Himugso Heritage Feature: Memories of the old hometown: The Old Town
(We are bringing back stories of the olden days of Cagayan de Oro in commemoration of the 65th Charter Day Anniversary of its founding)
When I was growing up, the town had few cars. The few taxicabs in town under the “Ang Sidlak” name was owned/operated by Rodrigo Lim. Jeepneys plied the Pier & Patag routes and “tartanillas” were very much in vogue. But most people walked to school or to their jobs. Life was so slow and people did not have to rush. It seemed that we could walk to most places: to market, to church, to the shopping areas which then was centered mostly in Divisoria, Del Mar (now Don Apolinar Velez) & Real (Gen. Nicolas Capistrano) streets.
People rode only when they had to catch the boat at the Macabalan Pier, or the plane at Lumbia airport. I remember walking to school from our house in Del Mar Street. I had to pass by the old bowling alley owned by the Ematas, the old China Restaurant (Ongs) & farther ahead, the Yee’s Restaurant which is still there, Bina Tan Grocery, Our Store, one of the very first educational stores run by the Mosqueda couple, the Velez Almacen owned by the couple Dodo & Chunching Velez, which carried silverware and glassware from Oceanic and other beautiful houseware and décor, another store with nice items owned by Fred Lee, Society Store(owned by the Sisons nee Puring Emata), which sold Gregg shoes,the finest clothing materials and the latest items from Manila, past Cagayan Grocery before I could reach Lourdes College.
It was a leisurely walk past these stores brimming with items that to a young girl’s eyes were just so delightful. It was fun to window-shop each day on my way to school. Lourdes College was just about 2 blocks away from the St. Augustine’s Cathedral. The street then was lined with tall acacia trees that swayed from the breeze coming in from the river nearby and across the church was the major park in town, Gaston Park. Lest anyone forget, Gaston Park undertook a major facelift thru the efforts of the late Mayor Justiniano Borja who put in the lovely fountain, well-lit at night so that people could stroll and frolic in the park on warm, balmy nights. Said park is just one of his many enduring legacies to the city.
Its Places of Worship
My understanding is that St. Augustine’s Cathedral was built by Engr. Diego Imperio or under his supervision. I think it is a beautiful edifice – with perfect symmetry, beautiful stained glass windows and very nice chandeliers. When the church underwent a facelift years ago, I learned that some of the stained-glass panels were taken out and replaced by wrought-iron, probably, to let fresh air in. I personally think that those stained-glass pieces should be put back into the church. (Editor’s Note: The stained glass were restored years back).
Nazareno Church along busy Lapasan was built thru the efforts of the Floirendos and had as its parish priest for many, many years, Fr. Cicero Cebrero, S.J. The church still stands on the same spot, now surrounded by towering Gaisano stores. Another popular chapel was the Perpetual Help Chapel (now Fatima Chapel) along Del Mar St. maintained by St. Paul sisters who run one of the few stores in town that sell religious articles. Lately it has been the chosen venue of some weddings.
And in densely populated Nazareth district is the San Antonio de Padua Church that also underwent a major makeover, courtesy of Capt. Luciano Firmacion who spent for its entire renovation, his legacy to the residents of Nazareth. The old Aglipayan church was then along Del Mar St., on property donated by Nemesito Chavez. It has since moved to the back of its present site. Acacia trees also used to line the entire stretch of Del Mar. They were probably torn down when the sidewalks were built. I wonder if there could have been a way to save those majestic trees, now forever gone.
There were only 3 bowling alleys in town – the one along Luzon St.. (now J.R. Borja St.) operated by the Firmacions, the Emata-owned one on Del Mar St. (now Bank of PI) and the 2-lane one run by the Garcias somewhere near where Gaisano is.
On top of the Firmacion’s bowling lane was the night club “Monte Carlo” and the other nightspot across the other end of town, just after Puntod, was the “Taza De Oro”, owned by Feodor and Nene Emata. That site, a lovely brick building, is now the YMCA.
Another night club was the “El Retiro”. Young people took their dates to the following snack places – the“Casino” of Tito Ating Gabor, the only place in town where you could get Magnolia ice cream; the old & original La Playa, along the riverbank (where the City Social Hall now stands) owned by Pete Tan, known for the best burger in town; Hernando’s Hideaway owned by Tita Trining Pineda, named after her husband, Judge Hernando Pineda, that daily churned out fresh milk ice-cream and yummy homemade barquillos; Ferns Restaurant in Divisoria, and the only steakhouse in town, the Sirloin & Saddle owned by Phil and Nena RoaBalan.
Bakeries/Other Popular Stores
For our bakery needs, everyone went to either Ah Fat, Shanghai or Dalisay Bakeries. And who can forget the original hot pan de sal available at a small bakery at the pier. Students of Lourdes College congregated at the “Good Morning Store” (below Lola Charing Fabella’s house) for their delicious & salty “kiamoy” & shrimp crackers while the XU boys had “Macmang’s Store” where students went for snacks. (posted by The MINDANAO CURRENT @ 4:01 PM , reprinted with the permission of the author)