Himugso Heritage Feature: Memories of the old hometown: Its People
(We are bringing back stories of the olden days of Cagayan de Oro in commemoration of the 65th Charter Day Anniversary of its founding)
Most people leave home when they go off to college, or after graduation, in search of a job, or when one marries somebody from another town/city or country. But what exactly is “home”?
Home is that magical place where I feel that I belong. It is where my forbears are buried, and where my mother and most of my family, relatives and close friends still live. It is that special place where even if I leave its shores, I will still feel welcome when I come back no matter how long I have been away.
And for me, that magical, special place is no other than Cagayan de Oro City! My city Cagayan de Oro did not acquire that moniker for nothing. There is a fable attached to the name.
Cagayan de Oro literally means “city of gold”. The gold was rumored to be in the underwater cave by the river along the original church which is now the St. Augustine’s Cathedral. Whether gold has really been found is subject to conjecture but anyone who has ever been to the city always leaves it with golden memories of the wonderful people that inhabit the place.
A friend who works at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., Marylou Gomez, confided to me that her brief 10 month stay in Cagayan, teaching a Grade V class at XU’s grade school was among the happiest times of her life.
Three other friends, high school classmates of mine at Lourdes College (LC) – Vicky Enriquez Agaab, Elizabeth Domingo-Tan and Rosemarie Quiepo-Flores, recently made a nostalgic trip there during a class reunion and they happily retraced the steps of their girlhood – walking to the Cathedral from the LC dorm, then back to Divisoria & to XU’s Immaculate Conception Chapel. They even went to Cogon market by themselves, accompanied by Elizabeth’s doting husband, in search of tira-tira and binaki. They hope to go back again for our class’ 50th reunion.
Years ago, almost everybody in town was related, either by blood or by marriage. They belonged to the big clans of Neri, Chaves, Roa, Velez, Abejuela, Gabor, Fernandez, etc. New people came in when scions of these original families who had studied in Manila met, then ended up marrying young men from other parts of the country or when men in government service got assigned to Cagayan de Oro and married local belles.
The city then was also a popular destination for rich students from Manila, Bacolod, Cebu & other towns because Ateneo de Cagayan (now Xavier University) had a reputation for its firm discipline and good education. Several of these young men married into local families so you have family names now in Cagayan de Oro like de la Fuente, Falcon, Ferrer, Arguelles, etc. Other settlers and transplants came from Bohol (Borja, Luminarias, Enerio, Mosqueda, Balaba), Cebu (Canoy, Dongallo, Sestoso), Ilocos (Soriano, Garcia, Cabading), Gingoog (Lugod, Fernandez), Bukidnon (Fortich), Antique (Xavier, Noble), Ozamiz (Tamparong, Gorospe), Ormoc (Muñoz), Capiz (Torres, Quimpo), Marikina (Cruz), Camiguin (Adaza, Bollozos, Paderanga, Quiblat, Along, Dugenio, Salcedo, Magto, etc.) . Still others were employees of firms like Tabacalera, Soriano, San Miguel and Menzi [and were mostly of Spanish descent like Messrs. Puyo, Aguirre, Rodriguez, Larrabaster] or those assigned in the Army or PC Camps (Limena, Venadas, Sontillano, Saniel, Elloso, Clavano, etc.) or government offices like the Bureau of Lands, Agriculture, etc. (Messrs. Fernando Torres andCastillo were young graduates [UP Los Banos] when they first came to the city and ended up marrying into local families; and government doctors (Drs. Zamora, Almonte, Montenegro, Macaranas, Dayrit, Mejia, etc.) or Del Monte executives/employees (Frias, Tugot, Balbuena, Pelaez, Mejia, etc.).
The Spanish American War and WW II also saw the influx of G.I.’s who chose to stay because they had married local belles – like John Charles Chaloner (direct descendants of whom count the Gaanes , Buhays & Casiños) and George Willkom (from that single American from Ohio descended about 500 Willkoms), Larsen (Cepedas), Paagen (Saberolas).
As the world beckoned, some of the native-born Cagay-anons ventured to other climes in search of adventure and “outsiders”or “newcomers” from other parts of the country came in to take their place when the city became one of the major regional centers of the Philippines. As a result of said regionalization more and more trekked to the city to man banks, regional offices and to establish businesses. The city had so welcomed them with open arms that when it was time to transfer to other branches, many of these managers and heads of offices chose to quit their jobs rather than relocate elsewhere. That’s how much they loved and felt “at home” in their newly adopted city.
Thus now, “Cagayanons” are categorized as the native born, those who married into local families, the transplanted merchants, businessmen and professionals who plied their trade here or practiced their professions in their new-found city and the children born into families who emigrated to the city before or during the war or during the business or regionalization boom in the 80’s. (posted by The MINDANAO CURRENT @ 4:01 PM, reprinted with the permission of the author)