There’s so much to Cagayan de Oro than just being a premier white water rafting destination in the Philippines. Aside from the five bridges that I featured, the city where I spent most of my adult life has also a rich and interesting history. Proof of this are the five sites that are recognized by the National Historical Institute of the Philippines. You would actually know that a site is one because of a metal plate that is visible on its facade or on a concrete marker nearby. These were recognized not just for its touristy value but for their respective significance to the city’s history and the country as a whole.
The Macahambus Cave is usually the stopover for most white water rafting outfitters before they head out to their respective jump-offs. It has two small chambers one, of which would lead to a gorge with a scenic view of the Cagayan de Oro River. More than a century ago, this was the site of the Battle of Makahambus Hill. On June 4, 1900, Col. Apolinar Velez successfully defended this stronghold from the Americans not only by brute force but also with clever military tactics. This was then the first recorded victory of the Filipinos against the Americans during the Philippine-American war.
However, not all Filipino-led battles were as successful. The marker at Gaston Park, a popular circular park in downtown Cagayan de Oro, reminds us of the Battle of Cagayan de Misamiswhich took place on April 7, 1900. At that time, General Nicolas Capistrano and his men were clearly no match to the superior weaponry of the Americans. But they continued to fight, despite imminent death, all for love of their motherland.
The Batte of Agusan Hill is another such attempt. On May 14, 1900, Capt. Vicente Roa and his men were supposed to lure the Americans up to the Agusan hill. Their other members would then come out of hiding and attack the enemy from behind. What could have been a perfect plan was marred by a last minute change in strategy. They did not foresee as well the battleship at Macajalar Bay escorting the American troops at that time. As the battle progressed, the ship then bombarded Agusan Hill.
Today, one could have wonderful view of the sunset at Macajalar Bay at the top of Agusan Hill. If not for a humble NHI marker, the present-day location provides little reminder to the bloody battle that took place there more than a hundred years ago.
General Douglas MacArthur actually set foot on Macabalan Wharf in Cagayan de Oro on March 13, 1942. He was then on board an ELCO 77′ PT boat from Corregidor. His party and family then went to the Del Monte airstrip and flew to Australia four days later. This is the reason why the General’s ‘scrambled egg’ cap in the middle of the MacArthur Memorial Marker is pointing towards that airstrip in Bukidnon.
The oldest house in Cagayan de Oro is the Casa Del Chino Ygua. The old house was said to be constructed in 1882, renovated in 1946 and re-renovated in 1994. Today, it houses various commercial establishments.
I felt strangely satisfied after learning about my city’s history because of this. I realized too that most of the street names in Divisoria (downtown Cagayan de Oro) are actually surnames of our local heroes. It is rather unfortunate then that their stories were left out in our highschool history classes. We would have heard and learned from their stories and even look for those who are waiting to be told.
And in my weird compulsion to do just that one afternoon last March, I lost my USB drive while looking for the Agusan Hill marker. It was raining at that time and it probably slipped from my pockets while I was working my way down and up that hill. But if someone would know something new about Cagayan de Oro City from this entry, then every lost byte of that thumb drive would not be in vain.
There are interesting details in the Battle of Cagayan de Misamis, Battle of Makahambus Hill and Battle of Agusan Hill that were not mentioned in this entry. The complete account can be found at the memorial of the three battles at Pueblo de Oro (near SM City Cagayan de Oro).
The author would like to thank one of the curators of the Museo de Oro in Xavier University for answering his questions about the city, Ms. Agnes Paulita Roa of the Cagayan de Oro Historical and Cultural Commission Office for pointing out the existence of the Agusan Hill marker and the Barangay Officials in Agusan for providing the directions how to get there.