09 Jun Getting to Know Cagayan de Oro City – History and Interesting Facts Never Heard Before
Cagayan de Oro City is the capital city of the province of Misamis Oriental in Mindanao, the southern part of the Philippines. It is a highly urbanized city and considered first class since it now serves as the central regional and business center for Northern Mindanao or Region 10.
The city is located on the central coastal area of Northern Mindanao and is bordered by the Misamis Oriental municipality of Opol in the west, the provincial municipality of Tagoloan to the east, the provinces of Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte to south, and Macajalar Bay to the north facing the sea. According to a 2010 Population Census, the city’s total population is 602,088 people, the 10th most populous city in the country. However, if you factor in people from other provinces taking up temporary residence in the city due to college or work, the population is easily pushed up to almost a million.
As early as 2012 and as recent as 2014, some television and radio stations conducted random surveys in preparation of the June 12 Independence Day celebrations. The aim of these surveys was to see if ordinary citizens were familiar with historical facts and events that pertained to Cagayan de Oro City. Frustratingly, the surveys turned out more than 80% of people questioned knew almost nothing about even the simplest facts about the city. When further questioned about who the people were in local street names, these further drew blank answers.
With the June 12 Independence Day celebrations fast approaching, perhaps it’s time to see these events beyond just mere holidays with no work and school. In addition, perhaps it’s high time to learn more about Cagayan de Oro City that we never learned from history classes since these classes focus more on the general history that mostly happened in Luzon. With that, and to start off these series of articles, we present to you here some fun facts and historical facts that many have never heard of, or perhaps just thought to totally ignore.
- In terms of Etymology, there are three places in the Philippines with the name, ‘Cagayan.’ One is the province of Cagayan or Cagayan Valley in northern Luzon, and the Cagayan islands in the Sulu Sea. The word Cagayan is derived from an ancient Philippine word, “Karayan,” meaning “river.” It is believed that the Spanish later corrupted it to “Cagayan” based on old Malayo-Polynesian words “Kagay” (river) and “Agus” (flowing), or “Kagayan” (place with a river). In fact, the word Cagayan refers to the river and not the place, since the original settlement near the river on a promontory was originally named Himologan, now called Huluga, because of the caves there. In 1818 with the formation of politico-military districts, the now Spanish controlled town was called Cagayan de Misamis under the Segundo Distrito de Misamis. When its city charter was signed on June 15, 1950, then Congressman Emmanuel Pelaez upended the name to Cagayan de Oro in House Bill No. 54. Thus, the city became known as the “City of Gold” in recognition of the town’s gold mining activities back in the Spanish colonial era.
- Around the 1980’s, the city’s moniker was changed from “City of Gold” to “City of Golden Friendship” by the local government and members of the Batasan Assembly from the city. Their reasoning was that there was no more gold mining in the mountains or the Cagayan River since it had all been taken by the Spanish. The new moniker instead is made to inspire feelings of warm hospitality and happy disposition that regular Cagayanons always possess, thus, giving a boost to the city’s tourism.
- The city has never been free of armed conflict in past wars, but ironically, these conflicts have never been featured even in history classes even if they stood out in history:
- A Spanish settlement was established by Augustinian Recollect Friar Agustin de San Pedro (who was ironically Portuguese, not Spanish, as some believe) in the area of what is now the San Agustin Cathedral, Gaston Park, and City Hall to transfer the inhabitants of Himologan to the lowlands. However, the Muslim Sultan Kudarat resented this because the Himologans stopped paying tribute. Foreseeing this, the friar built a wooden fortress and watchtower. The Spaniards and natives thus, were able to beat off the Muslim attacks, earning the friar the nickname, “El Padre Capitan.” This is the only recorded successful resistance to Muslim attacks in Mindanao before 1818.
- In September 29, 1896, a group of native Filipino soldiers sent to Iligan for military disciplinary action mutinied against their Spanish officers after being contacted by the Katipunan. They raided the Spanish armory and ransacked the homes and convents of Spanish peninsulares from Cagayan to Iligan, eventually joining with revolutionaries in Bukidnon. This is the only known Katipunan-led revolt and uprising in Mindanao.
- Beginning March 31, 1900, revolutionary forces in and around Cagayan de Misamis gave the only resistance in Mindanao to American forces who occupied the Philippines when the Spanish left. The first Mindanao battle that was fought in the Philippine-American War was the Battle of Agusan Hill, a battle started by General Nicolas Capistrano (yes, that street) on April 7 in the town center and ended on Agusan Hill with the death of Captain Vicente Roa (yes, another street). The first of only two victories ever won by Filipino forces during this war was at the Battle of Makahambus Hill on June 4, 1900. Filipino troops led by Colonel Apolinar Velez (yes, that street as well) feigned retreat so American soldiers would go up the pass on the hill. It is estimated that almost 100 American soldiers died in this battle.
- On January 7, 1945, Colonel Fidencio Laplap, a Cagayanon guerilla leader from Burgos Street liberated the whole town of Cagayan from the Japanese in just a single day. His guerilla battalion was able to destroy the Lumbia Airport, raided Camp Evangelista, and eventually crossed the Cagayan River, causing the Japanese to flee to Bukidnon. Ironically while Japanese casualties numbered almost a hundred, Laplap and his men suffered no single casualty, a feat still being studied as part of military lessons in the Philippine Military Academy.