A trip to Butuan allows you to explore one of the fastest growing cities in the Philippines and discover its rich and intriguing history that continues to amaze historians.
Butuan's past is not like any other city in the Philippines—it used to be an ancient kingdom, thriving on its economic relationships with civilizations from China, Japan, Indonesia, India and Thailand. It was a major trading hub during the 11th century, and one of the oldest settlements in the country. For many years, archeologists have unearthed numerous stunning discoveries in Butuan such as the Golden Tara—a 21-karat figurine of a Hindu female deity, and several "balangay" boats or old shipping vessels used by the ancient Filipinos for travel and trade. These artifacts are preserved in the Butuan National Museum and the Balangay Shrine respectively.
Butuan is also one of the first places visited by the Spaniards during the Colonial Period. In fact, some historians claim that the first Easter Sunday mass in the Philippines was held in Butuan on March 31, 1521 by Friar Pedro Valderrama, together with Ferdinand Magellan. The site of the said historic event is now known as the Bood Promontory Eco-park, which overlooks the calm Masao River.
While Butuan attracts history buffs, sightseers can enjoy the city as well by taking a sunset cruise of the Agusan River, the widest navigable river in Mindanao. For thrill-seekers, the Delta Discovery Park features a 1.3 kilometer zipline for a magnificent panoramic view of the city's lush green mountains and forests.
Bancasi Airport is your gateway to Butuan City. It serves Cebu Pacific Air or Philippine Airlines flights coming from Metro Manila. Air travel to Bancasi Airport usually takes an hour and 30 minutes.
2GO Travel has ferries that leave Metro Manila for Butuan City's Nasipit Pier every Friday at 9:00 AM. The ferry trip usually lasts about 22 hours and 30 minutes.
Philtranco Bus serves the Metro Manila—Butuan route. The trip takes almost 27 hours. You can find the terminals of Philtranco in Cubao and Pasay.
How to Get Around
By Multicab and Jeepney
Multicabs and jeepneys are common means of transportation around Butuan City. You can see these vehicles plying the major routes daily. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the routes so you can avoid riding the wrong vehicle. Don't be shy to ask locals for directions and some commuting tips.
Tricycles are another popular mode of getting around. Butuan's tricycles are roomier than the average and can fit up to six passengers.
The "Skylab" is Mindanao's version of the habal-habal or motorcycle. Its unique design allows it to accommodate as much as thirteen people.
What to See
Butuan is recognized as one of the oldest Philippine settlements. Its rich history is mirrored in its bounty of landmarks as well as historical and cultural sites.
Magellan's Anchorage is one of its most prominent landmarks. This monument marks the spot where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first landed in Butuan during the 16th century.
Another important Spanish-era landmark is the Blood Promontory Eco-Park. Butuan has long established its claim in being the site of the first Catholic mass in Philippine soil. The mass was supposedly held in the area of the Blood Promontory Eco-Park. On this site is a towering wooden cross, which is a replica of the original one that was said to be have been used in the first mass. A monument that depicts the event can be found on the location as well.
The Banza Church Ruins is another historical attraction. A huge balete tree now stands on the spot of what used to be a beautiful stone church built by the Augustians in the 1600s. The church was razed when Moro pirates attacked Banza in the 1700s. You can catch a glimpse of the ruins of the church through a hole on the tree.
In addition, the St. Joseph Cathedral and the Sto. Niño Shrine are sites worthy of a visit if you want to include a spiritual experience for your trip.
Butuan City also has its share of natural wonders that will make you want to commune with nature during your visit.
Masao Beach is the perfect place to go beach bumming. This brown sand beach can be found near Magellan's Anchorage statue. Frolic on its sands and take a dip in the waters as you like.
If you're up for a trek, Dagangdang Falls and Bugsukan Falls are also worthy of a visit. Wading around their refreshing waters is the perfect reward after your tiring trek.
Meanwhile, conquering Mt. Mayapay should be at the top of every adventurer's bucket list. Savor a view of the highlands and the Agusan River once you reach the summit.
The history and culture of Butuan City is better understood by visiting its museums. The National Museum has a branch established in the city that features important artifacts like ancient tools and ethnographic materials. The National Museum manages another important museum in Butuan—the Balanghay Shrine.
Located in Brgy. Libertad, the Balanghay Shrine preserves the remnants of several balanghays or large wooden boats that date back to the fourth to 13th centuries, A.D. Meanwhile, Bequibel Shell Midden in Brgy. Bonbon is another interesting museum. The shells found in this pit are said to have come from ancient settlers.
Apart from its museums, Butuan's Delta Discovery Park is also worthy of a visit, especially by thrill-seekers. Also located in Brgy. Bonbon, the adventure park has plenty of attractions such as swimming pools and ATVs, but the star attraction is the 1.3 kilometer-long zip-line, which the park claims is the "longest in Asia."
Events and Festivals
Butuan has two primary festivals: the Kahimunan Festival and the Balangay Festival.
The Kahimunan Festival is held every third Sunday of January in honor of the Sto. Niño. Much like other feasts dedicated to the Child Jesus, the Kahimunan livens up the celebration with parades and street dance performances.
On the other hand, Balangay Festival is held every May in honor of St. Joseph. This event features a fluvial procession of St. Joseph's image along with a parade and various competitions like beauty pageants.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
You can enjoy familiar meals from the branches of popular fast food chains like Jollibee, McDonald's, KFC, Chowking, and Greenwich to name a few.
Weegol's is a popular Filipino restaurant in Butuan. It serves a variety of Filipino dishes but its savory chicken inato is its specialty. For dessert, make sure to order their halo-halo, which is served in a coconut.
Cafe Caliente has an extensive menu. Aside from offering local cuisine, the restaurant also serves Asian and Western dishes.
Baron's is the perfect place to visit if you're craving for some seafood. They serve delicious dishes like kilawin (ceviche), sinugba, and sashimi which are guaranteed to be made with the freshest catch. Aside from the seafood dishes, their grilled meat is also a hit among diners.
Lutong Bahay ni Aling Cora is another place known for seafood. It has a dampa-like setup where you can choose which seafood you want and have it cooked the way you like it. They also serve other native dishes such as chicken inato.
Butuan's sweet treats are not to be missed. The suman palagsing is a delicacy made with sago starch, coconut meat, and brown sugar. Meanwhile, nilambiran is the Butuanon version of suman or rice cake. This particular version is made with two different colors of glutinous rice. Both of these yummy treats can be bought at the stalls in Langihan Public Market.
Where to Shop
Enjoy a shopping spree at any of these malls: SM City Butuan, Robinsons Place Butuan, and Gaisano Mall Butuan.
The baked goodies at Margie's Bakeshop are must-buy pasalubong. Choose from any of their breads and pastries like The Cookie Monster chocolate cake, their most popular offering. But if you want something easier to bring home, better go for their brownies or their oatmeal thins.
What to Buy
Laksoy or palm sap wine is an alcoholic drink unique to Butuan. Don't leave the city without buying at least one bottle.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are several banks and ATMs in Butuan should you need to withdraw some cash.
Fare: PHP 2,000.00++ (By ferry); PHP 2,000.00 (By bus); PHP 3,700.00 to PHP 5,000.00 (By plane)
There are a lot of options when it comes to your transportation to Butuan. Make sure to weigh your options: if you value comfort over value, riding a plane is the best option. But if it's the other way around, then you can just ride the bus or ferry.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
Meals at a carinderia usually start at PHP 50.00. When eating at a restaurant, a budget of PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 on average is recommended.
Shopping: PHP 50.00++
At PHP 10.00, you can already enjoy four pieces of palagsing. Meanwhile, one liter of laksoy is only less than PHP 50.00.
A box of Cookie Monster chocolate cake sells at PHP 910.00, while an 18-piece box of cappuccino brownies costs PHP 380.00. A jar of oatmeal thins is the cheapest at PHP 180.00.
Accommodation: PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 3,000.00
If you want to stay in a budget hotel, make sure to allot a PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 2,000.00 for an overnight stay good for two persons. Meanwhile, if you want to stay in a resort, overnight stays for two persons start at PHP 3,000.00.
Activities: PHP 20.00++
Both the entrance fees for National Museum-Butuan and Delta Discovery Park are set at PHP 20.00. The cost of the zip-line ride is PHP 650.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 150.00
Butuan Airport's terminal fee for domestic flights is PHP 150.00.