“The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask.”-Rich Ridgeway
My trip to Cagayan de Oro in the central coast of Northern Mindanao has opened my eyes to more realities about life in the Philippines. I only knew the Mindanao region through little journeys along General Santos, Davao, the Samal Island, and the news.
One person, Canadian globetrotter, Kyle Jennermann nicknamed Kulas, who has been lingering in the country for three months now and who I’ve met in Cagayan de Oro, has beautiful stories about us Filipinos. I realize, he says it best that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines.
Fun is in the eager eyes and unstudied smiles radiating from the hearts of the ordinary people.
Cagayan de Oro is predominantly a Christian city. Augustinian friars arrived in 1622, leaving a trail of Spanish influence. The massive St. Augustine Cathedral, one among the oldest cathedrals in Mindanao, destroyed in 1945 during the American liberation of Cagayan de Oro, was rebuilt in Gothic style.
Chronicling significant events during the American colonial period, the General MacArthur Marker in Macabalan and the Macahambus Cave “Battle of Macahambus Hill” marker reckon Cagayan de Oro’s past.
A visit to the vintage summer house of statesman and dedicated public servant Emmanuel Pelaez hints at the beginnings of the cityhood of Cagayan de Oro.
The Museum of Three Cultures inside the Capitol University, established by educator, heritage conservation advocate Laureana San Pedro Rosales, is an exposure to the Muslim, Christian and Lumad cultures of the Mindanaoan region. Representations of the past, artistry and finery from T’boli, Bagobo, Higaonon, Manobo and other indigenous peoples fascinate
Social and political messages turned into art let the Filipino rethink of the widespread everyday issues such as vote selling, poor governance and privation.
I had a fling with local sinuglaw, a kind of fish ceviche and grilled pork belly concoction, flavored with indigenous tabon-tabon (kaffir lime fruit). Bitter undertones tease while savoring the appetizing fresh ocean smell and sweetness of the intoxicated morsels.
Kakanin, especially the latik-filled suman and corn tamales, were very nice! Also the sweet native pineapples! I also had an awesome discovery — Cagayan de Oro is the home of the best mango dessert I’ve ever had! Will have to write about it soon.
Introduced in 1995 by a small group of hardcore adventurers, the banner adventure product of Cagayan de Oro is rafting the raging rapids of the Cagayan de Oro River (to be posted in a separate story).
We arrived at a most trying time for booming CDO’s main attraction, at the time when a tourist went missing in the tricky river. We got to meet the city mayor, Oscar Moreno, who incidentally is married to an Ilocana from Dingras. He gave a fair straightforward picture of the tourism status of CDO.
In those days in Cagayan de Oro, I saw the very strong character of the Kagay-anons. Confronting reality and bending like a bamboo through Sendong-like misadventures is deep-rooted.
We can be harsh to ourselves sometimes, but here’s Kulas trying to become a Filipino, sharing the Filipino smile to the whole world.
Photographed by Lis, Jan, Carlo and Blauearth
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