“There was no Philippines, but there was Butuan.” People always say that. But those words are meaningless if you will not explore and experience the Ancient Kingdom yourself.
So if you are serious about discovering your identity, you must book a flight to Butuan City and get to know the place that is described in the Song Shi (Sung Dynasty history) as “small countries in the sea”. (Airphil, PAL, Cebu Pacific are now flying from Butuan City to other cities in the Philippines, vice versa.)
So how will you get to know the place where they said our heritage and history began? Let us count the ways.
1. The Ancient Trade
It is so enchanting to discover that Philippines can boast of a city that became part of the ancient trade with the other ancient kingdoms in Asia such as the Khmer and Champa. We are talking of a thousand years ago of trading heritage. As recorded in the Song Shi, Butuan had trading relations with China from 1001 to 1011 AD. Even if we cannot see traces of the ancient trade at Pinamangkulan, where the actual trading took place; however, the unprecedented excavations of Balanghai boats and ceramic relics prove Butuan’s important part in the East Asian trading, which includes the Sri Vijayan Empire, Kingdom of Champa, and the Sung Dynasty. The ceramics and other archeological finds are now neatly displayed at the National Museum, Doongan, Butuan City (near the Butuan City Hall).
2. The Balanghai Boats
Isn’t it amazing to know that the thousand years old balanghai boats are the eastern equivalent to the Viking boat discoveries in northern Europe? You may call it Eurocentric; however, the point is it was not only the Europeans who could make such magnificent boats; it just showed that our own race could make great boats, too. The balanghai boat relics preserved at the Balanghai Shrine, Libertad, Butuan City may look ordinary, but for artifact enthusiasts the relics are like treasure troves because they are loaded with stories about the Diaspora and adventures of our ancestors from Asia to as far as Madagascar. While staring at the boat relics, you could imagine that it had crossed the widest stretch of seas, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean a thousand years ago.
3. The Golden City
When Magellan and his crew arrived in this Ancient Kingdom more than a hundred years ago, they were awed by the nuggets of gold all around the place. One just had to wipe the first layer of soil and gold with the size of nuggets could be found. Pigafetta likened the size of gold he had found in Butuan to walnuts and eggs. Some of these gold treasures are now displayed at the National Museum, Butuan City, Philippines, and there are more gold relics at the Ayala Museum in Makati, Philippines.
If you seek to know the untold stories about our past, you must not miss visiting Philippine’s Ancient Kingdom in Butuan City. But do not get it wrong because you will not find temples and giant statues of Budhas like the ones you can see in Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and other Aisan countries. But the relic of the balanghai boats, Chinese ceramics, and gold which is unprecedented in Asia, is something an avid Philippine prehistoric fan cannot resist to capture not just in high definition camera, but in person.
Source: Butuan of A Thousand Years by Greg Hontiveros, 2004
By: Ma. Celeste T. Fusilero