“Al inmortal Magallanes el pueblo de Butuan con su parroco y Españoles en el residentes para conmemorar su arribo y celebracion de la primera misa en este sitio el dia 8 de Abril de 1521. Erigido en 1872 siendo gobernador del distrito D. Jose Maria Carvallo.”

Literal translation from Translator.Reference.com:

“The immortal Magellan the people of Butuan with his parish priest and Spanish residents to commemorate their arrival and celebration of the first mass on this site the day April 8 of 1521. Erected in 1872 as governor of the district D. José María Carvallo.”

Around the Magellan Shrine are inscriptions about the Old Butuan and Magallanes‘ rich and colorful history:

Prehistoric Period:
A million or more years ago, volcanic actions at the center of Mindanao Island resulted to its upliftment creating valleys which low areas became conduits of huge volume of water that caused heavy silt depositions at the former old river mouth at Bit’os -Suatan area. The old river, being clogged, began to create a new self as it meandered north to its present position. This siltation gave birth to deltaic floodplains, sandbars and islets. Magallanes was once a waterworld, however, the perpetual depositions raised the level of land to become areas dominated by thick mangrove jungles, abode to small and large games, of varieties of fish and freshwater mussels, and home to first inhabitants, swamp dwellers who mastered their environment for survival. Through centuries, the mighty river Agusan remains the mute witness of the great events, its perpetual flow resembles the continuous passing of historical occurrences of this place that was once known as Butuan Viejo.

Magallanes Shrine - 01

Historic Period:
The Spanish expedition of 1519 led by the Portuguese-turn-Spanish citizen Fernando Magallanes, a knight of Order de Santiago and renown navigator, reached the shores of the Island of Mazzawa and met the king of the said island and that of Butuan. 44 years later, the patache San Juan piloted by Rodrigo dela Isla and part of the Legazpi expedition, entered the mouth of the main river (Agusan) and finally the mouth of the smaller river to the left (Baug) where the village of Butuan was then located.

Father Valerio de Ledesma, S.J.
, and a brother landed at Butuan and with the help of another Jesuit, Father Manuel Martinez, S.J., began the evangelization of the natives, including the conversion of three leaders, Datus Osol, Elian and Silongan. The following year, the first Catholic church of Mindanao, made of nipa y caña, at Butuan was inaugurated on 8 September in honor of the island’s first patron saint, the Nuestra Señora Natividad (The Lady of Light, Birhen sa Kasilak).

The Butuan at the river mouth was abandoned by the Jesuit Father Juan Lopez, S.J. and Christianized Butuanons went to Bohol, taking with them the image of the patron saint. Today, a parish in the said Visayan island province takes pride of having the same patron saint as that of the Butuan of 1597. In 1624, Butuan, a transferred village at its new location in Banza became a regular parish with Señor San Jose as its patron saint under the spiritual administration of the Recollect fathers.


Another transfer was ordered to the river mouth area, this time dubbed as Baug, a name of unpleasant connotation due to its being abandoned and therefore considered foul as a dead could be. But people had to move again down to where Magallanes now stands under threat of arson as policy of the local power to force people go with its wishes. The spiritual care of the people was provided by Father Pedro Garcia Virgen de los Martires, OAR, whose personal devotion became the patron saint, San Nicolas Tolentino.

The parish priest, Spanish community and the general population of Butuan “on the seashore and at the river mouth” erected and dedicated the stone column to be immortal memory of Ferdinand Magellan (Hernando Magallanes) and the first mass with Mindanao Third District (Surigao) Spanish Governor Don Jose Maria Carvallo as honored guest, commemorating the 351st landing anniversary.

Magallanes Shrine - 02

American naval and marine forces entered Agusan River and occupied the new Butuan town. In an attempt to stop the Americans, Agusan guerillas under the command of revolutionary army captain Gumersindo Flores blockaded the entrance of the right channel of the Agusan River by dumping huge rocks. The American gunboats simply skimmed over the sunken rocks during high tide days. A year later soldiers salvaged the 1872 marker that had collapsed into the river due to continuous erosion of the bank where it was erected. Eight years later, the Butuan Municipal Council of a relocated Butuan at Agao passed a resolution naming the old Butuan site as the river mouth as Magallanes, in honor of the great navigator Hernando Magallanes whose marker their forebears and the Spanish community had put up 37 years ago.

The Recollect patron saint San Nicolas de Tolentino was transferred to Camboayon (La Union) leaving the village without a patronal saint. In 1911, Father Saturnino Urios donated the present image of Our Lady of Rosary to old Butuan, Magallanes through Señor Simeon Torralba, a good friend of the Jesuits, who personally carried it to Magallanes, arriving there amidst great jubilation of the inhabitants of the place. Five years later, Fr. Urios passed away but his gift to Magallanes became a strong devotion of the faithful.

The image of Our Lady of Rosary was rescued by soldiers of Butuan‘s 3rd Battalion, 113th Infantry (Guerilla) Regiment from the burning chapel after the whole barrio was put to the torch by a punitive Japanese patrol with guidance of a Filipino Bureau of Constabulary officer from Butuan, and turned over said image to Bonifacia A. Burias. 22 years later, Magallanes became a regular parish with diocesan Father Cesario Gatela as curate and in 1969 it became a regular municipality with the effort of barrio councilman Ernesto P. Morano and Congressman Jose C. Aquino of the 2nd District of Agusan del Norte. Magallanes‘ first mayor was Florentino Magallanes and Ricardo Abacan as vice mayor of the new town.

The whole of Mindanao community of clergy and parishioners celebrated the 400th Evangelization Jubilee at the river mouth with the honored presence of Cardinal Jose T. Sanchez, papal legate, sent by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to declare Magallanes as site of the Church of God for the people of God in Mindanao.

Note: This is part of LegendHarry‘s Nov 21-29 Northern Mindanao-Caraga-Davao Trip.


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