Getting to know the gold in Cagayan de Oro

Downtown Cagayan de Oro City

“The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask.”-Rich Ridgeway

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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.

Pelaez GroundsPEGAOrientalDowntown Cagayan de Oroglass windowMermaidA view from Macabalan Wharf, Cagayan de OroThe Surviving Krispy KremeMacabalan Wharf

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

KulintangHandomananVote Buying

Social and political messages turned into art let the Filipino rethink of the widespread everyday issues such as vote selling, poor governance and privation.

Pilipinas Street PlanUkay ArtBotelyaCagayan de Oro native sweets and sinuglaw

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.

PlateColor and GlowTricycadLokalLi'l cave guidesMacahambus CaveMixed PatternsRidgeCagayan de Oro Rafting AdventureCDO Water Rafting

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.

CDO Mayor Oscar Moreno#beingcagayanon

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
© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2014

The Juan Luna Effect

“Genius has no country, genius burst forth everywhere, is like light and air — the patrimony of all; cosmopolitan as space, as life as God.” ~ the words of Jose Rizal to the Spaniards who belittled Juan Luna’s exceptional talents because of his brown skin.

In our time, the way to introduce Ilocano painter Juan Luna would go like this: a global talent, Pinoy Pride Juan Luna.

A pioneer in Philippine artistic expression, Juan Luna was the first Filipino artist to receive international recognition for his works. Visiting the restored Luna ancestral house in Badoc and viewing his masterpieces, albeit reproductions, was an amazing experience.

After the recent tragic hostage-taking incident, I was hurt that the world sees mediocrity as the new face of the Filipino people. Today, after studying Luna’s splendid artworks, artworks that were accomplished during the so-called frailocracy, it got through my head… there is so much hope, we can be a great nation again…

The high drama of the Spoliarium. It won the First Gold Medal in the Madrid exposition.
Brother Antonio Luna’s Katipunan uniform.
Juan Luna’s real bed which was retrieved from his Binondo residence.
Juan Luna had 445 artworks. A number of his original works were lost/damaged during World War II.
“Parisian Life” aka “Interior d’un Cafiwas bought by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for 46M at Christie’s auction in Hong Kong in 2002. The details in the chef d’oeuvre are extraordinary. The 1892 painting used to belong to the daughters of Katipunan heroes Julio Nakpil and Gregoria de Jesus. Chris Eduarte, the museum technician at the Juan Luna Shrine, says, “The woman might be the mirror image of the Philippines as seen in a map; Juan Luna was a sailor in his early years.”
“El Violinista” The broken string and the bare feet, if you notice, make it more dramatic. Some say that the boy must be his brother, Manuel, who was a violinist.
The boy is Andrés Luna de San Pedro, the only son of Juan Luna and Paz Pardo de Tavera. His sister, Bibi, died in infancy. Andrés, a painter and an accomplished architect (designer of the Arlegui House, the residence of former president Corazon Aquino during her term), was married to Grace Mcrae. The couple didn’t have a child.
Juan Luna with our beloved Jose Rizal and Valentin Ventura, who lent Rizal money for the publication of El Filibusterismo, the sequel to Noli Me Tangere.
Not Luna’s, but a reminder of our past.
An antique calesa of an unnamed doctor.
The Luna House was fully restored in 1977. Several pillars, made with lime and egg whites, are still the original.

but only if, synchronously, we throw into oblivion the monkey wrenching crab mentality and lift our hands up in the air and reach for the stars.

Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED