Monday, February 25, 2008

Oldest tree in the Philippines

BUTUAN City - The country's oldest tree is now officially a tourist destination, after the Department of Tourism installed a tourist center near the 500-year-old Bitaog tree in Magallanes, Agusan del Norte.

Officials of the provincial government of Agusan del Norte and the Department of Tourism inaugurated over the weekend the tourist center to accommodate some 200 daily visitors in the village of Caloc-an in Magallanes to view the tree, which in June 1998, was declared Philippine Centennial Tree.

"This 500-year-old tree has witnessed more stories than Jun Lozada," Agusan del Norte Governor Erlpe John Amante said in jest. Lozada is the new Senate witness in the ongoing investigation into the alleged anomalous deal between the government and Chinese firm ZTE Corp. for a national broadband network project.

Local historian Florante More, who nominated the Bitaog tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) as the oldest tree in 1998, said the trunk of the tree measures 290 centimeters in diameter.

The Bitaog tree, however, is much younger compared to the oldest known tree in the world, a Great Basin bristlecone pine located in California's White Mountains and is popularly known as the Methuselah tree. It is believed to be more than 4,700 years old.

Aside from the Bitaog tree, Magallanes town, named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, also takes pride of its rich history. More said the first Catholic mass was actually celebrated in Magallanes on April 8, 1521, and not in Limasawa.

More said a proof of this is the marker erected during the time of Spanish District Governor Jose Maria Carvallo in 1873, commemorating the first mass in Magallanes.

Two places in Agusan were actually contesting Limasawa's claim - a site in Magallanes at the mouth of the 350-kilometer Agusan River and the Easter Mass Eco Park in Butuan City , where a large cross was erected to commemorate the first mass.

Greg Hontiveros, author of the book "Butuan of a Thousand Years", however, said Butuan hosted a thriving civilization even before the Spaniards came in 1521.

"By the time the Spaniards came, Butuan as a trading port was in fact already on the decline," he said.

Hontiveros said wooden plank-build and edge-pegged boats believed to be more than a thousand years old were excavated from Barangay Libertad.

One of the boats, called Balangay 1 was carbon dated to be more than 1,600 year old. Its relics suggest that the boat measured 15 meters in length and 3 meters wide across the beam.

The relics are now kept inside the old building of the Balangay Shrine Museum in Libertad, near a swamp, where the boats were extracted.

Pagudpud is just an hour's drive from Laoag City International Airport. From here, tourists can visit other popular destinations such as the Bangui Wind Farm, the Hispanic village of Vigan, and the old Paoay Church.

1 comment:

Vicente Calibo de Jesus said...

First mass in 1521 was not in Butuan or Magallanes or Limasawa

The Easter Sunday mass of March 31, 1521 was held at an island named Mazaua. Not Butuan, not Limasawa, not Magallanes which for a long time was part of Butuan. The Magallanes notion was a direct offshoot of the Butuan myth.

There is no primary (eyewitness) or secondary or even thirdhand account that says such a mass was ever held in 1521 Butuan. In fact Butuan was not visited at all by Magellan’s fleet.

All the eyewitness accounts are now published on the Internet. One can read the chronicles of Antonio Pigafetta, Gines de Mafra, Francisco Albo, The Genoese Pilot, and Martin de Ayamonte on the Net. This site,, has the stories of Pigafetta, Albo, and The Genoese Pilot including the secondhand account of Maximilianus Transylvanus.

The account of Gines de Mafra is at Martin de Ayamonte’s is at

The secondhand relation by Antonio de Herrera, which is the first ever account that has a faithful story of the Mazaua episode, can be accessed at .

The notion Butuan is where Magellan landed and where an Easter mass was held comes from a false story of the Magellan circumnavigation by Giovanni Battista Ramusio. The original Italian text of Ramusio is at

The English translation of Ramusio is at It will be seen that Ramusio misplaced the port from Mazaua to Butuan.

It will be seen that the site of the first mass was Mazaua, not Butuan. Mazaua was an island. Ramusio’s Butuan of 1521 was not. And today’s Butuan is still not an island. It is a part of the “continental” island of Mindanao.

Where then is Mazaua today?

This is the paradox of Mazaua. Based on the combined insights of Pigafetta, Gines de Mafra, Albo, The Genoese Pilot, de Ayamonte, de Herrera, Maximilianus, I hypothesized that the island of Mazaua will be found at latitude 9 degrees North at longitude 125 deg. East. Thus, on October 13, 2000 before The Society for the History of Discoveries at the Library of Congress, Washington DC, U.S.A., I predicted an island will be found at that latitude and longitude and that this island is Mazaua.

Such an island was found in 2001 by a team of geologists and archaeologists led by the Philippines first geomorphologist, Dr. Ricarte Javelosa. Is it Mazaua? We yet don’t know. No comprehensive excavation has been done that would help determine if it’s Magellan’s port. Evidence that it is Mazaua would consist of authentic artefacts, scientifically dug up, that can be traced to Magellan as well as other European visitors to the port such as Gines de Mafra and his 90+ seamates who went to Mazaua in 1543, Bernardo de la Torre, and a number of Portuguese sailors.

If this island will be proven to be Mazaua, that still will not justify or validate the assertion that the first mass of 1521 March was held at Butuan.

The correct way of saying the geographical paradox is to say, “The first mass was held at a small island named Mazaua which mystifyingly we find today inside Mindanao, more precisely inside Butuan of today.”

It’s a confusing, if paradoxical, way of stating a truth that defies easy understanding and facile description.