The Mighty Agusan River is the third largest river basin in the Philippines and is one of the top attractions of Butuan City, or at least it should be. It is the widest and longest navigable river in the country. It also once served as a national water highway of Eastern Mindanao where logs were even transported from Davao province by tugboats.
For the longest time, the river and its beauty have not been noticed because locals and tourists usually just stay in Butuan or come to Butuan and head out for other neighboring provinces such as Surigao del Sur, Siargao or Camiguin.
A local NGO here in Butuan has been helping different communities around the Agusan River, though, especially those that have been hit by natural disasters. One of their most promising projects is the river cruise in Agusan River. This project not only allows the community to have extra income, it also helps showcase the diverse beauty of this river.
Recently, we were invited by NGO Save Mindanao to join their River cruise and being ecotourism advocates of the city, we were more than happy to join this trip. We met the speedboat crew in PPA (Philippine Ports Authority) and from there, hopped on their spankin’ new speedboat and set off downstream along the River towards Pagatpatan and later on, towards Magallanes.
Having passed over the river so many times through both the Magsaysay and Macapagal Bridges in Butuan, I really did not have too many expectations from the trip. To me, the Agusan River just did not have much appeal. Boy, did I feel like a clueless idiot after seeing what I saw. Little did I know that I was in for a great surprise.
Just some of the things we were able to see along the river were the Balangay Boat Replica (the Balangay boat was recently named the National Boat of the Philippines), Banza Church Ruins, and the Kayam forest (the Kayam tree produces fruit that is similar to chestnuts but are bigger). Later on, as the mangroves led us to narrower paths, I felt like I was back in Vietnam, moving along the Mekong River.
It certainly had that feel and so much more.
The low tide also allowed us to go through parts that led us to a private fish farm in Pagatpatan. There we were able to see migratory birds and even had the chance to get ourselves some freshly caught shrimp. The local community is also working on reviving the tradition of making Laksoy, a native drink made from Nipa Palm trees. At night, we were told that Pagatpatan had areas where there are still thousands of Fireflies, something I’d definitely love to see one of these days.
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