Borja: Oro’s 1st city mayor-A A +A
Sunday, July 15, 2012
YOU can see him at the park in Divisoria with his hands in his back pocket and with a face so dignified-looking.
It’s the statue of former Cagayan de Oro Mayor Justiniano R. Borja, who was widely known as “Tinying.”
“I realize that life is a gift. And what a strange gift it is! I have learned that the more you give of yourself, the more you have the gift of life; that he who forgets self and gives all that he is entirely and devotedly to something or somebody; and he who lives for justice and truth without caring for the consequences, receives a thousand times more than what he gives. I have learned that the only immortality, the enduring and permanent things in a transient world, are bravery, truth, honor, decency and courage; and those who build their lives upon these intangibles of the spirit, build upon foundations that can never be shaken by any force on earth."
This is an excerpt taken from one of Borja’s speeches that was placed at the marker of the J. R. Borja Monument at the park in Divisoria. It was used in the title board of the photo exhibit during his 100th birthday celebration on July 6.
Borja was given the distinction of being the best mayor that Cagayan de Oro has ever had.
To commemorate his special day, Mayor Vicente Emano specifically held a special flag raising ceremony in front of his marker, which was attended by his heirs Cecilia Borja-Chiongbian, Christine Borja-Sagarbarria and Justice Romulo V. Borja.
Kagay-anons were taken into memory lane as they envisioned the life of this honorable man during a short symposium on the life and work of the first elected mayor of the city.
We may wonder why this honorable man is given such recognition and honor worthy of respect.
But according to those who have known him, they would surely not forget this man, who ruled the city from 1954 to 1964 without fear or favor. He had political will and would walk to and from his office without bodyguards.
During the symposium, another noble man, Atty. Ruben Canoy, also a former mayor of the city and his close friend, gave a short talk on Borja’s life and works.
Canoy spoke eloquently and with pride while reminiscing the life of his dear friend “Tinying.”
As what was Canoy described, he had known “Tinying” for a long time before he was appointed by Pres. Ramon Magsaysay as city mayor in 1953.
Canoy’s manner of introduction kept me wanting to know more about this honorable man, as I always see him at the Divisoria park. He has given a lot of insights at that time as he was the secretary to Tinying.
He recalled that Borja was responsible for the city’s economic growth and opened the Cogon Public Market in 1959.
I also learned that he was also responsible on why we have abundant water now and efficient power sources of our electricity as he made it a point that Kagay-anon will be provided with the basic needs. For doing so, at that time, he did not wait for national government to do that his initiatives erased the once called “Cepalong” for the electricity for purchasing the first generator as the city always had brownouts at that time, while water is like a pee of a horse.
Canoy recalled many things about Borja but the most essential part is when he explained to the wary crowd why his hands are at the back pocket of his pants, which I also anticipated to know.
He explained that when he asked Tinying why, he simply said “it is better that my hand is on the pocket, not in the public office.”
“Borja is a good example of a noble politician as he was not a corrupt man. His high hopes for the city and positive spirit has achieved so many things during his reign his great contribution to the development of the city and through his vision has indeed benefitted us today in this generation,” he said.
Canoy recalled that Borja became a benchmark for the city's public servants.
“A fact that, sadly, no one has capably equaled, that even to his death on October 3, 1964 in his funeral cortege attended by all of the Kagay-anons, many of whom openly wept at the sight of his bier, which was placed atop a decorated float that even shops and establishments were closed for business at their own will,” he said.
As history tells the story of this honorable man, Borja is the only city mayor who has been given multiple honors, a proof of how much he was loved by the city that he served so well.
There are J.R Borja St., JR Borja Memorial City Hospital and a statue located at Plaza Divisoria (Golden Friendship Park).
He was the only city mayor of Cagayan de Oro who was given a doctorate degree "Honoris Causa" in public administration by Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan in 1963.
After that brief talk about the life of Borja, I considered myself lucky to have a mayor like him. He was, indeed, an improbable public servant.
I was glad to get to know better this honorable man whom I always see at the Divisoria park. Now I know why his hands are at the back pocket of his pants.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 15, 2012.