To celebrate my birthday virtually, I decided to blog about my birthplace – Cagayan de Oro. I know that I have already written a blog about it previously but a couple of years from then have given the city a major facelift. And my recent visit, because of the hospitalization and death of my Mommy Lola, have also given me the opportunity to see the City of Golden Friendship in a different light.
Cagayan de Oro is the government and economic capital of Northern Mindanao. Dubbed as the City of Golden Friendship, the city is one of the progressive cities in Mindanao because of its accessibility, prospect for economic growth, and attractions. The city has evolved from being the gateway to tourist destinations like Camiguin, Iligan, and Bukidnon to one that steadily gained full attention because of its adrenaline-pumping Cagayan de Oro white water rafting. Indeed, the city has managed to grow leaps and bounds from being a quaint city to a bustling metropolis with a lot of new things to offer and discover.
Welcome to the River Rafting Capital of the Philippines
I have got to admit that Cagayan de Oro has gone through and is still going through a lot of major facelifts. The main gateway by air, that was previously at Lumbia Airport, is now located some 45-minutes away from the city – the Laguindingan Airport. The airport boasts of better and updated facilities have been operational since 2013. It can accommodate more flights which would mean more opportunities on the tourism front, not only for Cagayan de Oro but for the whole region.
I noticed that the city landscape has changed during the trip to the city proper from the airport. A new diversion road was already in place that diverts traffic from Opol to Macabalan paving the way to the decongestion of the highway that traverses Bulua and Lapasan. This change paved the way to new developments in the area that prompted the metro to grow in size dramatically. Places that I once considered as city outskirts are now being developed as economic centers.
These developments prove that Cagayan de Oro is definitely creating its own turf in terms of economic stability. I have to admit the city has carved its name in the tourism front not only as the city with very hospitable and friendly locals but also as the city where adventure resides.
A Walk Thru the City’s Colorful History
If you love history, Cagayan de Oro has its own stories to share and the best way to read through the city’s rich and colourful history is by walking the city. The historical walk takes about 2 hours to complete and covers a total distance of about 2-3 kilometers. Rest assured, it will give you a preview of historical events that molded this city.
The Old Town Center of Cagayan de Misamis: Gaston Park / San Agustin Church / City Museum / City Hall
The best starting point for the historical leisure walk is Gaston Park. This is where the original residents of Cagayan de Oro had their humble beginnings. The park, named the pre-War mayor of the city, served as the town plaza during the Spanish period and was also the site of the Battle of the Cagayan de Misamis in the 1900. Not much have changed in Gaston Park from my last visit except for a memoriam erected by the city government where the names of those who died during Typhoon Sendong are inscribed.
Just right across Gaston Park is the San Augustine Church. It was heavily damaged during World War 2 that only the wooden cross, now located at the front of the church, is the sole survivor and mute witness of the war horrors.
A couple of meters from the church is the old water tower of Cagayan de Oro. It was the only standing structure that survived World War 2. The water tower is considered to be a heritage structure and has long been de-commissioned. It is now the home of the City Museum under the adaptive re-use program of the government. Not much has changed with the museum exhibit since the last time that I was there. The museum has a lot of room for improvements with its exhibits and I hope the local government will invest on its improvement and upkeep.
Located within the premises of the old town center is the Executive Building of Cagayan de Oro. The building was the former site of the Governor’s Residence. After it was destroyed, the building was rebuilt and now houses the offices of the present local officials.
My previous blog featured the old town center of Cagayan de Oro and you can check it out here. I only included the new things that you can expect this time compared to me previous visit.
Du-aw Kagay-An Park
Through the concerted efforts of the city government, Kagay-anon International, and other socio-civic groups, the Du-aw Kagay-an Park was relaunched, the famed river park of Cagayan de Oro that was first opened in 1987. The park is located just right across the Executive Building and offers a great view of the Cagayan de Oro, the hills of Carmen, and the Ysalina Bridge, more commonly known as Carmen Bridge.
During its re-launch in February of this year, a replica of the “Birhen ng Kota” was installed within the park premises. Legend says that locals would rush inside the fort or “kota” during raids for safety and protection. One story claim that villagers scurried inside the kota seeking the Virgin’s intervention and to their amazement the raiders left in a haste. Later on, it was revealed to them that the raiders turned around after they saw a lady atop the fortress commanding them to leave. From then on, the image was known as the Lady of the Fortress.
The replica of the “Birhen ng Kota” is mounted on wooden platforms that resemble the fortress that she stood on.
The park still has a long way to go with its development and I hope that with the renewed interest, the park will outshine its former glory.
Casa del Chino Ygua
From the Du-aw Park, you can walk along Gaerlan Street, towards Gaston Park, and turn left at Velez Street (fourth street from the park) and look for the house on the left side of the first corner (Hayes Street) after you turn left. You have just located Casa del Chino Ygua – the oldest house in the city.
The house was built in 1882 by the first Chineses immigrants in the city – the Sia family. The house was the meeting place of revolutionaries and was the site where they gathered for the Fiesta Nacional Parade in 1899. Sadly, it is on the same house where most of these revolutionaries would die during the Philippine-American War with their remains buried at the back of the house.
I was amazed that this quaint red house that we frequently pass by holds a lot of history. It does not look old so it really does not catch much attention. It did not help that the house has gone through renovation which completely altered the house’s original façade. If not for the National Historical Institute’s sign on the side, I would have missed it.
Two blocks away from the Casa del Chino Ygua is Divisoria. The linear park was created as a fire break after most parts the town was burned down by fire. The town built the divider and later on transformed it into parks that honor both national and local heroes.
The farthest side of Divisoria, near Xavier University, is a monument that honors former President Ramon Magsaysay. You could really see the honor bestowed to Magsaysay as he is the only Philippine President that has his own section in Divisoria. His Magsaysay Credo is engraved on one side of the monument while the names of prominent Cagayan de Oro local heroes are engraved on the other side. As of the moment, I am still researching why Kagay-anons have bestowed much honor to Magsaysay.
Walking further down Divisoria, you will come across the Bonifacio Monument. The monument is in honor of the Andres Bonifacio, one of the prominent Philippine heroes. The monument is also the resting place of the remains of Kagay-anon soldiers who gave their life during a battle with the Americans in Agusan Hills. The City Tourism Center is also located within its premises.
Just right across the Bonifacio monument is a band stand/kiosk. This is a regular venue for local bands to entertain park goers with their music. A monument of Justiniano Borja is in place in the area to honor the man who has become the epitome of public service in Cagayan de Oro. He was the mayor that drum rolled the economic development of the city.
Every city or town plaza in the Philippines will always have a special corner for the country’s national hero and Cagayan de Oro has dedicated a sweet spot for Rizal in Divisoria. The park features a “thinking” Rizal monument and, just like the rest of Divisoria, it also has park benches where you can sit down and watch the day pass by in downtown Cagayan de Oro.
MOGCHS Administration Building
Conveniently tucked along Velez Street, the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School is a century-old institution in Cagayan de Oro City. Inaugurated in December 1909, the school was inaugurated as “Escuela Provincial” as part of a government program to establish public schools in the Philippines. MOGCHS is about a 1 kilometer walk along Velez Street from Divisoria.
What makes visiting the school interesting is the MOGCHS Administration Building. The building, considered as a heritage structure of the city, was erected in 1909 and boasts of an American Colonial design. The building was designed by William Parson, a New York Architect, who happens to be the architect of the historic Manila Hotel.
The building is well maintained by the school and remains to be functional. It is a good indication that a building that is historically significant is valued by the school administration. It would be good though to have a signage that highlights the historical value of the MOGCHS Administration Building.
Misamis Oriental Provincial Capitol Grounds
About 400 meters away from the MOGCHS is the Misamis Oriental Capitol Grounds. The compound serves as the provincial government center for Misamis Oriental and this is where most government offices are located.
The Provincial Capitol was constructed in 1948-1950 under an American Colonial design. The building stands majestically with the sprawling Vicente de Lara Park, right in front that features a salakot stage. I guess this is where they regularly hold their flag raising ceremony every Monday and short programs/activities.
A tableau of Misamis Oriental’s heritage stands at the center of the park surrounded by mahogany trees. The monument was designed by Eduardo Castrillo. The monument now serves as a landmark to remind the younger generations of the rich cultural heritage of the province.
Interestingly, the park also has a corner specifically designed for chess lovers. Tables were installed on one side where chess boards are installed. Anyone can take a seat and play chess with a friend or with anyone who present in the area. I liked the fact that the people who frequent the area are hospitable enough to invite us for a game of chess.
On one corner of the park stands another tribute that features the sculpture of Castrillo – the Press Freedom Monument. The artwork depicts a slain female journalist being carried by two male journalist. The female icon was inspired by the death of Marlene Esparat who was killed in front of her kids in Tacurong City. The monument also has installed brass plates bearing the name of slain journalists.
Night Cap: High Ridge
After all the walking around the city, the best way to cap off the day is head up to Cagayan de Oro’s newest food destination – High Ridge.
Located atop one of the hills of Macasandig, High Ridge offers a commanding view of Cagayan de Oro’s skyline. Travel time from the city is about 30 minutes by cab. It is a great place to just chill while watching the glimmering lights of city below. I guess it was patterned after Antipolo’s City Lights and Cebu City’s Tops.
High Ridge is actually a restaurant that really serves great food. It is a great place to have a romantic dinner or just simply having a great meal with a great view with the family.
Post Travel Notes
Every city has its own story to tell - from its birth to its struggles that gave the city its present charm and beauty. I have always visited Cagayan de Oro but it was only during this visit that I had the chance to walk the city and read its history through its heritage structures. The good thing about the walk was that most of city’s history are intact and there are still a lot of opportunities to develop these historical sites to complement the adventure tourism that Cagayan de Oro is known for.
I checked on the tourism office and they offer city tours to tourists but only a few of these historical sites are actually covered by the activity. I seriously think that if the local tourism office can develop these historical sites, together with the other heritage houses in the city, and draw out the story that unravels the city’s rich history. This would be a great way for visitors to experience Cagayan de Oro in a different light.
Getting there: Cagayan de Oro can be accessed by land, sea, and air. The fastest is by taking a one hour and a half flight from Manila directly to Laguindingan Airport. Major cities in the country also has direct flight to Laguindingan Airport. You can then take a van going to the city for Php199 per head. The trip takes about 45 minutes from the airport. You can contact Jess of LAX Transport for van arrangements at (0917) 7101529.
There are a lot accommodations in Cagayan de Oro. I suggest Marianne Suites located in downtown Cagayan de Oro because of its accessibility, great service, and affordable rates. You may reach Marianne Suites at (0917) 5776194.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.