Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Butuan: Rolling tour of the city to the Regional Museum

I have not even been half a day in Butuan City and I was already happy. The learning and realizations at the Balanghai Shrine courtesy of a tricycle driver was just already awesome! Everything was going fine from the time I got to NAIA 3. So far, so good!

An accidental tour
So I flagged a red-colored R4 multicab. I was a bit (just a bit) unhappy that there was already a passenger seated at the front-seat of my ride. Would have been best if I was the one there – a great vantage for viewing the city streets. But I contemplated that once the woman gets off, I’ll quickly run and transfer to that front seat. This ride was only half full (okay, half empty if you like) so it was fine to stretch my legs to the underside of the opposite seat and it was also fine to let my backpack sit beside me as I busied myself looking at where we passed. This was consolation at least, since at front seat I could not do any stretching! I asked the driver how much to the Regional Museum. The woman at front seat answered “twelve pesos”! Ayayay, I almost laughed aloud at my frustrated self! That meant I cannot move to front seat as the woman, obviously the driver’s wife, would probably not get off anywhere nor anytime soon. Oh well, I had to keep craning and bobbing my head like a child watching out for a Jollibee sign hehe! My sights were mostly to the right of the road and facing the sun, argh!

I saw a big church… it said Sto. Nino Shrine… and I wondered. It was not in my itinerary. And I was sure it could not have been Butuan City Cathedral since it was not at the city center. (Yes, I learned long ago that an old church [and/or the municipal hall] will probably be at the center of town across a plaza] – it’s almost always like that in the Philippines). Anyway, I quickly took a photo of the church frontage.

Then there was a GSIS with another building behind it (justice?) and soon a radio station, another church(non-catholic?), the Otis Metro Mall, then Dottie’s Place (one of my choices). I thought I might have already been in the city center but remembered from my quick research days ago that Dottie’s Place is a bit off the city center. As the jeep ambled along there was the Almont Inland Resort to my right which I also remembered as said to be out of the city center. So I must have been still far. Quick to the right again was Gaisano Mall, further down I saw a “True Brew” coffee shop(suggested by a friend) but it too was not in the city center yet, so I thought that must have been a branch. Next the jeep stopped across a commercial hub where there is a foot bridge (I saw Novo) and everyone got off! I was left alone and the jeep kept ambling along. I was tempted to ask the driver if I was still in the right direction but for some reason I did not. I think I was enjoying the “rolling tour”.

Then, traffic! We passed by a plaza where a lot of people were crossing and vehicles were bumper to bumper. The big yellow Bachelor Bus was blocking my front view. And so we were treading busy city streets. People hopped-in and hopped-out with the ride. I was wondering why I was still in the jeep while others who just took the ride somewhere are already getting off ahead of me. Then there was the Magsaysay Bridge to my right as the multicab seemed to circle the city. Next, there was the Post Office at some kind of a roundabout. Busy streets again. Three minutes after, we were traveling on a road with most businesses on both side of the street selling wood, lumber, timber and everything wood! Ever forward more we passed by some kind of a make-shift transport terminal for vans that ply to Cagayan, Bayugan, San Franciso and elsewhere. The area was muddy!

Hmm, the R4 ride was now feeling like I was going back to the airport at some other road. My orientation was either faltering again or we must have turned full circle heading back to where I came from. Still I did not ask the driver. I just cherished the views… middle-class residential areas, businesses, desolate streets, some slum-like dwellings by the edge of the water amidst nipa palms, wood for sale, etc. Then we cruised through a tree-lined and less populated road. I saw signage that said Balanghai Hotel! Whoa, where was I?! The jeep stopped, driver and wife were in a chorus telling me that the regional museum was inside the garden just beside the road. I almost said “really?” but just thanked them and alighted immediately.

Hah, that R4 ride was from exactly 9:59AM to 10:29AM! How did I know? I did not track time; I just enjoyed the views (worried at times when we passed via desolate places) as the R4 jeep went along its route. While writing this, I checked the very first picture I took when I hopped on the ride and the picture I took of the regional museum’s signage after getting off! That was exactly 30 minutes of a rolling tour of the real Butuan City! Should have been properly annotated if I were seated beside the driver for surely I would have asked him not just a few questions about where we were passing. Still, I had a fine 'getting-to-know-you' tour of the city!

Checking as I write this, my orientation was not dizzied and my coordinates were correct! The R4 ride had me tracing the city’s perimeter and it was almost a full circle. When I checked my map, the regional museum and the Balanghai hotel are actually almost in the same longitude as Dottie’s and Almont Inland but are just a few streets north! My guess is that the R4 jeep's route is something like the blue line in the map below (based on things I saw along the way), just guessing!So, if you want to do a rolling tour of the city, take the R4 ride in Butuan!

Caraga Regional Museum
What a nice little garden for the Balanghai Hotel hehe. If there is a hotel far from “civilization” it is not Dottie’s nor Almont Inland, it is Balanghai Hotel that sits in a breezy tree-lined area with nothing but this museum and a few houses behind for a neighbor. Oh okay, a few meters away is the new compound of the city hall but imagine this place at night hehe. Mingaw! At least it has its own advantage – away from the noise (and action) of city life!

Okay, back to the museum. This is the “National Museum of the Philippines – Region 13” a.k.a “Caraga Museum” a.k.a. “Regional Museum”. Many people call it the Butuan Regional Museum for without question it sits in the city of Butuan, the capital of Caraga Region. So it houses the culture and history not only of the city but all the provinces if Region 13 – Caraga.

By the way, stop looking for the meanings of “ca”, “ra” and “ga”. The word “Caraga” is not an acronym nor a contraction as you would with CaLaBaRZon or MiMaRoPa and the weird to pronounce SoCCSKSarGen. Caraga is a word that traces from Caragan which originally came from Kalagan that traces to the root word Kalag – meaning “soul” or “spirit”. Thus, the Kalagans of the past were spirited, brave and fierce people. I can start explaining further but that’s what am not here for hehe! But just for your information, I got those from no less than the museum’s guard! Oh ha?! One last note, this is also not the town named Caraga which is in nearby Davao Oriental province ahhh hehehe!

The museum is divided into two air conditioned wings not really that big but just good enough. To the left as you enter the lobby would be the histories and mementos of the pre-historic past while to the right is the wing for recent histories and cultural what have yous! They even sell some of the products there. And I like the idea of putting (right as you enter the door to each wing) a computer that visitors can use to browse for more about the region’s histories. Just bad luck that none of those two PCs were working during my visit. They didn’t look like defective to me. The museum folks probably just shut them down hehe. The museum’s lobby is quite spacious and there are displays there of big things like replicas of the boats, maps both printed and relief type, bamboo products, etc.

Yes, like in many others, taking photos inside the museum is not allowed and as I have said many other times “I wonder why” since I do not believe in the “safety and security of the museum” crap for a reason. Now I cannot really brag so much about these “no photograph” museums. And I think I am not being unreasonable since I would heed not to take photos if it was like “The Spoliarium” because my photo could be a source for rampant fake reproductions. But why can’t I take a photo of say a diorama about how our ancestors lived by the rivers? Or a photograph of the remains of a boat? Anyway, my capitalist-trained mind tells me that the real reason I am not allowed to take pictures is: because if I did, I can show the pics to everyone so they won’t have the urge to visit a museum anymore hahaha! Pwede!

Here is another bit of a bummer… “Gallery tour guiding / demonstration is only extended to a group upon request” argh! That's why no museum staff can be seen (I saw them all inside an office). So I only had the guard to ask about many things and gladly he did have some answers! I even joked with him that should get a guide (even if I had to pay) since I am a group of thousands of cells… and he giggled but told me no one will attend to me. At least this kind guard guarded my backpack with his dear life as I went strolling around. I saw him even moved the bag a bit closer to his desk so it was in his view wherever he was. If all these encounters will be my basis to define Kalagans or Karagans, they are all kind-hearted and soulful – that is except for some ridiculous museum rules obviously copied from we know where hehe! Oh hey, let’s talk about “soulful” tonight!

Okay, done with the inside, I moved out to the garden and pond just to check really if there was anything of note. And the guard followed me to just about near the steps to the museum’s entrance. Oh there is a sundial! Well, for my unscientific mind, it is ugly and small, but it does serve its accurate purpose – to tell time. Hard to see though since when I was there, clouds were not as cooperative as the guard, so Mr. Sunny was out of view to shine on the dial!

The garden is well maintained and has good greenery with flowers here and there. There is a man-made pond and a bridge that leads to nothing. I did wonder because most of the flora (have I seen fauna? I don’t remember!) in this garden are not the usual things I see in many a garden. For example, there were Bananas, there was Anahaw, some rootcrop or tuber plants and big big trees. So I asked the guard what this was really. He started explaining that the “garden” was actually an arboretum. It is an attempt by the museum to gather in one place mementos of the biodiversity of the region. He even explained that the pond and the bridge were supposed to symbolize something (I forgot). And he pointed to me a large marker that said it all – this is supposed to be a “Histo-Cultural Arboretum” – whatever that means that’s what I have just seen. Thanks to the security guard.

So far, I have interacted only with drivers and guards… and so far… I was happy in Butuan City!

Let’s go see the city hall?

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