Each year, Kagay-anons celebrate the city fiesta in honor of its patron saint every August 28. This is the most anticipated annual event that eclipses others such as the City’s Charter Day Celebration on June 15 and the Christmas and New Year celebrations in terms of celebration longevity that lasts more than a month and the lineup of core and parallel events.
A Little History
During the Spanish colonization period when the Spanish were expanding their influence on Mindanao, one of the native settlements targeted to be Christianized was the area around Himologan or Huluga that early Spanish documents referred to as “Cagayan.” To expand the town from its status as merely a fort, Father Pedro de Santa Barbara began construction of the first Christian church in the area of what is now Gaston Park. The construction was finished in August 28, 1780, coinciding with the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo. Since then the town has celebrated August 28 as its fiesta in the tradition of the Spaniards and the Catholic Church.
From the Spanish colonial period up until the 1950’s the city fiesta has always been celebrated as a two-day affair, with the traditional “bisperas” (the day before the fiesta) celebrations of feasting with food and drinks. On the fiesta day, the highlight of the day would always be the religious procession of the effigy or statue of St. Augustine around the town starting at dawn, culminating with the mass at the church. This was followed by more feasting and drinking towards the end of the day. Another highlight would be the parade of the civic-military authorities down the main street of Burgos, and later down and around the Divisoria area. The highlight of the parade was always the cavalry corps with their big horses and Cuirassier armor and lances. From the 1930’s up to the early 1950’s the cavalry corps was taken over by the Philippine Scouts.
From the 1960’s up to the late 1980’s the number of events and highlights began to grow and become part of the city fiesta celebration as both the local city government and private corporate businesses became more active in organizing the city fiesta. The concept of the “Kagay-an Fiesta” as well as making it a month-long celebration grew out of this period. Other highlights like the Miss Cagayan de Oro pageant, agricultural and commercial trade fairs, carnivals, dance competitions, concerts, and the float parade also came out of this period. The city tourism council also came up with the concept of making the Kagay-an Fiesta the period when Cagayanons from abroad would come home for annual reunions. Slowly, the religious center points of the city fiesta were eroded in favor of the more festival-based events and highlights.
Who is St. Augustine?
St. Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430) was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose important works still studied today in the Catholic Church includes The City of God and Confessions. He was bishop of Hippo Regius in the Roman province of Numidia (modern-day Algeria). This was the period when the Germanic Vandal tribes were slowly invading Roman Empire territory, and in his works Augustine continually warned of the decline of the Roman Empire due to avarice, corruption, and illegal drugs (during that period, it was opium). Augustine was canonized in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. He is considered as the patron saint of beer brewers, printers, theologians, and sore eyes.
The City Fiesta Today – Core Events
The city fiesta has amalgamated its name depending on the local government sitting during that specific period. It has transitioned from Cagayan de Oro Fiesta, Cagayan de Oro City Fiesta, Kagay-an Fiesta, Kagayha-an City Festival, Kagayan Higalaay Festival, to its present Higalaay Festival.
Of all its “core events,” the one most awaited each year has always been the Miss Cagayan de Oro Beauty Pageant. This event kicks off as early as January or February when beauties all over the city submit their applications, go on auditions, and undergo numerous interviews before the top and final 12 or 14 candidates are selected. The long gown, swimsuit, and talent competitions are usually held on separate dates and venues starting July until early August before the coronation night is finally held in mid-August. During the annual float parade, the Miss Cagayan de Oro float is always the most applauded.
Like in the previous years, August always kicks off with Garden Shows, Agri-fairs, and Trade Fairs. This year, the Higalaay Garden Show, Agri-fair, and a Regional Trade Fair are located respectively at the Duaw Kagayan Park, the Gaston Park, and at the entrance of SM City Mall.
The Kumbira Food Fair and Festival kicks off on August 17-19 at the Atrium of the Limketkai Mall. Since 1996 the Kumbira Festival, a brainchild of the city’s COHARA organization, has highlighted the city’s chefs, local culinary arts, competitions, and culinary schools on a global scale.
Other traditional core events for the city fiesta include the annual Rodeo and Cowboy Festival now held beside the SM City Mall starting August 20, the Kagayan Festival Marathon (August 20), the Carnival Parade in Divisoria (August 20), the Higalas Parade of Floats and Icons (August 27), Religious Procession at St. Augustine Cathedral and the Fluvial Procession along the Cagayan River (August 28), and the city-wide sales from all the malls and major stores.
Adding to the modern fiesta tradition is the Fireworks Display held every year on the nights of August 27 and 28 at the SM City Mall and Duaw Park respectively.
Another much awaited parallel event is the Musikagay-an Festival 2016 on August 20 at the Limketkai Center. This music, concert, and dance event will feature Up Dharma Down, TJ Monterde, as well as local bands, DJ’s, and dancers.
A similar event will be the Higalaay Street Festival 2016 on August 28 and 29 at the Paseo del Rio Rotunda. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. and will end the next day at 4:00 a.m.
The city’s major malls and other private companies will also hold their own “parallel events” such as James Reid and on August 27 at the Ayala Centrio Mall, the Gaisano Rave Party at the Gaisano City Mall on August 27, and the Barangay Gwapo Night on August 23 at the Atrium of Limketkai Mall.
For a complete list of all core and parallel events, you can check them out here on aboutcagayandeoro.com, All About Cagayan de Oro on Facebook, and other news and feature blogs in Cagayan de Oro.