Find us on Google+ Love Mindanao: Butuan City: The Ruins of Banza

Butuan City: The Ruins of Banza

Northern Mindanao is described as one of the places in the Philippines that holds authentic stories about the Philippine history and culture. 

One in particular is the under rated Butuan City which a home to various important artifacts of the past even before the coming of the western conquerors. The place showcases various important historical events that made it worthy discovering but you need to have a personal encounter to  appreciate the most untold stories of our heritage.

A unique tricycle in Butuan, carries outmost 10 passengers
Coming from Luzon, I have no clue of what to unturn in Butuan aside from the fact that it is the site where the ancient Balangays were discovered. 

While taking a bite of Butuan’s favorite delicacy, Palagsing along Langihan market, the vendor made mentioned that the palagsing is specialized in Brgy.Banza to where the oldest stone church ruin of Mindanao silently stands. This gave me a drive to take a look and visit Brgy. Banza.

Coming from the city proper I took a tricycle to Busa where the terminal bound for Banza awaits. I asked the driver to drop me at Sitio Lilo to where the ruins stand. 

It was a blessed day as soft drizzles poured down making the noon time a bit comfortable walking the supposedly dusty road. After a 10 minute walk, the ruins revealed itself with a marker of a seemed to be a tower of a church. But that isn’t the ruin. The remaining pillar of the once most beautiful church in Mindanao is in fact covered by the huge banyan tree species or balete. I took a closer look at the pillar and saw an opening going right down to the depth of the church.

If misguided, many visitors would think that the collapsed building beside the banyan tree is the ruin. That's actually a remain of a once productive saw mill in Northern Mindanao when the city was hailed as the Timber City dated back in Marcos’ time.

I met the caretaker of the ruins, ate Gladys Diamla from the city tourism office as she explained to me the existence of the church in the area. According to here, there are many people who have attempted to go down to the ruins through the opening of the banyan tree. There was even an American explorer who entered the ruins to search for any valuable findings. But with no avail, they found nothing as it had been taken long before by the unknown culprit. 

What she made me understand was that, the once concrete church stands up to the edge of the river and was covered deeply due to siltation and increase in width of the river. She further told that the church holds the untold stories of the past and could be the most beautiful church standing if only not burned down by the Moro pirates back in 1753.

Facts about Banza Church Ruins

As seen on the marker "The Augustinia Recollects established their mission in Butuan in 1622 and this would last until 1875 with the return of the Jesuits to butuan. The Recollect Father Fray Juan de San Nicolas ‘who with a spirit apostolitically bold planted the standard of the cross in the town nearest the seashore.’

The 1650 statistical report on the Apostolate in Caraga to the Manila chapter of the Recolletos however, described its convent in Butuan as situated along the river with one thousand five hundred Christian parishioners.

There is a vague indication that in the 1670’s there was a shift to Baug and again the transfer of the Pueblo back to Banza in 1677.

In 1752 Butuan was among those Christian communities in the Visayas and Mindanao that suffered massive destruction from the Moro raids . The Pueblo of Butuan was repopulated in 1757.

In 1865, the Governor of the province of Surigao, Manuel Boscasa, Decreed the forcible transfer of the Pueblo to Baug (the present day Magallanes), which was initially resisted by the residents. In that confrontation, the governor ordered the arrest and imprisonment of the parish priest, Fray Matias Viallamayor.

For about 200 years, the pueblo of Butuan and the church were located in this hallowed ground."

Getting there

Coming from Luzon,flights to Butuan City are available everyday from major airline carrier. From Butuan proper just take a tricycle going to Busa, fare is P8.00. Busa is actually a building and fronting it is a tricycle terminal bound to different barangays of Butuan. 

Locate the tricycle that looks like a mini jeepney that can take 10 passengers at a time. Inform the driver to drop you at Sitio Lilo or simply the RUINS, fare is P10.00. 

Once you are in Lilo, you will know you are in the right place when you see a huge banner of information about the ruins. You will take the left side of the crossing and take a 10 minute walk until you reach the riparian shore. There at the edge of the river a huge banyan or balete tree stands, this covers the ruins of the church.

After your visit to the ruins you can actually cross the river to see the replica of the Balangay that have successfully navigated  Asia


  1. i miss butuan. such an old city.

  2. Now I know! Tagal ko na gusto pumunta dito but laging umuulan, tinatamad...