DE ORO AND ITS SURROUNDING were occupied by people around 350 AD. Signs
of ancient habitation were discovered in 1970 by field researchers of
the National Museum. The researchers were exploring Huluga, a place eight
kilometers south of the present Cagayan de Oro City.
Huluga is a promontory**
with two main sections: a set of caves and an Open Site . The Open Site
appears to be the village of the original people of Cagayan de Oro.
Inside the cave were skeletons, pots,
potsherds, tools, possibly Indian glass beads, Chinese pot fragments,
and vestiges of possibly Annamese and Thai wares -- indications of overseas
trading. The Open Site yielded potsherds, Chinese celadon sherds, and
Researchers sent a skull fragment to Dr. Jeffrey
Bada of the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography in
La Jolla, California, where it was subjected to acid racemization, a
dating technique. Bada then wrote a letter to
anthropologist Dr. Linda Burton of Xavier University, indicating that
the sample came from 350 AD,*** the Late Neolithic Period.
In 1622, two Augustinian Recollect missionaries first
came to Huluga, then called Himologan. Here they met a mixed stock of
Bukidnons and Visayas who lived in a settlement perched on a cliff, overlooking
a river. The men had massive tattoos, like those of the Visayan pintados,
and the women wore intricate jewelry, some made of gold.
The priests were
Fray Juan de San Nicolas and Fray Francisco de la Madre de Dios. According
to their journals, the natives were polytheistic animists, not Muslims.
But they paid tributes to Sultan Kudarat through his emissaries.
Spanish documents in 1500s already referred to the
area around Himologan as Cagayan. On January 25, 1571, the Spanish government
granted this area, including what is now Northern Mindanao, as an encomienda to
Juan Griego. There is also a Cagayan in Luzon and another in Sulu. What
is the meaning of this name?
According to Dr. Lawrence A Reid, cagayan or kagayan means "river". Other similar words --karayan, kahayan, kayayan, kalayan and kayan -- mean river and may have evolved from an ancient word with the same meaning.
Reid is Researcher Emeritus of the Department of Linguistics, University of Hawai'i.
[ See Reid's detailed explanation.]
Conversion to Christianity
In 1626, a 26-year old Augustinian Recollect friar
arrived in Cagayan. His name was Fray Agustin
de San Pedro, a Portuguese. Before his priesthood, he studied mathematics,
architecture, gunnery, and military strategy at the University of Salamanca.
Fray Agustin persuaded the leader of Himologan,
Datu Salangsang, to transfer his settlement down
river, to the area of today's Gaston Park and San Agustin Cathedral.
Here, Fray Agustin built a church of native materials. Inside, he
baptized Datu Salangsang and his wife, and later his people.
Fortification of Cagayan
In response to the conversion, Sultan Kudarat sent a fleet
of warriors to drive away the Spanish missionaries and to regain the lost
Kudarat's attacks prompted Fray Agustin to build a wooden fortress and
watchtower in Cagayan to protect Salangsang's people. He called the fortress
Fuerza Real de San Jose, and it occupied an area now filled with Gaston
Park and San Agustin Cathedral. Fray Agustin's defense of Cagayan earned
him the title "El Padre Capitan".
The fortress was rebuilt with stones in 1730. But Lt. Col. Jose Carvallo,
the Spanish politico-military governor of Misamis, demolished it in 1875
and used the stones to pave the streets of the town.
The Recoletos made Cagayan their mission center in 1674.
But only on August 28, 1780 did they declare San Agustin the patron saint
In 1845, Fray Simon Loscos de Santa Catalina reconstructed the church,
using marine stones from China. It had protruding buttresses and a single
belfry. Inside were a magnificent altar and sanctuary with carved wooden
niches and paintings.
This church was destroyed during the Japanese bombing of Cagayan in 1945,
exactly a hundred years later.
Cagayan de Misamis
In 1818, the Manila Spanish divided Mindanao into
politico-military districts, one of which was the Segundo Distrito
de Misamis, the largest district in Mindanao. This area was composed
of today's Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Camiguin, Bukidnon, Lanao,
Zamboanga del Norte, and the northern part of Cotabato.
The capital was the town of
Misamis, today called Ozamis City, where a fort and garrison bigger than
those in Cagayan were constructed.
On February 27, 1872, the Spanish Governor General Carlos Maria de la
Torre issued a decree declaring Cagayan the permanent capital of Segundo
Distrito de Misamis. All Spanish politico-military governors of Misamis,
who were all lieutenant colonels, lived at the Casa Real de Cagayan, built
in 1831, the site of today's city hall of Cagayan de Oro. During this
era, the name of the town was "Cagayan de Misamis".
In 1888, the Recoletos erected a wooden cross -- "Santa
-- outside the San Agustin Church. It still stands today.