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12 Reasons to Visit Butuan City


As far as Philippine tourism destinations go, Butuan City is highly underrated. The city has a combination of historical sites, cultural events, geographic wonders, and remarkable man-made structures, which make it a must-visit spot for Filipinos and international visitors.

Below are some of the best reasons to visit Butuan City. Make sure to check out this resource on hotels in Butuan City to find accommodation close to the spots you’re most interested in.

1.) Butuan National Museum
This museum is a local branch of the National Museum. It features an incredibly rich repository of artifacts related to the human settlements in the area, dating back to prehistory.

It contains an incredible number of artifacts related to more recent periods as well, including the historical Kingdom of Butuan, whose trade goods reached as far as Persia, China, and Japan from the 10th-16th centuries CE. The museum also contains an extensive collection of artifacts related to the balangay longboats that were once ubiquitous throughout the Philippine archipelago.

2.) Cathedral of St. Joseph
The Cathedral of St. Joseph is the center of the Catholic Diocese of Butuan and is one of the focal points of religious life in the city. While the current structure is not as old as many other cathedrals and churches in the country, it is one of the best examples of Postwar Modern cathedrals in the Philippines.

3.) Mount Mayapay
Mount Mayapay is a plateau that overlooks the Agusan Valley and Butuan City. It has been central to the identity of Butuanons since before the area was influenced by the Majapahit Empire, the last Indian-influenced Javan empire. The name Mayapay is most likely to be derived from the Old Javanese language used as a lingua franca before the Spanish colonization.

This culturally-significant mountain is also full of exciting hiking trails. Hikers, birdwatchers, and other nature enthusiasts may very well find the area to be worth the trip.

4.) Banza Church Ruins
These are the ruins of an old Spanish church that now serve as a popular spot for photographers and social media influencers. It was once considered to be the most beautiful church in Mindanao before it was destroyed by Moro pirates in 1753. Part of the ruins has been majestically reclaimed by a large banyan tree.

5.) Agusan River Tour
The Agusan River is the third largest river basin in the Philippines and one of the best kept in terms of extant forestry. It is host to a wide variety of wildlife and plant species and scenic vistas. Several tour operators will also take you through different points of interest along the river — an experience you shouldn’t miss.

6.) Bequibel Shell Midden
Middens are piles of mollusk shells and animal bones that indicate the presence of permanent prehistoric human settlements. This shell midden indicates the existence of human settlements in Butuan going back at least 7,000 ago. The field museum at the Bequibel Shell Midden helps further illuminate the lifestyles and habits of early settlers in the Agusan Valley.

7.) Balanghai Boat Building Site
This field museum contains a replica of an ancient balanghai long boat built with the same methods used by ancient Butuanons. You can learn more about how balanghais were built and used and the lifestyles of the people who lived on them from the site attendants.

As you may already have known, the barangay — the smallest Philippine political unit — was derived from the balanghai boats. These boats were sometimes large enough to hold entire extended families. The various peoples who lived on these long boats later formed the core of many lowland settler communities throughout the Philippines. Filipinos who are interested in the origins of the barangay as a political system will enjoy seeing where it all started.

8.) Bunawan Eco Park and Wildlife Reservation Center
This wildlife preserve hosts a variety of rescued native animals and facilities for camping and other similar activities. The park also features a zipline as well as a restaurant and facilities for conferences and gatherings. Notably, the park housed the world’s largest crocodile, Lolong, for three years before its death from heart failure.

9.) Ramon Magsaysay Bridge
The scenic Magsaysay Bridge is a favorite of Filipino bridge enthusiasts and a must-see for anyone visiting Butuan City. It is an arched-type steel bridge and the first one to span the Agusan River. It is especially notable for its mid-century construction techniques and the scenic views afforded from its span.

10.) Diosdado Macapagal Bridge
Butuan’s Diosdado Macapagal Bridge is the longest bridge in Mindanao and one of the longest in the Philippines. It is a suspension-type bridge that offers more of the Agusan River’s scenic landscapes. The bridge and the area surrounding it are popular hangouts for locals and a great spot for anyone interested in photography.

11.) Festivals
Butuan is the home of several festivals, a testament to its long and eventful history and rich culture. These include the Kahimunan, Balanghai, Butwaan, Abayan, Palagsing, Adlaw Hong Butuan, Unaw, and Nilubid festivals. Hotels in Butuan City can get fully booked during these festivals, so make sure to secure your accommodations well in advance if you’re planning to visit during these times.

12.) Bood Promontory Eco Park
This hill is likely to be the site where Magellan’s expedition celebrated the first Catholic Mass in the Philippine archipelago. The chronicler Antonio Pigafetta, who arrived with the expedition, notes that two masses were celebrated here on March 31, 1521 — an Easter Mass that morning, and a regular Mass later that afternoon. This may make it one of the most culturally significant sites for Filipinos today, given the influence the Catholic Church continues to hold in the country.

Today, the hill contains a park as well as facilities for conferences and other events. It also has a view of Butuan Bay that remains much unchanged from how Pigafetti described it back in 1521.

These are just some of the best reasons to visit Butuan City. Make sure to book hotels in Butuan well in advance of your arrival date, as the city has several festivals that significantly boost tourist numbers. There are also plenty of things to do and local cuisines to sample, so you may want to make time for all of it. Safe travels!

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