Kagay-an

My father’s family (daresay, ancestors) have always been from this part of Northern Mindanao and although I was born in Davao City (where my mother’s side of the family is from), I have also spent several years in Cagayan de Oro City. Sadly, I never really quite explored it because I have always been contented inside the family compound. Yes, my movement in the city involved routes to (and from) the compound, the airport, the mall, and nothing in between.

After my father passed away, many things changed and I was forced to explore the city. I needed to push my ass outside my regular route so I will be able to process necessary documents and get legal paperwork done on my own. My relatives have been kind enough to accommodate me in the beginning but they too have lives to go back to and it was about time to adapt to the new life that I was leading. I had to learn to find my way to government offices, to squeeze my father’s old car in tiny parking spaces, to try memorizing the one way and no-through streets, to ride the ‘rela’ when in the city center, to thicken my skin when dealing with government employees (or else I’ll be elbowed out like some insignificant being), and to practice patience like as if it was that much needed underwear one uses everyday before leaving the house. All these are well and good because I was tired of being branded a stranger in this tiny buzzing city that is half my hometown as Davao City is.

The best thing about getting to know a place at your own volition is the discovery of your own favorite spots and that bold declaration thereafter. You wave a flag of ownership, sometimes you wave it with another person, and those spots were yours to claim because no website, no blog, no tourism office instructed nor influenced you to check them out.

Meet Cagayan de Oro City. Come walk with me and I’ll introduce you to my favorite spots. I will not tell you where you will find them but I will write about why they are worth stopping for.

This bridge is one of the oldest in the city. In fact, it was built in August 26, 1931 and was originally named after a former governor of Misamis Oriental.  A few days ago, I saw an old photo of the bridge during its inauguration and was amazed at how the steel structure was a complete contrast  to everything around it then. Of course now the contrast is no longer as evident (because steel is everywhere these days) but this humble pathway which continued to connect people from the city center to Carmen has survived the decays of time with resolute dignity likened to a criminal lawyer who is determined to win the case.

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The seat of the Archdiocese of the city became a favorite because its grounds shared other landmarks worth mentioning. The grounds housed the tree-lined Gaston Park which was an execution ground during the Spanish era, the memorial wall for all those who perished during the Sendong Disaster, and the old wooden cross that was the only remnant of the re-constructed church in 1841. Pay attention to the word “re-constructed” because this is also a significant reason why I was captivated by this landmark. This church, according to the historical records of Xavier University’s Museo de Oro, was orignally built in 1634 but was ransacked, burned down, re-built again, torched(again), destroyed during the wars, then re-constructed for the nth time. It has donned several facades and has been re-built with stronger materials every after it was razed to the ground which made me think of it as a person (you know how it is when life knocks you out one too many times yet you get up but stronger every time…yes the existence of this church is similar to that).

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When my father died, this was where my cousin brought me in the morning after. It was a relief to have been brought here and to smell the fresh flowers they were selling (which helped me momentarily forget the pungent smell of the embalming fluid in the funeral parlor). Now that I have tried growing my own greens, I learned to admire greatly those who have the patience to make things grow and turn their flowers into wonderful gifts that comfort grieving loved ones, patch quarrels between lovers, offer congratulatory wishes to those who are expecting or about to open a business. It is one side of a street where happy hawkers are buzzing with cheap offers for beautiful floral arrangements.

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There is this one-centavo (Isang Sentimo) coin unerringly displayed in one of the busiest streets in the city. When I first found it, it literally took my breath away; hence I stopped to pay it the respect it deserved by appreciating it for a good ten minutes despite my busy schedule. For those who do not know, the one centavo coin is the smallest denomination of the Philippine peso and the first of its kind was originally issued during the American rule in 1903. There were many changes when it was minted through the years but the one that can be seen in the structure  was the first that featured the Filipino language for the first time and showed Lapu-Lapu (not the fish, but the one who defeated Magellan). Looking at it made me think of how strong the Philippine currency was in the past and how unmistakable our struggle for self-determination has always been.

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If you dare to walk around the Capitol compound at night time, not only will you be mesmerized by the light bulbs placed in recycled water bottles but you will also find a monument that is especially dedicated to Filipino journalists who were slain in pursuit of press freedom in the country. We should not forget that journalists are still being persecuted, imprisoned, or killed and most of the time, the government remains disinterested in solving this problem and even fails to protect those journalists who are in the Witness Protection Program. For a country that brags about freedom of expression, I find it quite ironic that the members of the Fourth State be unrightfully punished for putting the truth out there.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

My penchant for old things gets the best of me sometimes so when this old Water Tower (originally built in 1922) was converted into a Museum and Archives Center, I was overjoyed. I love how beautiful archaic buildings were renovated in order to accommodate the change that was happening in the society, instead of taking the easy way out of just tearing them down. By preserving the structure, history too is fostered and the next generation will be given the opportunity to enjoy what life was like decades ago rather than just confining their experiences or knowledge in the pages of a book or in photographs.

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When I first saw the structure in Divisoria which featured Andres Bonificio, my first reaction was, “Why Andres?” Please note that I have nothing against Andres Bonifacio; in fact, I am a fan and a much bigger fan of him than Jose Rizal. I just thought that maybe a figure of a local hero should be erected there instead. Months after though, I discovered the significance of that statue and it was reason enough for me not to question its existence. Apparently, Cagayan de Misamis is the only known Katipunan-led revolt in the whole of Mindanao (Honestly, I was not even certain that Katipunan reached Mindanao). Now, every time I drive pass by the ‘Supremo,’ I do not look at him as a misplaced landmark.

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When I visited her, she was calm. She is minding her own business and was not quite irked by the presence of fisher folks and I like her when she was like this – this river which has claimed so many lives when she reclaimed her rightful course after man stretched his arms too far and disrespected her. Sendong showed people how a rivers’ fury can be as mighty as all other disasters that paid man a visit. I am drawn to this particular spot where I can see the bridge she devoured during the disaster and the unfinished hotel nearby where she left corpses audaciously hanging – as if announcing, “I will not be exploited any longer.”

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There  are others but so far, these are the first few that topped my list.

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