What To Do In Butuan (Revisited)




Agusan River

photo from www.butuan.gov.ph

Argh! 6 years! It took me six years to finally update this post about my favorite city, Butuan. No choice on the favorite city bit, this is the closest city from my place so how can it not be my favorite? If you can’t at least like the place you’re currently living in, you should either move to another place or buy a rope. There’s nothing more miserable than continuing to live a tortured existence. Hmmm.

Alright, let’s get to the new things, the cool things, and the changes that happened to my beloved city. Please note that I don’t exactly live within Butuan. I live in Buenavista, some 17 km from this city. Cool sounding name eh? But that’s for another story.

The biggest change is the arrival of Robinsons Mall. Before it was Gaisano that lorded over Butuan City, but now with Robinsons joining the mall fray, people should now be flocking to this modern, airconditioned mall with awesome theaters. Right? Wrong.

Like some folks, I really thought that Gaisano would become a shopping wasteland, if you will, with the entry of Robinsons. After all, who would want to shop in a department store that looks like a dolled-up baratillo shop when you have a polished, airconditioned mall like Robinsons as an option? Apparently, a lot of people still prefer going to Gaisano. Much to Robinson’s dismay. In a short amount of time, a few shops that rented space in Robinsons have already closed.
I think two factors contributed to this sorry situation for Robinsons. First, it’s not as accessible as Gaisano is. You can commute to Gaisano via multicab or tricycle. With Robinsons, you can only ride a multicab. Sorry, but tricycles can’t take you there. Second, a huge chunk of the Butuan demographic belong to the C, D, E market. Most of these folks are more comfortable roaming around Gaisano than Robinsons.

Both of these factors contributed to lesser foot traffic in Robinsons, leading to lesser business for the shops. So there you have it, my own little foray to consumer economics. Bleh.
Now off to better things. Robinsons is big enough to take those kinds of hits so I’m not really worried about them.

Food and Restos

A few eating places have popped up since the last time I wrote my original What To Do In Butuan piece. Some folded in a couple of months, while some have gained enough traction to continue operating. A select few have done very, very well. Chief among these few is Barons. This is where you get the best kinilaw in town. It’s located along JC Aquino boulevard near Veterans Bank. It’s a carwash by day and a seafood place by night. Well not exactly like a normal seafood resto. For one, it only serves kinilaw, sashimi, sinugba, and tinuwa. It’s actually more of a SuTuKil place (like that area in Lapulapu, Cebu) but they do serve liempo as well. The fabulous Carlos Celdran (Walk This Way tour, Damaso fame) once had the kinilaw in Baron and declared it to be a life changing experience (his words, not mine). Baron’s has opened another branch a stone throw away, still along JC Aquino but I don’t feel the need to try it out yet. Should be the same thing.

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Another good seafood restaurant is Islands. If you prefer a cozy atmosphere (unlike the open air, smoky ambience of Barons), with proper waiters and tables and menus and of course good seafood, Islands is the place to be. They’re located in an arcade that also houses Bo’s Coffee and Mandara Spa. Before Baron’s, Islands was THE place for kinilaw. For the past 6 years whenever I arrive from Manila (after visiting the office there) lunch is ALWAYS at Islands. To me the combination of kinilaw and manok inasal is killer. Did I mention that Islands has the best manok inasal in town? Forget Weegols and Aling Cora(two of the old guards), Island’s manok inasal reigns supreme in this part of CARAGA. When you order the inasal, you don’t get it within 5 minutes. You wait a little bit longer. But that waiting assures you that you’re getting quality cooked food.

Margie’s is still holding its own in the Butuan food scene. It has in fact, for a time, opened a space and a kiosk in Robinsons Mall. For some reason however they decided to close after less than a year. Margie’s also opened Boy’s Asian Cooking, a watering hole for the, well, more affluent set. They offer craft beer as well as imported beers on top of the usual local beers. Boy’s is located right behind DBP.

After a full night of drinking, most folks would crave for bulalo. The best bulalo I’ve tasted so far is Uncle Sam’s bulalo right beside City hall. They close early though, around 2-ish in the morning. Kixx, along JC Aquino, however closes much, much later if at all. Sam’s is more expensive but at least you get to sit in a proper table.
My favorite dawn food place is Pan de Pugon. Lately they’ve upped their offering to include silog dishes. I always go for their Bagoong rice with chicken fillet. It’s fried rice mixed with bagoong and sprinkled with crispy danggit bits. It’s awesome. I go to Pugon at least twice a week around 3-4am. I work nights you see. I think the tinderas there hate me. I always wake them up. Lol. Pan de Pugon is located in the same building as Margies. They’re competing in the cake space but I think Margie’s with their decadent monster cake is the front runner.

Pizza Places

A lot of pizza places has also mushroomed these past few years. Honestly, the pizzas are OK. Not great, but ok. I go to Caldas however for the pizza, not that I think it’s the best pizza out there but because they have a cool place and you can order beer as well. The combination of pizza and beer is the perfect foundation for a beer belly. So if you’re going for that Dad Bod, it’s the place to be. Caldas is in the Guingona area near the Provincial Capitol grounds. If you’re in Butuan and you’re craving for pizza and beer, that’s where you go. It’s pretty well known so the tricycle drivers should know it. They close around 2am though so better go there earlier.

Butuan Secret Eating Spot

Fine this is not actually a secret. But for some Butuan folks, it may still be. There is a little carinderia along Langihan road called . They only serve food during lunch. I go there before 12pm to ensure that I arrive before the local offices pause for their lunch break. The halang-halang and the lechon kawali is awesome. I’m not sure how long they’ve operated but I feel they’ve been there for a loooong time and their offering hasn’t changed at all. It’s a closed space if you’re a bit finicky. It’s not like other carenderias where the flavor of the food needs the exhaust from vehicles to give it that peculiar zing.  You should try it out some time.

Ok, I think I’ve written a lot. I’ll see if I can update this post with pictures so I can at least make it pop. Meh.

1 Comment… add one

  • Azrain Apr 25, 2016

    Uhm. I’m planning to write a story and the protagonist is going to live in Butuan City, somewhere in Buenavista. I’d like to ask what people, who live there, are experiencing in their everyday life. The names of the streets, on how to go there, what’s there. The people there. The school. And whatsoever. Mind to share your experiences? Anyway, thanks for the infos! Very great help. I’m loving Butuan City now! :)

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