by Mamet Magno
From a non-Butuanon’s perspective, the answer to this question does not seem to be obvious at first. Butuan is not as touristy as the more popular travel destinations in the Philippines like Cebu, Vigan, Bohol, Palawan and Davao City. But why do Butuanons keep on coming back to this place even after residing for a long time in more developed countries?
If you ask me, I’d say it is the people and the memories that they share. Nothing beats hanging out with friends and cousins around a table laden with buntaa, sugpo, lechon, tinolang pigok, pao dipped in latik, palagsing, kayam, boiled bananas with ginamos flavored with kabayawa, and kinilaw (just to name a few of the favorite dishes of Butuanons).
If the fave hang-outs in Butuan may not be as sophisticated and trendy as the ones you see in metropolitan cities, Butuanons make the most of their experience in these places by focusing more on what matters most – touching base with their roots and their fond memories growing up in Butuan. Friends who are from other places can never understand our penchant for repeating the same stories from our elementary and high school days over and over again and still laugh at them like crazy.
Back in the ‘80s, when there was no Boy’s Bar yet, young adults would bring bottles of beer and pork bar-b-que to the “Kapitolyo”. Some will find a dead end street at Estacio and have their beer fix there while listening to music blaring out from their car stereos. Those who loved dancing went to Tico-Tico. Sports-minded people played badminton at the court near Boy Calo’s house, tennis at Luz Village and bowling at Timberlane.
The younger set of Butuanons has more choices now in terms of entertainment. But no matter where they went, it was always the company and the stories that they shared that made these experiences memorable. The friends that Butuanons keep can go as far back as their pre-school years (that’s how long friendships are kept here!). Butuanons can keep count of cousins that they are still able to touch base with up to the 5th and 6th degrees.
Butuan is also the gateway to natural attractions in Northeastern Mindanao – especially the world-class surfing areas in Siargao, the pristine waters of Sohoton Cave (also in Siargao), and Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig.
The other interesting thing that makes Butuan unique is its history. Local historians claim that the first mass was held at Masao (not Limasawa as written in our history books). The balangay, a wooden boat used by Butuanons for trading, was unearthed in Ambangan, Libertad in the 1970s. According to Wikipedia, the first balangay that was unearthed was radiocarbon tested and was dated to year 320. The balangay boats are now displayed at the site where they were discovered. Some pieces can also be found at the Butuan Museum. The museum also showcases other artifacts dug out from the site where the boats were unearthed. The more interesting antique pieces though were sold to antique collectors. Fortunately, some of these antique collectors are Butuanon. If properly coordinated, these Butuanon collectors may allow you to view their personal collections.
To appreciate Butuan, get to know the people first and let these people guide you in making your Butuan experience truly memorable.