By Nito De Castro
Yes, there used to be a landscape of heritage structures along riverside villages in Agao and Datu Silongan and even along the national highway going to Libertad. But all apparently vanished because the owners of these finest heritage homes do not care for its preservation or had gone somewhere else and their heirs interest of transforming them into modern ones.
This is tragic for our cultural heritage and architecture. Our city today has lost a big chunk of our historic glory and pride because its children are only concern of looking the future but not looking back its past.
We claim that Butuan is a “historic city” but we have nothing much to show some dynamic evidence of the past. Oh, we have the Butuan boat, also called Balangay alright but that is pre-colonial times, not much to show off the evolution of the past.
To add consistent color and dynamism to our claim, we need to preserve evidence of physical structures like ancestral houses, historical buildings and century-old churches, even bridges to easily convince our guests that our city is indeed evolving and ascending way back the balangay days to post-World War II era and until the present.
Sadly, Butuan has nothing historically varied to tell the world Butuanons were capable of building majestic homes, both colonial style and indigenous inspired. And all for nothing because they are torn down or demolished. It only tells us our locals had no sense of history and respect to our ancestors. Ngansi ba ini? Wala diay gi-kadyaw.
Presumably, the value of heritage structures and cultural treasures lies in what they represent—a link to our past, a reflection of our identity.
And keeping our heritage structures gives us a glimpse of what we were, where we came from, how we survived as a people, and what we may become.
Even more tragic we can’t even find a century-old tree in Butuan declared as heritage tree. Understandably so for we pride ourselves as the “Timber City of the South” so Butuanons obviously cut all the ancient trees and export them to Japan and other Asian countries—even until now.
It is another loss and embarrassment to us as a people because it reflects our character—at least today in this age of nature preservation and the demand of proactive conservation action.
The trees in Butuan “kingdom” were meant to fall down to sustain the pockets of the few wealthy families, both migrants and locals who abuse the natural wealth without a sense of vision and foresight for the next generations.
Today, not one heritage house nor century-old tree in our city is declared a local treasure or “historical landmark” by concerned government agencies to be cherished, preserved and protected. Maybe for them, the balangay is enough. But how come we do not see a decent and well maintained relics of it?
Artwork courtesy of zipmatchcom