History of Butuan



Butuan City was originally located in Pinamanculan by the banks of Masao River, about a kilometer from the barrio of Libertad.  Finding the site less than ideal because of the floods, the people moved to Baog, now the Municipality of Magallanes, at the mouth of Agusan River.  Later they again transferred to Lapaca, now known as Linungsuran in Banza, about five kilometers inland of Agusan River.  Still troubled by floods, the people once more settled some 80 years ago this time permanently, in a higher place called Agao, which is the present site of the city proper.Description of Butuan is not complete without infusing it with the significance of the Agusan River.  It is the Agusan River and its tributaries that provide the valley with rich soil from periodic floods and its serpentine route through the length of the province provided people with easy means of transportation for trade and commerce and encouraged settlements along its banks.  The Agusan River greatly helped the booming logging industry and made Butuan the “Timber City of the South”.Butuan City sprawls across the Agusan River nine (9) kilometers inland south of the mouth of the river.  Towards this mouth, to the north and seaward, run fertile ricelands.  Halfway round of the city of the Southwest, roll of gently sloping hills, over which Mt. Mayapay looms.  To the east the majectic Ilong-ilong and Diwata mountain ranges protect the entire valley from fierce Pacific storms.It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact time when the name Butuan first emerged.  Certainly the name Agusan came into being upon the creation of the province in 1914.  Before this, the entire area had been known as Butuan and had always been known as such as can be borne out by old historical records.Much controversy and debate have been generated on whether the first mass was held in Limasawa, Leyte or in Masao, Butuan City that it would be superfluous to go into the arguments in the space allotted here.  Definitelt however, Ferdinand Magellan did drop anchor by the mouth of Agusan River in 1521 and held mass to commemorate the event.  This is held out by a monument erected at the site in 1982, by then Spanish District Governor, Don Jose Marie Carvallo to honor Ferdinand Magellan.A chieftain known to have ruled Butuan during the pre-Spanish period was Rajah Siaui or Siagu.  He was followed by more datus most known is Datu Silongan.  He was the ruling chieftain by the time the Spaniards sometime came after the death of Magellan.  He returned to Butuan in full force and succeeded in converting Silongan into Christianity and baptized as Felipe.  He along with his brother, Macara-ay came to this place in Jolo, which explains the similarity in the dialects of the regions.  The conversion of the native in larger scale into Christianity started sometime in 1875 by Father Saturnino Urios, a Jesuit who was known as the “Apostle of Agusan”.  The Butuan Parochial School now called Father Saturnino Urios University, was named after him.  Among the Spanish navigators who visited Butuan were Francisco de Castro, Villalobos and Legaspi.  The latter was said to have been well received by Datu Magbuaya, chieftain of Butuan.  When Agusan fell into the hands of the revolutionary government of Aguinaldo in 1889, the first guerilla groups were organized, by Gomercindo Flores in Butuan and Andres Atega in Cabadbaran, to fight American invaders.

A memorable encounter between the native forces and the American troops took place in February 1901 near San Mateo and the legendary island of Bacua.  It was through the mediation of Fr. Urios that the insurgents were persuaded to lay down their arms.  The American occupation of Butuan took effect without further incident and in accordance with Public Law No. 82, the first municipal election in Butuan was held in March 1902.Butuan was one of the towns which bore the brunt of the Japanese occupation.  With the exception of some public and private buildings, the whole town was razed to the ground when the guerilla forces attacked the enemy garrison in the town during the middle of 1943.  After liberation, rehabilitation of the town was started.  The civilian populace started returning to Butuan, first building shanties on the ruins of war, later houses of stronger frame.  Schools were opened once more with the students bringing their own chairs to and from school and classes were conducted in the different available houses which were not occupied.   Then October 20, 1948, a big fire wiped out the town.  Again Butuan witnessed a great building reconstruction boom.   At the return of the fifties - - - Butuan started experiencing the logging boom and which stayed up to the middle seventies.  The boom drew businessmen and fortune seekers from other provinces and before long, the population of Butuan soared.  Subdivisions started to sprout and the residential area grew in size, growing up to tenfold the original size than it was during the liberation period.  The lethargic town suddenly became a fast moving metropolis.  A second conflagration on December 9, 1952 again burned almost the entire town.  Another fire to hit Butuan occurred on May 13, 1960 which destroyed the northern portion of the city.  On may 19, 1970, another fire destroyed the commercial section of the city covering four blocks.  The last big fire to hit Butuan occurred on March 6, 1971 destroying Obrero and Poyohon.The boom of the logging industry inspired and prompted Congressman Marcos M. Calo to file a bill crating the City of Butuan.Butuan became a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 523 otherwise known as the City Charter of Butuan, which formally converted the municipality into a city on August 2, 1950.From a chartered city, Butuan was reclassified into a Highly Urbanized City on February 7, 1985, pursuant to the provisions of Memorandum Circular No. 83-49 of the Ministry of Local Government.  The reclassification was based on its income and population as certified by the Ministry of Finance and National Census and Statistics Office.