HIMUGSO Heritage Feature: El Case del Chino Ygua

Jun 7, 2015



Himugso Heritage Feature:

Memories of the Oldest House in Cagayan de Oro:

El Case del Chino Ygua

By Mike Banos


(In commemoration of the 65th Anniversary of the City Charter of Cagayan de Oro, we are bringing back these stories on “Birthing the City”)


The earliest Chinese recorded to have settled in Cagayan in 1863 was Sia Ygua who came from Amoy. Although Amoy (today Xiamen) was the exit port, most of the traveling Chinese came from the Yuegang and Fujian areas. In the case of Ygua, however, his native town was really Amoy.

Casa del Chino Igua

Casa del Chino Igua

Sia Ygua established himself as a merchant in Cagayan. Later, in 1882, he built himself a big house on Calle del Mar using bricks he imported from China. The bricks were loaded aboard Chinese junks were they served as ballast for the long voyage.


In Cagayan, the bricks were unloaded on the banks of the Cagayan river. From this house, Sia Ygua built the Chinese family with the most number of descendants in Cagayan. Some of these branches were those of his grandsons from his son Sia Kiam, Sia Simon Velez and Sia Tonhio, all of whom distinguished themselves as hard working entrepreneurs and loyal supporters of the local Catholic church.


Later, Sia Ygua himself participated in the patriotic activities of Cagayan during the Philippine-American War. His house subsequently figured as a landmark for those historic events.


On April 7, 2000, the National Historical Institute of the Philippines recognized Sia Ygua’s patriotic contribution by installing a national historical marker at his house, today known as Casa del Chino Ygua.


(source; A Cagayan de Oro Ethnohistory Reader by Antonio J. Montalvan II)

published 2004




The Brick House of Insik Ygua in del Mar-Victoria Streets

By Fr. Francisco Demetrio, S.J.


Insik Ygua, a native of Amoy, China, came to Cagayan towards the last quarter of the 19th century, about 1860.


He started out as a food vendor (perhaps also sold puto). He made friends with the Recollect priests of San Agustin church. Due to his industry, and the help given him by the fathers, he gradually amassed a fortune.


Like most Chinese who settled in Cagayan, he took active part in civic and public life. He was known for his good heartedness. It is said that when he died, practically everyone in Cagayan wore black.


After many years in Cagayan he returned to China and there got married. It seems that his wife remained in his native land. However, his children (Sia Tong Joo, Sia Simeon Velez) followed him to Cagayan where they settled down.


Insik Ygua built a brick house at del Mar-Victoria streets. It was said to be the second “balay nga bato’ or ‘house of stone’ in Cagayan. The bricks used in building the house where shipped from Amoy to Cagayan in two boatloads.


During the revolution, many Filipino soldiers died a violent death in this house, massacred by the Americans. The bodies were buried in the backyard. To appease the souls and save the inhabitants from disturbance, Insik Ygua turned their burial place into a temporary cockpit. The blood from the fighting cocks was believed to appease the restless souls.  Also, on All Souls Day, until quite lately (1971), candles were lighted along the house in memory of the dead soldiers.


Today the house is much smaller and lower than it used to be, due mainly to the ravages of the last war. It has been renovated and the brick walls glossed over with cement coating. Many passers by forget that it is perhaps the oldest existing house in Cagayan de Oro City.


The ground floor has been converted into the well known novelty store, Sia Bon Suan, which underlines the take-over of the old by the new.


(First published August 28, 1971 in Cagayan)


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