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Balikbayan recalls past and present Butuan

By R.Juan de Abril

Photo courtesy of Toto Flores

“Why is it every time I come home there’s never ending road constructions?” says, no, more of a complain, balikbayan from the United States who begs to be called Mr. Speedy Gonzales.

But he claimed to be fondly attached not to the iconic ancient Balangay but to the underrated, smaller “baroto” that plies the river to and from the Butuan City fire department area to Baan riverside where he used to live.

“The baroto should be the city’s all-time symbol because contemporary people experience it first hand, not the long forgotten Balangay that’s alien to us even its the mother of all ocean and river vessels,” he asserts.

He recalls sailing three times a day as a means of transportation from home to school together with friends and neighbors.

“We go to public schools, from elementary to college, and more than half of us went abroad after to work and settled, but we always come home,” he quips.

Photo courtesy of Annalyn Cabig Sanchez Mondejar/Butuan Memories

Sundays, when he was young, he remembers, are most times spent swimming in the crystal-clear and pale green and sometimes yellow river often lined-up with floating logs.

“We chased one another, half naked and laughing atop the logs that sink up and down. Then we swam underneath and splashing each other’s,” he said.

Flash forward to today, he says, he find it cute to see orange-painted tricycles “lighting oranges in the streets.”

He thinks it looks better and clean than before. Even if he claims, “the main streets are heavy with traffic now.Somehow orange tricycles with trash containers look comforting.”

He is sad and amazed with the street side vendor who is still at it, at the same spot near Agusan High. “All these years, she is still there! She claims to have started selling banana cue and camote cue at the time of Ching Plaza.”

She said she-not Ching-never left her spot, even until her children all finish school. “She must have love selling or has no choice at all, I wonder.”

To him, the old city plaza, now abolished, flattened and called modernized has no character and originality, patterned obviously from western standard and poorly riding in the mentality of globalization.

“It’s nothing but imitation to other big cities, leaving no distinct identity of Butuan. It should have been retained and enhanced, not looking so empty, not dramatic and devoid of creativity.”

Photo courtesy of Annalyn Cabig Sanchez Mondejar/Butuan Memories

He also remembers the old city post office that remains old and standing until this day.

“When I was young I thought lovers get married there to apply for a license.Here was always a long line,” he recalls.

His friends had a blast laughing with that.



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