“In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures.” ~ Frank Gehry
I had this deadline for an airline travel magazine assignment which just gave me ample time to shoot Butuan City in one day. It’s 5-6 hours away from my city. I needed a companion for the sudden night trip, and the only person willing to go with me was Ate Brenda, a female photographer who was as adventurous as I am. I lured her in with the most tempting bait: she was fond of old, historic churches.
“Ate Brens,” I began over the phone. “Last time I went to Butuan, they brought me to a dreamy location where what was left of a historic old church was its bell tower, now swallowed by a huge Balete (banyan) tree.”
I could feel her adrenaline coursing through the wires back at me. She was packing in a minute.
“Of course we need to have a male companion with us, so we can take turns driving the car, and just in case the car breaks down,” she reasoned.
So we lured another victim in, Gerry, a fellow photographer who insisted on driving the rest of trip, slowly through a foggy lonely road which looked spookily deserted, until we reached Butuan at past midnight.
The photo above is one of the reasons why I wanted to go back to Butuan. The Banza Church Ruins, reputed to be one of the most beautiful stone structures back in the 1600s, became the oldest stone church ruins in Mindanao when it was burned down by pirates in 1753.
Today, a marker is in place to commemorate its historical significance, and what is left of its former beauty is a bell tower engulfed inside the giant tree. You can see a gaping hole in the trunk, right? Somebody must have bravely carved through it in the past.
In Filipino culture, particularly with old people in the province, we believe that nature is protected by spirits and trees have entities inhabiting and protecting them. But this wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered a giant old tree steeped in mythical stories.
So yes, I stuck my hand with the camera into the trunk hole and, hoping for the best, took shots. Some of my shots revealed wooden structures with crumbled stones wedged inside the hollowed crevice.
Incidentally, while we were driving slowly through the misty road, we were joking around as I regaled them of my solo trips and staying alone in hotels. My senses have actually sharpened in the years so that when I feel uneasiness in a room’s atmosphere, I will immediately request for room transfer.
Now upon arriving in this city rich in primordial history, I was grateful for the tourism officer to have prepared and arranged our accommodation. Needless to say, the hotel was beautiful but old, so vintage in its character and interiors, that it has got to be the most delightfully haunted looking hotel I’ve ever luckily stayed in. I shot the interiors and its shadowy, somewhat eerie corridors.
But that is yet another exciting story.
Do you have yours?