golden jubilee celebration 2017
A Reminder of a Past and a Future
an odd highlight when touring Butuan.
Agusan has long banked on its being "preHispanic"- the historian Adolfo Sanchez was often quoted saying that Butuan existed "pre-Philippines"-with its Balanghai and other unearthed artifacts. The church in Banza is said to have been established in 1625 in honor of St. Joseph. This is more than a hundred years since the arrival of Magellan, well within the Spanish occupation. By giving it a tangible past, the Banza ruins' existence can partly explain why Butuan is predominantly Catholic.
The ruins sit four kilometers north of downtown Butuan, quietly, humbly, by the mighty Agusan River. A small kiosk which houses a marker has been put up at the site of the ruins. The ruins itself, or what remains of the church's belfry, are swallowed whole by a balete which is easily a century old. In the vicinity is a patch of grass with some acacia trees jutting out to the river, a small parking lot, a recently built stage and comfort rooms. The ferries which carry people to and from Magallanes pass by twice per hour.
The church was one of the casualties from the slave raids by Muslims, a usual practice during the 1700's. Banza, being easily accessible through the river, was prone to attack. Ultimately, it was the order of Governor Manuel Boscasa in 1865 for Banza's residents to transfer to Baug (present-day Magallanes) which spelled the end for the church there. Fray Matias Villamayor, parish priest of Banza at that time, resisted this order and was imprisoned.
As impressive as the ruins itself is the massive balete that engulfs it. Caraga has long been known for its forests, a huge portion of which no longer exists today since they have been cut, their lands converted for agricultural, residential, and commercial use. This balete a usual subject in Philippine folklore-somewhat reminds anyone who views it of how inseparable trees are in Butuan's long history and it could have chosen a more fitting host.
Perhaps, taken altogether, the message that the Banza Ruins sends is similar to an Ash Wednesday reminder. The ruins and the balete that feeds on it remind us of Ecclesiastes 3:20 with a twist, as if all are from nature, and to nature all returns:'
There is little in Butuan that would remind anyone of the fact that it was once part of a colony under Spain. Unlike its neighbors, Surigao, Gingoog, Camiguin, and even Zamboanga, Butuan does not have forts, houses, or churches old enough or grand enough to speak of a Spanish past. This is why the Banza ruins' sticks out as