Staycation: Banza Church Ruins

I read the first entry in my journal for this year and I wrote:

I also know that working hard and working smart are two different things.

I want to work smart and live well. Living well entails making the most of what is given to me. So instead of a vacation over the Holy Week, my cousin and I explored our own city.  I live in Butuan so I might as well explore what Butuan has to offer.

If you happen to get a tourism pamphlet when you arrive in the Butuan airport, one of the tourist spots listed there is the Banza Church Ruins.  My grandmother is from that area yet I can only count in one hand the number of times I have been to that part of the city.

I already saw this area when we went on a boat ride to Magallanes.

I got curious. My aunts were not interested. They have been living in this city for too long. This mini-adventure does not seem to excite them anymore so I found a kindred spirit in my younger cousin.  On Holy Wednesday, we went on a little adventure. We walked to the terminal for tricycles going to Banza. We were lucky that the Banza residents who were in the same tricycle with us were helpful. I already started to lose trust in the driver for he wanted to take advantage of our clueless state. One passenger, a young woman, was helpful enough to tell her neighbor who was also in the same tricycle with us to give us directions. He lives near the site.

It only takes a 10-minute leisurely walk from the main road to reach this place.

It is not a world-class tourist destination of sorts. It is just an open area with a marker and a reconstruction of a ruined church. The actual ruin is wrapped inside that Balete tree.

Goats grazed the open field.

It may not be a grand tourist spot but I love the place.  It is peaceful and calming. Agusan River, the third longest river in the Philippines according to Wikipedia and the longest river in Mindanao according to Encyclopedia Britannica, showed its gentle side.

The afternoon sun basks in its glory.

Indeed, the best things in life are free.


This is Day 17 of the 30-day blogging challenge.

My Year of Philippine Travel

I traveled a lot in 2011 that some of my friends have labeled me “laagan“. Laagan  is a Visayan term for wanderer. The word describes someone who can’t stay put.  I know a lot of travel bloggers who went to a lot more places than I do. Compare to them, my trips looked mild. Nevertheless, I felt I traveled more this year compared to my trips for the past 30+ years.

2011 was the year I started to fulfill my travel dreams.  I am hoping to see new places this year.

Dalaguete, Cebu

This is a town in Southern Cebu. My paternal grandfather came from this quiet town. Their town fiesta (300+ years!) is on a February. My cousins invited me to come along and coincidentally, we had a Cebu Pacific trip scheduled on those dates. (Dalaguete is pronounced as “dalaget”.)

Cebu City

We always visit the Sto. Niño whenever we are in Cebu.  However, it was my first time to check out Magellan’s cross.

Davao City

Although I spent 4 years of my life in this city, it has been 8 years since I last set foot on this place. I attended some important matters in Davao in April and I squeezed in some touristy activities by visiting Jack’s Ridge and People’s Park.

Masao, Butuan City

Butuanons (and several acclaimed historians) claimed that Magellan landed here and not in Limasawa.  For us, Butuanons, this is also our beach.

Checkout the sign: Do not "ride' the boat. If you want pictures, use ground area. (rough translation)

Luneta, Manila

My quest to visit the Rizal monument remained a dream. More stories on this post.

Magallanes, Agusan del Norte

The oldest tree in the Philippines can be found here.  One can reach this place via a 30-min boat ride.

Camarines Sur

It was the first time I traveled with friends. We had so much fun that we are planning another trip this year to another Philippine destination. There was so much to see in CamSur that I wrote 4 blog posts about this trip: here, here, here and here. 😀

Legazpi, Albay

The two-hour trip from Naga city was all worth it. Mayon Volcano, the world’s most perfect cone, was magnificent.

Bit-os, Butuan City

One need not go so far to see new places. Even a small city like Butuan has hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Intramuros, Manila

It was a short yet memorable visit. I will explore more of this place next time. I should join  Carlos Celdran’s walking tour .

Tagaytay City

The short trip with relatives was still fun.  Taal Volcano is always fascinating.

Bantayan, Cebu

Bantayan rekindled my love for the beach.  This place is paradise. I hope Bantayan does not get too commercialized.

Cebu City

I traveled to Cebu again and explored it on my own.  I walked to the Plaza Independencia early in the morning before my trip back home.

Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur

We braved the roads during Sendong to attend a friend’s wedding. I would have taken pictures of Pagadian. The city’s unique features are the inclined streets and angled tricycles. I failed to take photos because my mind was in CDO and Iligan. We went to Lakewood and the place was beautiful. I relaxed a bit before traveling back again to Cagayan de Oro. We traveled during the night along Lanao del Norte.

I will travel more this year.

I end this post with this video.

Tara na!

It’s Christmas time in the city + Holdman lights

Last weekend, we took advantage of the good weather (i.e. no rain) to view Christmas lights in the city. The local and provincial government buildings are adorned with sparkling, twinkling Christmas lights.

This is the Agusan Provincial Capitol.

The lights change color from time to time.

The trees that line the sides of the capitol grounds are also decked with lights.

Plus, the fountain is working.

The Butuan City Hall does not want to be left behind with the holiday festivities.The building is decked with lights.

There is also a fountain. Unfortunately, I was not able to take more photos because I was running low on camera batteries. I had to rely on my cousin’s tablet to take photos.

Below is the giant Christmas tree on the city hall grounds. The tree is decorated with native fans (abaniko).

I ran a poll which of the two building looks better.  Result: Capitol:3 votes  City Hall: 2 votes.

Because of these lights, I remembered and episode in “How I Met Your Mother”  where Ted showed a house adorned with Christmas lights which the blinking of the lights was choreographed with music.  I found the video online and I was hoping the people who worked on these lights in the capitol and city hall can recreate the same light show next year.

This house is in Pleasantgrove, Utah.  Equipped with such talent, Mr. Holden programmed this lighting display splendidly. I have not seen anything like it before. What is even more amazing is that the lights ran on wind-power. The power bill for the month would only cost him $150.  Because the display attracted a lot of people, traffic worsen in the gated community where he lives. Thus, display for this year was in the Valley Fair mall.  I think it was not as impressive as 2010 video but it is a start.


I checked how to write joyride. Is it joyride, joy ride or joy-ride? If Wikipedia is to be believed, joyride is a crime of stealing a vehicle with no particular destination in mind.  This post is not about that. When I say joyride, it is riding a vehicle on a leisurely pace with no predetermined itinerary. In my case, I am on a passenger seat of my friend or my cousin’s vehicle.

I live in a small city but I have not been to every nook and cranny of my hometown so I welcome any invitation to explore barangays I have not been to. One fine Saturday, we went to a friend’s farm.  It is less than 30 minutes away from downtown Butuan but because the place was unfamiliar, it did not feel like Butuan to me. It is amazing how smooth the roads going to that part of the city- way better that the numerous potholes in city center.

It was raining.

We sipped buko (young coconut) juice and scooped out it tender meat.

Coconut meat: soft and satisfying

There is a hidden gem on our way back. My friend found this place before so she brought us here. There is a lake and rolling hills. I hope people will leave this place as it is. Sometimes progress has its way of ruining lovely places like these.

Later that week, my cousin ( upon my prodding) took an alternate route on our way home from an errand.  There is a newly paved road parallel to the main highway to the city. We took that route to check out we might see on that side of the city.

There were trees, lakes, hills and rice fields.  There were few houses.

I love this kind of joyride.


Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. 

~Anatole France



An Afternoon with @filipinadiver and @tulogboy


I started following @filipinadiver on Twitter last year. A link to their blog,, is in @filipinadiver‘s twitter profile. I learned that, together with @tulogboy, they went to Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig, Surigao del Sur and Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur the day after I went to the same tourist spots. (Missed opportunity #1) Furthermore, they spent some time in Butuan City and ate at a vegetarian restaurant that is two blocks away from where I live. (Missed opportunity#2) For those who do not know, @filipinadiver is Paula Peralejo and @tulogboy is Charlie, Paula’s travel partner. (Oops, I did not ask Charlie’s surname.) Paula used to appear in movies and television shows. What I most remember about her as an actress is that she was a part of the cast of a popular teenage-oriented drama, Tabing Ilog. Honestly, I did not follow that show. Hehe! I watched it a few times but I think it was aired when I was already in my 20’s. (Generation gap?) I watched more of Gimik, a popular show that aired years before Tabing Ilog. Judy Ann Santos and Rico Yan belong to my age-group. (Ha! I am revealing age! Aja! “30’s is new 20’s!”) The Internet introduced me to different ways in interacting with other people. I found Paula Peralejo, the student, in (a Filipino forum site) several years ago. Although she was not doing TV shows and movies anymore, she still shared some information about what she was doing at that time by answering questions in that forum and by maintaining a blog. She has an online presence. It is amazing to observe how she evolved from a teenage star into a UP Philosophy graduate (magna cum laude), animal-lover, world traveler, an advocate for the environment, Philippine tourism and a lot more. This is why I wanted to meet her. Just to shake her hand and say hello would have been enough but spending and afternoon with her and Charlie was a blast. I dream of traveling around the country (and the world) and there I was with two seasoned travelers. I was making mental notes of how to travel with ease like them. (More on that on a separate blog post.)

The Tweets: How these microblogs led to a memorable afternoon

On June 28, 2011, Paula tweeted this: It caught my attention. “Bucas Grande? Is this the one near the Sohoton caves?” I asked myself. Google confirmed it. I’ve seen photos of relatives and friends who visited the place. It is on my travel bucket list. Surigao city is just two hours away from Butuan. I tweeted Paula to ask if she is flying to Surigao or Butuan. “Surigao,” she replied. She added that she wants to visit Butuan again to explore Agusan del Sur. I suggested places in Agusan del Sur like the Agusan Marsh. She replied that it is one of her dream places and will visit the place when she is already good at birding. (Find info on Agusan Marsh here.) I tweeted her back that if ever she is in Butuan, I am open for a meetup. And if she needs a place to stay, she is welcome to stay in our house. I thought our tweets end there. On June 30, 2011, Paula tweeted: When I checked her timeline, I found out that their flight to Surigao was cancelled (probably due to bad weather). They opted to go to Cebu and fly to Surigao from there. Cebu-Surigao was also cancelled so they flew via Butuan and immediately took a land trip to Surigao. ( I thought that was missed opportunity #3.) On July 2, 2011, Paula tweeted: Thank God I was using the computer when I got the tweet. I was typing my suggestions fast in case the mobile phone signal wear off as they pass by different municipalities. She wanted to go to the museum so I checked my telephone directory to search for the number and to ask if the museum was open that day. The search was futile. :-/ In one of my tweets, I told Paula I am free and I can tag along, if they do not mind. Although she was unsure of their itinerary, she said she will tweet when she gets to Butuan. When they arrived at the hotel, she asked if the museum was open to which the hotel staff inquired for her. The museum was open. She also tweeted me that it is okay that I tag along. (Hurray!)

The Meetup

I immediately sent this tweet: I immediately grabbed my cellphone, money, handkerchief (to wipe my sweat) and umbrella (in case it rains). I decided beforehand not to bring my camera. I have not yet deleted pics from my recent trip. I am more concerned in getting them to as many places as possible. Having my camera and clicking away may attract attention from people. Paula may not be active in the entertainment scene but Paula and Charlie are two good-looking people. They get stares from people we pass by. If these people realize who she is, how will I control the crowd? We were using public transportation to go to places. I do not have that getaway vehicle to whisk celebrities out of a mob. (Secretly, I want the experience for myself alone. Selfish! *grins*) I arrived at the Butuan Regional Museum and asked the guard on duty and the museum staff if some guests arrived. They said yes and I checked the logbook. I saw Paula’s name. From where I stood, I saw silhouettes of people in the left wing of the museum. I let them take their time while I asked the staff on how to get to other tourist spots. I saw her emerge from the museum room. I saw that she was wearing a dress. Mental note: Must try to wear a dress next time I travel. (Hehe Girly stuff.) I approached them and introduced myself. I was silently shouting inside, “I shook the hand of Paula Peralejo!

(Intermission: On top of the bucket list of interesting people to meet: Lea Salonga. I’m proclaiming it now because we can never tell. By my power of positive-thinking, she will visit Butuan someday. I know it is more feasible if I just fly to Manila, watch her concert and find a way to shake her hand. Again, we can never tell. Ha! )

The Tour

Paula was taking down notes on what sites to visit.  There was a museum kiosk, a touch-screen monitor that lists down cultural and historical sites to visit in the city.  “This kiosk is the only one in the country”, the museum staff proudly said.  It was decided that we visit the Balanghai Shrine and Bood Ecopark that afternoon. Some info I am retrieving from my sometimes-unreliable memory bank (I suggest that you do your own research. It is an interesting read.):

Balanghai Shrine is the archaeological site where the balanghai boats were excavated. Before the Spaniards came, our ancestors were already trading with our Asian neighbors.  That is why we have Chinese wares excavated from different sites in Butuan, carbon-dated centuries before the Spaniards came. In an article I read from a school paper here (I think), the title was “In the beginning, there was no Philippines but there was Butuan. “

Bood Promontory Eco-park is a site where there is a commemorative statue of Magellan and his men celebrating the first mass in the Philippines and the supposed site where a large cross was planted.  Butuan claims that the first mass in the Philippines was held in Masao. Magellan landed in Masao, not Limasawa.  My father told me that when an American historian wrote about the history of the Philippines, he used Pigafetta’s  notes which says that they landed in place called Masaua.  The historian wrote in his footnote, “Probably Limasawa”.  Filipino historians adapted the footnote as truth. Butuanon historians claim that Pigafetta’s account contain the latitude, longitude of the site points to Masao.  Add to the proof  that trade already existed  in Butuan courtesy of the Balanghai.  Masao was clearly a thriving port.  Despite several proofs, the National Historical Institute still declared Limasawa as the site of the first mass while Butuan still insists it is Masao. 🙁

Word for the day:
a : a high point of land or rock projecting into a body of water
b : a prominent mass of land overlooking or projecting into a lowland

Now back to our tour: We rode the Route4 jeepney to Libertad . We were told to stop at Chooks to Go ( not to eat. Sorry, Lea. hehe plugging.) and look for the motorized trisikad parked near it.  We reached the destination in just a few minutes. Paula and Charlie were genuinely interested in seeing what was displayed-parts of the balanghai that was excavated in the area. The Balanghai Shrine is located in an area where some of the excavation was done. At the back of the structure, one can see a large puddle ( or lake?) that was formed on the depression where the boats were dug up.  Several camera clicks later, I hailed a passing motorized trisikad and asked Manong driver if he could take us to the riverbank for us to cross the river towards the Bood Promontory Ecopark. Manong agreed to wait for us while we roam the promontory.  I visited this place last year and we used the boat with a roof and katig (outrigger). This time around no roof, no katig- imagine two trunks of trees that were carved into a boat and fused together.   I heard Charlie asked the boatman what tree was used. “Lauan,” he replied.   I slowly and carefully took my seat. I am not a swimmer. Going overboard was not an option. 😀 I liked the boat ride. Mt. Mayapay can be seen from this area. It felt like I am in the middle of nowhere yet I was still in the city.  Paula and Charlie’s experience may have a little more substance (compared to mine) for they can identify birds in the area.  While we were on the promontory, Paula saw a rainbow. (A rainbow is said to be God’s promise not send the great floods.  With this sight, I say a little prayer for the people in Davao.)

The First-Timer

One of my suggestions of sites to visit is the new zipline adventure park in Bonbon.  It was not a priority since Paula and Charlie have already tried zipline in some other place. However,  Manong can drive us to Bonbon.  We might as well tick it off the checklist.  I have been to Bonbon on different occasions- fiesta, invitation by friends, company team-building and company sales exposure but I went in the village area where people live. The mountainous area is new to me. When we asked for directions on how to get to Delta Discovery Park, the suggestion was to ride a motorcycle (habal-habal).

Before we left to ride the habal-habal, Manong asked me: “Igsoon ni Rica Peralejo?” (Is she Rica Peralejo’s sister?)Me to Paula: Paula, nagtatanong si Manong kung kapatid ka ni Rica? (Manong is asking if you are Rica’s sister. ) Paula smiled at Manong: Opo. (Yes.) Me: Si Manong updated. ( Like me!)

I wonder at what point did he realize who was one of his passengers. Maybe some of the people we met knew but were not brave enough to ask the question. So why the title? It was the first time for me to ride a motorcycle with a stranger for a driver. If I could avoid riding, I would. There were a few times before that I had no choice but to ride in one with my cousin driving it. Ha! But, Paula and Charlie were game. ( I think it was not their first habal-habal ride.) So, bring it on! HAHA! The first thing that came to mind was, “Why are we not wearing helmets?” Scary thought. Purged it by observing the milieu: admiring the view, frowning at the areas that are being flattened yet wishing I have a small house on a hill. We arrived at the site unscathed. Unfortunately, the zipline closes at 5pm. It was already 5:30pm. We had no choice but to go back to the city and call it a day.

The Phobia

Paula and Charlie had not eaten a decent meal during their vacation. Both are vegetarians so the options for food are limited in this carnivorous country. I can not even think of a restaurant in the city with a variety of vegetable dishes. The vegetarian restaurant near our place is closed on Saturdays for the owners are Seventh-Day Adventists. The only restaurant I am familiar with the menu is Narra and it is in Libertad. So, Narra it is. I just assumed they can cook anything with the vegetables they have. (Side story: Narra is an old resto in the city. When I was young, we celebrated milestones in Narra: birthdays, weddings. After I took the Pisay exam, my father brought me there as a reward even if we were not sure I passed. I felt special. Incidentally, the previous owners also owned the old Narra hotel and the compound where the replica of the Balanghai is currently docked.) Paula and Charlie ordered omelet, four seasons (sauteed veggies), garlic rice, pineapple juice and coke. I ordered coke. (Oops, I forgot to pay for my coke. Embarrassing! Paula and Charlie, I owe you!) We sat in the open area in the restaurant. We were chatting and towards the end of the meal, Charlie said, “Uy, may palaka!” (There is a frog.) Being animal lovers, this is a welcome sight for them. Paula said, “Cute!”. No choice, I have to confess, “Ay, takot ako diyan.” (I am afraid of that.) I was keeping my cool because I might start to panic. Good thing that they were true-blue animal lovers. They did not try to scare me. They told me not to look. It seemed like there were two frogs in an area behind me. When I am with family and I see a frog far away, I start to go crazy and tell everyone there is a frog. I turn into a crazy, panicky and OA (over-acting) me looking at my surroundings for other sightings. Of all the animals, I am most afraid of frogs. Although I am afraid of other reptiles and amphibians, I am okay as long as they are at a distance. I am afraid of frogs even on pictures and on TV. When asked why, I always say it is because they are ugly. (kat, sabi ng frog, “pwe! di ka rin naman kagandahan!” ) Haay, I will never find my prince this way. We rode the Route2 jeep: me going home while Paula and Charlie to Gaisano because they will ride the tricycle there to get to their hotel. I bid them goodbye. Whattaday!

But wait, there’s more!

I am sounding like an infomercial. Their flight was scheduled at 2pm the next day. They planned to visit the Balaghai replica, do the Agusan river cruise, visit the Banza church ruins and visit the laksoy (local wine) maker in Babag. They could visit all this sites faster in a private vehicle. I thought of my cousin’s vehicle but when I called him, he had previously committed to drive his friends to the beach on Sunday morning. Wrong timing. I wanted to go with them again via public transportation but I was not sure if I can make it. I was supposed to go to mass with my aunt. We attended mass at 6:30am. We were home before 8am. As much as I would like to invite myself again to tag along, I messaged Paula that I could not go because I was waiting for something. I just told her to text me if ever they need directions on how to get there. (Actually, I was waiting for my BM*. TMI! The excitement confused my body!) I was glad to learn that they found the Balanghai replica. Sad that there was no river cruise. I guess it was only available during the festival. I missed that cruise, too. No one wanted to go with me and shell P150 for the cruise. Tsk tsk. I should have made an effort. We were supposed to join the free cruise/fluvial procession but we woke up late so I was only an observer from the Magsaysay bridge.

On July 3, 2011, Paula tweeted this: ♥ Awww. I would like to think I was part of this happy thought.

Thanks, Paula and Charlie for one memorable weekend! As my weekend ended, a friend had this status on Facebook:

"You have brains in your head. Your feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose." - Dr. Seuss

I thought of the two people I met this weekend. I smiled and thought of my future travel plans. “Caramoan, see you in September!” *bowel movement

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...