The Caraga Region (Region XIII) was created by virtue of Republic Act 7901, signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos on February 23, 1995. The region is composed of five (5) provinces: Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Island; six (6) cities: Butuan, Cabadbaran, Bayugan, Surigao,Tandag and Bislig ; sixty-seven (67) municipalities and 1,308 barangays. Butuan City is the regional center.
The earliest known record for the region’s geographical existence dates back to 487 years in the diary of Antonio Pigafetta who wrote: “questo sua Isola che chiama Butuan e Calagan.” The Spanish word is a reference to “kalagan,” a compound of Visayan words “kalag”, which means “soul” and “an” which means “land.” Early chroniclers called this region as the “land of the brave and fierce people.”
Prior to Spanish colonization, Butuan already traded with the Rajahnates of Cebu, Ternate (present-day Moluccas of Indonesia), and the Kingdom of Champa (now known as Central Vietnam). Gigantic boats known as “balangay” were the main trading vessels at the time. Nine of these massive boats were discovered in the late 1970s in Sitio Ambangan, Barrio Libertad in Butuan City.
The other most famous relic associated with this period was the golden statue of a Hindu Deity named Tara, which was unearthed in 1917 by a Manobo woman on the waters of Wawa River in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. This 4-pound Golden Tara, also known as the Agusan Gold Image, is described as “the most spectacular find yet made in Philippine archaeology .”
Spanish colonialization in Mindanao began on September 8, 1597 with the blessing of the first mission church by the Jesuit priests in Butuan. This paved the way for the conversions of local “datus” or chieftains into Catholicism, among them were Datu Silongan of Butuan and Datu Hinuc of Marihatag. However, local resistance to missionary efforts were felt, resulting in the military posture taken by Fray A. de S. Pedro, known as “El Padre Capitan,” the construction of the Fort of Linao in Bunawan in 1625, and the fortification of coastal villages.
Colonial Caraga was then composed of the two provinces of Surigao, the northern part of Davao Oriental and Misamis Oriental. In 1631, the Caraga revolt erupted with the sacking of Butuan and Surigao. In 1754, the Fort of Tandag fell, which resulted in the re-districting of the region. Further re-division was done in 1853. In 1867, the people in four (4) upper Agusan villages of Bunawan, Suribao, S. Juan de Suribao, and Talacogon were resettled in a coastal place known as Reunion de Cabadbaran.
Under the American occupation in 1893, Surigao became the seat of administrative power. In 1914, Agusan separated from Surigao. Due to the booming logging industry in the late 1940’s, Butuan emerged as an economic stronghold in the region. Thus, the town of Butuan became a Chartered City on August 2, 1950, by virtue of Republic Act 523.
In 1960, Surigao was divided as Norte and Sur. Seven years later, and in June 1967, Agusan was likewise divided.
With a land area of 18,847 sq. kms., present-day Caraga is bounded by Butuan Bay, Surigao Strait, and Bohol Sea on the north, the Philippine Sea on the east, the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Compostella Valley on the south, and Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon on the west.
As of August 1, 2015, the population of was 2,596,709 based on the 2015 Census of Population (POPCEN 2015). This is higher by 167,485 compared with the population of 2.43 million in 2010, and by 501,342 compared with the population of 2.10 million in 2000.
Majority of the inhabitants of the region are of Visayan lineage. The ethnic groups include the Manobo, the Mamanwa, Banwaon, Kamayo, Higa-onon, Umayamnon, and Kalagan.
Having a tropical Type II climate, Caraga Region has no pronounced wet or dry season. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, and heavy rains usually occur between the months of November and February. Storms mostly occur on portions facing the Pacific Ocean, while the rest of the region is relatively storm-free. About 2741 mm of precipitation falls annually. The average annual temperature is 26.8 °C.
Caraga’s diverse topography includes mountain ranges, flat farmlands, lakes, beaches, waterfalls, rivers, and wetlands. Forestland occupies an estimated 71% of the total land area. Agusan Marsh in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur covers an area roughly the size of Metro Manila, and is one of the most ecologically significant wetlands in the Philippines. Among the lakes in the region, Lake Mainit is the widest. It traverses eight municipalities: Alegria, Tubod, Mainit and Sison in Surigao del Norte, and Tubay, Santiago, Jabonga and Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte. The most productive agricultural area of the region lies along the Agusan River Basin.
The region is noted for its wood-based economy. It also has extensive water resources and rich mineral deposits such as iron, gold, silver, nickel, chromite, manganese and copper. Its major agricultural products are palay, banana, palm oil, coconut, corn, rubber, calamansi, mango, seaweeds, prawns, milkfish, crabs, and other livestocks. Caraga is also a major shipping point for products to and from Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro. With a roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ferry service now in place, Surigao City serves as a vital transportation link for trucks and buses bound for Luzon.
EVENTS & ADVENTURES
Siargao is known as the “surfing capital of the Philippines.” The term “Could 9,” which refers to a surfing wave considered as one of the best in the world, has become synonymous with Siargao, it being the site of the Siargao International Surfing Cup – a domestic and international surfing competition sponsored by the provincial government of Surigao del Norte.
Biking trails within Butuan, Surigao City, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Siargao play host to cross-country and downhill competitions participated by local and international bikers.
Mt. Mas-ai and Mt. Hilong-Hilong features panoramic views of the vast lower Agusan Valley. Close to Mt. Mas-ai lies Lake Mainit, the fourth-largest lake in the country, with an area of 147 square kilometres (57 sq mi). The lake is a rich natural habitat for pidjanga, tilapia, kasili, banak, haw-an, gingaw, saguyon and igi. It is also a site for migratory birds. The 8,000-hectare (80 km2) mangrove forests in Del Carmen form one of the largest contiguous mangrove forests in the Philippines. Sohoton Cave and Lagoon in Bucas Grande Island, which is more than an hour boat ride from Siargao, features limestone formations to a point where one enters a narrow channel connected to a cave.
White Beaches, Caves, Rivers, and Waterfalls
White beaches abound in the islets and islands of Guyam, Daku, Naked or Pansukian, La Janosa, Pig-ot, Dinagat, Bucas Grande, Britania and the General island in Cantilan, which are ringed by coral reefs suitable for swimming and snorkeling. Other attractions include naturally-carved water channels amidst mangrove forests in Barangay Manjagao; the floating village of Barangay Dayasan, the Buenavista Cave; and the tropical white sand beaches in Sagisi island. The Britania in San Agustin-Surigao del Sur features 25 islets and islands of white sand and clusters of limestone hills. The Laswitan Lagoon and the Enchanted River in Surigao del Sur are also major tourist destinations. The Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City is known as the Little Niagara Falls of the Philippines.
Festivals include the Naliyagan Festival of Agusan del Sur, Kahimunan Festival, and Balangay Festival, Palagsing Festival, and Unaw Festival of Butuan City, Kaliguan Festival of Cagwait in Surigao del Sur, Dagkot Festival of Cabadbaran, and the Lisagan and Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festivals of Surigao City.
Caraga region is steadily becoming an economic hub in Mindanao, with its regional center Butuan City leading its fast-paced development in commercial and communication infrastructures. It is linked by roads to its major trading partners Cagayan de Oro and Davao. Major sea ports are located in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte and Lipata, Surigao City. Airports are in Butuan City, Surigao City, Tandag City and Siargao Islands. It has an increasing number of telecommunication facilities.
A. Pigafetta, Viaggo in Torno al Mondo, Neri Pozza Ed., Vicenza, 1994/P. Schreurs, MSC, Caraga
Antigua, 2nd Ed., NHI, Manila, 2004/ F.A. More Red Over Agusan (Ms. 2007)