Heritage Conservation Advocates
Second of two parts
History of Cagayan de Oro
By Antonio J. Montalván, Ph.D.*

Centennial Commemoration of "Siete de Abril"Centennial commemoration of "Siete de Abril" at Gaston Park

THE KATIPUNAN REVOLT BROKE OUT in Luzon in late August 1896. A month later, on September 29, 1896, a group of Filipinos in Iligan -- who had been deported from Luzon to undergo military discipline -- received instructions from the Manila Katipunan, and consequently mutinied against the Spanish soldiers. They raided the Spanish armory, then ransacked all convents and homes of Spanish peninsulares from Iligan to Cagayan de Misamis.

They proceeded to Bukidnon, where they forged an alliance with a band of natives. Then they attacked Balingasag, and raided the outpost of Gingoog on January 1897. Anger intensified when the rebels learned of Dr. Jose P. Rizal's execution. But they were subdued when the Spanish government recalled and used a gunboat from the Tercio Distrito de Surigao.

The uprising in Cagayan de Misamis is the only known Katipunan-led revolt in the whole of Mindanao.

Raising of the Flag

On December 10, 1898, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of Peace. Immediately, the Spanish governor relinquished his authority to two Filipinos elected by Aguinaldo: Jose Roa y Casas, who was appointed first governor of Misamis; and Toribio Chavez, appointed the first Filipino mayor of Cagayan de Misamis.

First flag raisingOn January 10-11, 1899, Cagayan de Misamis celebrated independence by organizing the so-called Fiesta Nacional. The people held a parade, played music, presented speeches and fired cannons outside the Casa Real. For the first time, Filipinos declared the Aguinaldo Republic in Mindanao and raised the Philippine Flag in this island.



American Occupation

On March 31, 1900, the Americans invaded Cagayan de Misamis by first bombing the flag fluttering at Macabalan wharf. Filipino resistance fighters had already organized before the attack, but retaliated only on April 7, 1900, led by Gen. Nicolas Capistrano. The fighting erupted in the town center. This was followed by the Battle of Agusan Hill, led by Capt. Vicente Roa y Racines, who was killed with his men.

On June 4, 1900, however, for the first time in the entire Philippine-American War, the Americans lost to the Filipino revolutionaries in the Battle of Makahambus Hill. Col. Apolinar Velez led the Filipino troop to victory.

The Americans won the war eventually, however. And under foreign rule, Cagayan de Misamis became the center of commerce, migration, and education in Northern Mindanao.

Several American governor generals visited the place: William Howard Taft (who became the 27th US president), William Cameron Forbessy, James F. Smith and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña, Sr. also graced Cagayan de Misamis.

Misamis Oriental became a separate province in 1930 through Legislative Act 3777.


Japanese Occupation

On May 1, 1942, the Japanese Kawamura Detachment sailed from Iloilo to Cagayan de Misamis, and implemented the "scorched earth policy". They burned most of the town, but used the major buildings as headquarters.

Guerrillas fought back, but failed to cause major damage. On October 10, 1944, American planes bombarded Cagayan de Misamis to drive out the Japanese, eventually liberating the place on May 10, 1945.


Starting 1946, Misamis Congressman Pedro S. Baculio lobbied in the Philippine Congress so that Cagayan de Misamis, which was reeling from the ashes of war, would be declared a city. On December 17, 1949, the new Congressman Emmanuel Pelaez introduced House Bill No. 54, entitled "An Act Creating the City of Cagayan de Oro". President Elpidio Quirino signed the city charter at 11:30 am, June 15, 1950.

Pelaez appended "de Oro" to "Cagayan" in recognition of gold mining in the hinterland barrios known to Spanish explorers in 1500s.

The first appointed mayor of Cagayan de Oro was Max Y. Suniel, followed by Justiniano R. Borja in 1954. Borja was elected as mayor again in 1955, and was repeatedly elected and appointed until he died on October 3, 1964. He was called the "Arsenio Lacson of Cagayan de Oro", being responsible for the phenomenal growth of the city since 1959, when he opened the Cogon Market.

Xavier University

Xavier University









On June 29, 1951, Pope Pius XII created the first Catholic archbishopric in Mindanao, when he elevated the Diocese of Cagayan into an archdiocese.

Santiago T. G. Hayes, S.J. was the first archbishop. Hayes founded Ateneo de Cagayan on June 7, 1933. The school was renamed Xavier University on March 22, 1958. It was the first Mindanao university.

Martial Rule

During the regime of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, Cagayan de Oro earned the reputation as the center of political opposition in the Philippines. Independent-minded politicians in Cagayan de Oro helped restore democracy at EDSA in 1986.

Sketch by Nonoy EstarteIn 1987, Cagayan de Oro became a congressional district in the Congress of the Philippines. The first congressional representative was Benedicta B. Roa.

Sketch by Nonoy Estarte


The Present

Today, Cagayan de Oro is the burgeoning center of commerce, education, and government administration in Northern Mindanao. It is a major city. Rich in heritage, it shares with the historical highlights of the Republic of the Philippines. End

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*Antonio J. Montalván II is a Mindanao anthropologist and ethnohistorian. He is a Ford Foundation scholar for the doctorate in anthropology on Mindanao Studies with the Mindanao Anthropology Consortium. Montalván has written articles about Mindanao history and culture in academic journals, and contributes a monthly column to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Montalván is also the author of "A Cagayan de Oro Ethnohistory Reader", launched on March 8, 2004.

Published by the Heritage Conservation Advocates, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, January 16, 2002. Photos of Huluga artifacts are made possible with the help of Luis E. Ostique, curator of Museo de Oro, Xavier University; and George Ang, photographer.

See also The Brief History of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), Cagayan de Oro.
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