedule was constrained because of flight schedules.  I told my colleague who made the arrangements for the trip that  I do not want an early morning since from past experience I couldn’t sleep the night before the trip.  However, there are limited flights to Butuan daily.  Our activity is schedule on the second day.    We had to book our flight going there a day before and back a day after.  And so there was nothing that can be done but book the earliest flight at 5:10 am… sleepness night again 😦

On the day of our flight, I was up and about around 3:30 am and thankfully I was able to book a Grab car fast.  After the more than an hour flight, we landed in their airport and were met by our regional office’s welcoming party.  We boarded the vehicle bringing us to the resort.

The one thing going for this trip was the accommodation which is a resort, the Almont Inland Resort.   On its website, the resort looks nice with all the amenities.  I had mixed feelings because based on past experience, some hotels/resort use their best looking pictures in their promotional materials.  Once you get there, the real deal is unmasked.  So please don’t blame me.

When we got there,we saw that the place actually looks good.  The architectural design is a mix of modern and rustic.  The receptionist had to check if we can already check in.  While waiting, we were ushered to the resto together with one of the big bosses of our office who was in the same flight as us.  The breakfast buffet was spread out since it was around 7:00 am already.  We were starving and so we had breakfast …. The food is, well, edible.  It doesn’t actually look appetizing.  I had scrambled eggs, some dried fish and other viands….. I like the puto maya and thick cocoa drink together.  The rest of the fare are so so….

Here is a look into the resort’s architectural design and amenities …

After breakfast, we were told we can check in.  We rode a golf cart going to the room.  We 20161107_080219passed their sprawling swimming pool area.  A man-made lagoon full of water lilies was a sight to behold as we made our way to the room.  To my chagrin, our room is located at the far end of the resort.  And we would be led into this dingy-looking shack, I meant room.  Well, it must be one of their old rooms that they give to ‘select’guest like us.  We passed several new or probably renovated rooms around the lagoon area.  I was told that had I stuck with the original accommodation arrangement of having 3 pax in a room, I would be given one of the new rooms.  However, I requested for a double occupancy room. Too late to complain.  The hotel is fully-booked as most of our events will be held in this hotel.

The Lagoon

After settling in our barracks room for about an hour, we went to the venue to join the elaborate opening ceremonies.  After which, we would be tagging with the big boss to her 20161107_090919programmed activities fr0m trade fairs to company visits around Butuan City.  We were not really part of her party but since it is still technically a free day for us, might as well go around and see what the city has to offer.  We were fed well during these trips.  We also discovered and bought some pasalubong items from Create Foods, one of the companies we visited.  Their newly cooked mini egg tart was so heavenly.  We ordered some to bring home.  The owner was so nice to give it at a bargain price.  To top it all, she would deliver freshly-cooked tarts to our hotel tomorrow.  3We also tasted some flavors of their ice cream.  We were so full after this visit.  While we are thankful for their hospitality and generosity, we observed some food safety issues that the company need to address if it wants to be competitive.

We went to some more companies.  As we continue traveling, I felt sick.  I was feverish and had dry cough.  The stress of my frequent travels must have caught up with me.  In one particular safety-conscious company, sick persons are restricted to enter its premises  I was actually thankful to just stay in the van.

The last destination was 9CARAGA State University, a would-be recipient of an equipment grant, which prepared for a program to welcome the big boss.  By this time, I can feel the chills and I was in pain.  I wanted to just go back to the hotel.  After the program, we still had to bring the big boss to the airport who will go back to Manila.  On the way to the resort, I asked my colleague to buy some meds for me.

Reaching the hotel, I skipped dinner as I wanted to just flop on my bed.  My roommate went to the dinner arranged by our colleagues.  I would learn that what was served for lunch which was really unappealing, unappetizing food was the same fare.  Good decision on my part.

I needed to freshen up to somehow feel better.  I suddenly realized that I forgot to bring sleepwear… wahhhhh.  I brought some swimwear though because I was thinking of going for a dip in the pool in our free time.  Thinking fast, I knew that my swimwear would somehow make a good substitute for sleepwear on times like this.  So I changed into one of my rashguards which felt cold and grainy (some of the sand from previous travels got stuck)nd the shortest shorts.  I had to bitch around  (needed to do this as asking nicely the first time didn’t work) in this get-up later to switch rooms as I would discover that air-conditioning doesn’t work and the toilet is not functioning properly. Still the same dingy-looking room but the amenities are working right.

Following day was when we are part of the program.  I felt some relief, probably because of the meds but my voice was hoarse.  Since the audience have not heard me speak before, I figured it may not be noticeable that my voice is not my normal voice.

Before proceeding to the venue, we have some time to spare to take pics around the resort….


And so we did our thing… after which we were free 🙂  My colleague and I decided to go to the Robinson’s Mall as I needed to make some money transfer.  On the way to Robinson’s Mall, we were talking about where to have a nice seafoods meal.  A helpful woman passenger in the jeepney we were riding recommended Baron’s.  She said it is a car wash by day and a grill and bar at night.  It was also recommended by our office staff.  This should be in our itinerary today.  I’m really tired of the hotel food 😦

After finishing our bank transaction, we went to Robinson’s Mall.  We looked around the booths participating in the trade fair which is part of the region-wide event conducted by our regional office.  We bought some food items and herbal oils.  I also bought organic fertilizer.  We kept bargaining with the shopkeeper when we really shouldn’t 🙂  I had to remind myself that these small entrepreneurs do not earn as much as mall owners.. duh to myself.

We went back to the resort afterwards, unloaded our stuff in the room and got back to the venue.  When the program ended, the regional staff arranged for us, Manila-based staff, to visit their museum.

Butuan National Museum is a famous landmark in the city that one would see it in 20161108_164655most blogs on this city.  I think that renovation of the museum has not been fully completed and only some sections in the ground floor are available for viewing.  It’s a sad reality considering that the excavation sites in the city would bear some of the most important archeological finds in the country.

It didn’t disappoint us though as it appears to be the only landmark, aside from their Municipal Hall, that we would be visiting for this trip.  For one, a nice and knowledgeable

Our kind, helpful and knowledgeable tour guide 🙂

elderly man (whose name I forgot unfortunate)  guided us through our exploration of the old world.  He isn’t exactly the curator but he works for the National Museum.  Well, his picture is in this blog.  So if you visit the museum and would be fortunate to be guided by him, please send my regards.  He also made my day during our visit as he told me I’m beautiful and was particularly attentive to me… ehem, ehem ;D


Here are some of the interesting historic and cultural finds in the museum:

The mobile museum boxes are the latest innovation.  In the boxes are models and posters of their topography, life forms, minerals and resources.

More geological finds are found inside.

The most significant of these relics are the Balanghai boats.  Balanghai boats are massive wooden boats that are bruited to provide clues to our ancestry.  The boats are said to be like a social unit much like a barangay as it houses group of families during that time.  At least 9 of these boats are known to exist.  The first of these discovered boats was restored, preserved and displayed at the Balanghai Shrine in Libertad, Butuan City.   These archaeological finds are testament to a flourishing activity in Butuan hundreds of years even before the Spaniards came.  These boat parts were carbon-dated and had been traced as far as 320 AD.  If one thinks about it, these boats could in all likelihood carried the forebears of the Filipino race.

On July 1976, Antique hunters hit on and discovered the remain of a large wooden boat. It was the first relics of the Balanghai Boat discovered. C-14 carbon dating established that the relics is 1630 years old. Then there were more Balanghai Boats discovered. These were also subjected to C-14 radio carbon tests. The second boat dated back in 1250 A.D. and the third to 900 A.D. These relics were the first wooden watercrafts excavated in South East Asia, similar to the Viking Ship of the North Eastern Europe. At present there are 6 boats still buried in deep silt to the east of Pinamanculan.

These relics were discovered at the eastern edge of swampy flat land surrounding the Pinamanculan Island. Pinamanculan was once an island surrounded by sea water. The area is presently dominated on the abandoned channels and remnants of the Masao River and the remnant of the main branch of the Agusan River.

As to its construction, the Balanghai (Balangay, Butuan) Boat is made of a wooden plank adjoined by a carved-out-plank edge through pins and dowels. Planks were fastened to each other by pegs, and these in turn were counter-pegged through each planks to keep them from slipping out when the hull was under stress. When it was unearth, the relics contained large volumes of Ceramic Ware and Gold items under the Muck. It is known as the oldest pre-hispanic watercraft found in the Philippines.

The construction of the finely built boat was taught from one generation to another. It uses techniques still being used by boat makers of Sibutu Island in Southern Philippines. Made 15 meters long and 3 to 4 meters wide, the Balangay is propelled by sail of Buri or Nipa fiber of padding and is large enought to hold 60 to 90 people. As for the boat of the King, rowers were sometimes seated on both sides of the outrigger to provide speed during some of his journeys.

The Butuan people were people of the sea, living in coastal villages and near rivers. Boats were used for fishing trade, warfare, “piracy” (trade-riding for goods and slaves), travel, communications, and dwelling. With the Balangay’s size, it was also used for cargo and raiding purposes, giving proof that Butuan played a central role in trade in the ancient times.

More finds …

Because these Balanghai boats are said to have traveled to China and other nearby countries for trading activities, some of these ceramic wares and pottery could have originated from the Ming Dynasty….


Even then, gold was a valued commodity… They have gold panning tools …


Accessories of royalty … A gold-laden mask …


There sure had merry-making of some sorts as evidenced by ….

their wine-making vessel ….


and musical instruments…


Our tour guide explained that the skull shapes can tell social status.  He explained that the skull with the flat top belongs to someone from an upper class.

Wooden coffin and the remains …  I felt my hair raising while I was here and I offered a prayer for the departed….

Alas, it was time to say goodbye to our kind and knowledgeable tour guide….  Thank you for guiding us through a most informative tour …..

After passing by the Municipal Hall for the egress of another event held there, we were dropped off at the resort close to dinner time.  A dinner invitation was actually open to all.  My colleague, roommate and I, however, begged off as our sights are set on Baron’s.

I couldn’t resist getting into their calesa on the way to our room 🙂

We dropped off some stuff we purchased in our room and headed to Baron’s which is just a few steps from Almont Inland Resort.  We ordered sinuglaw, tinola, grilled tanigue and adobong pusit.  The adobong pusit was really good.  We devoured everything like hungry wolves.  The food was yummy and filling.  Quite honestly, I am not sure if this is the best seafoods meal I’ve had in my life but it certainly felt like that after having unappetizing hotel meals for two days.   After a hard day’s work, we ought to reward ourselves with the best meal for this trip.

After dinner, my colleague went to his hotel while my roommate went to the mall to shop for pasalubong.  Another Manila-based colleague who also had dinner with her relative at Baron’s offered me a ride back to the hotel.  Once inside the car, her relative suggested we go to Margie’s Kitchen to buy cakes and pastries which she said are really good and reasonably priced.  I bought 2 loaves of different variants of banana cakes.  7 OD and my girls will surely love these.  I also bought some egg tarts just to taste and compare with those from Create Foods which I remembered will be delivered tonight.  The verdict is I couldn’t tell the difference.  They are both good.  The only difference is the one we ate at Create Foods was just off the oven.  Perhaps, I love sweets too much:)  Once done with our shopping, we were brought to the resort.


I thanked my colleague and said goodbye since we have different flight skeds.  I went back to my room.  In a while, I would get a call from the reception telling me that my order arrived.  I went out and met with the owner of Create Foods who personally delivered the egg tarts.  After a brief conversation, I went back to my room and started packing my stuff.  My roommate will arrived shortly.  After packing, I changed into what’s left of my clothes and went to sleep.

I woke up early the following day. We had an early morning flight and will be picked up at 6:30am.  My colleague would soon arrived. We checked out and had breakfast.  Shortly, the car would be at the reception area.  We boarded and went to the airport.  Our flight was just right on time.  We would be boarding almost as soon as we arrived at the airport.  After more than an hour, we were back where we belong.  I went to the Grab booth and grabbed my ride.  In time, I’ll be home eagerly awaited by OS and my pooches 🙂

Back to the present ;D

You might also want to read: 10 Things to Do in ButuanAng Byahe ni Drew, Top 5 Things to Keep You Busy in Butuan, Where the Early Settlers Lived


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