Explore one of Mindanao’s tourist gems which is the city of Butuan (bu-’twa-n). This urbanized center of the Caraga Region in the province of Agusan Del Norte is attracting throngs of domestic and foreign tourists who love history, adventure, and tranquil vacation. It boasts of pristine beaches, relaxing eco-parks, and historical spots that are life-enriching.
So, if you are wondering what is waiting for you once you are there, here’s a sneak view of top things to do in Butuan City.
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Visit the Balangay Shrine
The Balangay Shrine is an extension of the National Museum of Butuan. It displays the oldest recovered authentic relics of the Balangay or the giant watercraft that was instrumental in the early commerce and trade between Asia and Polynesia Islands. It was dated 320 A.D.
Butuan City was the first boat manufacturing hub in the country, where premium quality boats were made during the olden days. Balangay (Balanghai) is the term used by the locals for the locally crafted wooden boat that is now recognized as a national cultural treasure because of its significance in early navigation, trading, communication, and fishing.
Also on display are the collection of 14th to 15th century-old human skulls, coffin burials, tools, ceramics, jars, pieces of jewelry, and ancient boats that were discovered from 1976 to 1986. Some skulls have deformed foreheads, which interestingly, were practiced by early inhabitants to enhance their beauty.
See the National Museum – Butuan Branch
For those who enjoy discovering the unique culture and history of the place, don’t miss visiting the Butuan National Museum. As an extension of Metro Manila’s National Museum, expect a vast and extensive collection of archeological, ethnographic, cultural, and historical objects from the Tiruray, Mamanua, Higaonon, and other ethnolinguistic groups. Because of a rich past that included being a thriving Indian kingdom during the pre-colonial period, there is a diverse display of artifacts and relics.
Experience the Agusan River
Your visit to this city is incomplete if you do not experience sailing, swimming, or seeing in your eyes the enchanting Agusan River. One of the top things to do in Butuan City is hiring a boat or taking a ferry to enjoy the picturesque views of the Magsaysay Bridge, Banza Church Ruins, Kayam Forest, and Balangay Boat Replica as the water vessel traverses the clear water of the long river. A late afternoon cruise provides a spectacular experience of witnessing the beautiful sunset as you view it from the river. You may also have a glimpse of local fishermen who still practice the traditional fishing technique called “sapyaw.”
Agusan River is also renowned for being the habitat of the biggest Philippine Salt Water Crocodiles, one of which was the 20 feet and 3-inches Lolong who held the 2012 Guinness Book of World Record as the “world’s biggest crocodile in captivity.” He died in 2013.
Visit Magellan’s Anchorage
A humble monument to the landing of Ferdinand Magellan, the Spaniard who brought Christianity in the country is found in the coastal section of the old community of Magallanes. Unknown to many people, he anchored in Agusan del Norte and held the First Christian Mass in Mazaua on April 8, 1521. According to historians, Magellan and his Armada de Molucca anchored on the island on March 31, 1521, and lighted a bright light which the island people called Mazaua. The name of Barangay Masao originated from this term. Nearby is a beautiful beach where you can forget your worries away and swim as long as you want.
Take a Photo at Guingona Park
Guingona Park is home to the Shrine of the Philippine Flag in Mindanao. The shrine commemorates the first formal raising of the flag on January 17, 1899. Taking a selfie or groupie with the Giant Flag is one of the top things to do in Butuan City. Other attractions include over a century old Acacia Tree and the Monument of Rizal which was made by Filipino sculptor Garcia Velarde in 1935. The masterpiece was recognized as a Cultural Property through the Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
The park, which is located between Ester Luna and A.D. Curato Streets used to be a public square where locals meet and hang out with friends before it was renamed as Guingona Park.
Explore Bood Promontory Eco Park
Another nice spot to visit is the Bood Promontory Eco Park in Barangay Pinamanculan. It is the site of the first Easter Mass in the country and where Magellan planted the Cross. A large diorama is constructed to affirm the Butuanons’ claim to the historic event.
This park is perfect for those who want to spend time with nature, meditate, and relax. Bood is the highest point of Butuan, offering a panoramic view of the entire city. It is also the best place to view the Butuan Bay and Masao River. There is a hanging bridge for those who enjoy heights and wild adventure. Find a cozy area to have a picnic with your family or friends while gazing at the majestic sights of the flora and fauna around you.
See the Banza Church Ruins
Church hopping is also a favorite activity of tourists when in Butuan. No one leaves the place without visiting the famous ruins of Banza. Once regarded as the most beautiful church in Mindanao, it was destroyed and burned in the 17th century by Moro pirates who attacked the early settlers. The remnants now wrapped and hidden under the Banyan Tree, while the ancient bell tower stands strong as a marker of the structure, adding to the surreal experience of being there.
These top things to do in Butuan City are the tips of the iceberg. There are many places to explore, activities to do, and attractions to discover in the serene city which also serves as the gateway to Agusan del Norte. To give justice to what we share, you have to experience it by yourself. So, fill your itinerary, prepare your camera, and create lasting memories when in Butuan City.