May 3-4, 2013
Passing Through Butuan City
After CDO, I was open to a new destination. For lack of a stronger influence, I chose the logical progression - Butuan. West would be Iligan and I had been there. South would mean Bukidnon and that's where I came from. East is Butuan and I haven't been there. Butuan didn't really call out but there was nothing else. Cebu somehow loomed up, but I couldn't discern if I was simply defaulting to where it's comfortable - I have good friends there, a Manila friend just moved in, and I had an interesting real estate offer. To my chagrin, the following day after arriving Butuan, Cebu Pacific launched a P1 seat sale for CDO to Cebu! Again, life teases me. Had they offered that a day earlier, it would have been a sign for me to leave for Cebu. I guess it wasn't meant to be.
Butuan was frought with discouragement at the outset. But I wasn't sure if they were signs not to pursue or simple setbacks that inevitably happen while traveling. First, none of the hotels I emailed to gave me a reply. That meant looking for a cheap place to stay upon arrival. The bus I took had a tire problem but gave us a different excuse. Smelling something fishy, I got my bag and looked for another bus. The road to Butuan was under repairs (election time). It took us 6.5 hours to get there. It was already 8:30 pm by the time I arrived. It was dark, even darker because of a power failure, I didn't know the place, I didn't know anyone, and I didn't have a place to stay yet. Sigh! The situation was far from ideal.
The cheap hotels I went to were bewildering. A lot were charging 12-hour rates only. Of course, I would pay double for a full day's stay. Other dormitels were advertising P150/person. But when I went in, they wanted me to pay for the entire room with 5 beds at P150/bed! Another dormitel advertised P188/head. When I went in, they wanted me to pay P250 because there was no one else in the room. I even told one hotel owner that their hotel policy was unlike the rest of the Philippines...that they don't seem to want people to come to Butuan City. She said she was perfectly ok with how they do things. There was another P150 room but there was no window (dead air) and the entire place was hot. I would be slowly roasting in the night. I settled for an a/c room at P300/night. That was the cheapest acceptable room I could find. Already, I wanted to leave Butuan. It simply did not resonate. I planned to leave Butuan first thing in the morning.
Almont Inland Resort
The following day, I thought I'd stop by a big hotel and see if things might change. I went to Almont Inland Resort where I talked to 3 people from upper management. They loved the program I laid down for them. They even invited me to have lunch there. Unfortunately, it would be a Cebu decision. There would be no hotel deal. Despite that, that pleasant experience was a saving grace for the city for me - the people were pleasant, the resort environ was pleasant and lunch was done well.
Gaisano Butuan Mall
I went to Gaisano, the only mall in town, to see what movie was playing. The entire mall was packed (being a monopoly) with lines just about every where. Hmmm....there is much consumer spending. How Gaisano kept SM and Ayala away from Butuan is a story for the books! But like any monopoly, complacency is stamped all over. The air-conditioning was dismal. It was hot and humid inside. People were fanning themselves. I went inside an enclosed internet cafe and was repulsed by the heavy and humid dead air inside. But it was full of people! How could they endure this? I didn't bother going to the cinema fearing the same condition of the air. Interestingly, Gaisano CDO, flanked by Ayala Centrio, Limketkai and SM, have normal air-conditioning. Lesson? Monopoly is bad for the consumer. Hopefully, with Robinson Mall under construction, it'll be a wake up call to the old-school Butuan establishments when it opens.
Plug and Pay
I ate at a newly opened restaurant where I plugged my laptop to do some hard drive work (no internet). To my chagrin, they added P20 to my bill for plugging my laptop. I paid them, but not after giving them a mouthful. I told them that they should post signs they'll be charging for outlet use instead of doing an ambush!
Butuan seems to be in its own bubble oblivious to what's outside its borders. The powers that be (political and economic) have been successful in containing the population to simply settle for what's thrown at them. People seem used to the system. Nobody was complaining. Worse, this policy of scarcity seem to permeate through the culture. I feel bad for them.
As a general rule, I find compelling reasons to stay as long as I can in a place. After 2 nights, I was ready to leave and head south to Enchanted River. I would like to come back to Butuan maybe after 5 years and see how it keeps up with the rest of the Philippines' other cities.
- Almont Inland Resort - J.C. Aquino Ave., Butuan City (near Gaisano), P2300 to P4000, firstname.lastname@example.org, (63 85)342.7414
- at the CDO bus terminal, take a bus bound for Butuan, P337/pax, 6 hours 20 mins (extra long due to road repairs)
(May 7, 2013) Hey, you're in Butuan na pala. Hope our paths will cross again. Glad to have met you. Can't wait to hear more of your travelogues.
May 3-4, 2013
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