The birth of the town-A A +A
Sunday, January 27, 2013
ANTONIO Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler of Ferdinand Magellan, described the 1521 typical house of the Cebuanos as "constructed of wood and are built of planks and bamboo, raised high on the ground on large logs, and one must enter them by means of ladders. They have rooms like ours; and under the house, they keep swine, goats, and fowls" (Pigafetta c. 1536).
This is the kind of house that the Spaniards saw lining the coast of Cebu and as one claimed, stretching up to the coast of Mandaue. The same kind of raised houses were found near the rivers, creeks and waterways for the ancient Filipinos loved to live near a body of water.
There were other houses that the Spaniards saw when they ventured to the interiors like the Recollect missionaries who were the first to enter the Cagaiang (Cagayan) territory in 1622. They wrote that the Kagay-anons lived on top of a cliff called Himolugan and this was near a river. It was a communal dwelling where each family had a room of their own which the priests thought was similar to that of a convent. And in the middle of the structure was a diwatahan or an altar that contained wooden idols (Blair and Robertson 1903).
Be that as it may, this shows that the settlement patterns of our ancestors were entirely different from that of the Spaniards.
However, with the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565, the landscape of Cebu and in most parts of the archipelago drastically changed. His troops burned the village and later, his first official act was to inform the Cebuano ruler, Tupas, that the Spaniards needed a townsite.
When Legazpi was given a parcel of land, he drew a line demarcating the boundaries of the Spanish and Cebuano territories. He then took possession of the land in the name of the Spanish king - that was on May 8, 1565, just two weeks after he and his men arrived in Cebu.
Ground was broken for a triangular fort, Legazpi also marked out the sites for a Spanish quarter and the church. He then proclaimed the establishment as the first Spanish settlement in Southeast Asia.
Legazpi's act of possession and partition would be repeated in many places around the country. The Spanish missionary was usually the one that was tasked to create the town known as a "reduccion" or a compact town. Armed with a ruler, cord and a few pegs, he would stake out the site for the church and the convento, the plaza and the Casa Real, the seat of Spanish colonial governance and the principal streets of the town. Then, he would plant a cross in the middle of the plaza and begin his evangelization (R. Javellana S.J. 1991:2-3).
Our city started as a reduccion in 1622 by the Spanish Recollect missionaries. Sad to say that this is not an ancient land as many would like to believe. In fact, this is considered a second settlement for the first one was in Himolugan.
Today, we can still see the original Spanish layout of the town in Barangay 1, the oldest area of our city. There is the church, which is the St. Agustine Cathedral, the old town plaza that comprised combined area of the present City Tennis Courts and Gaston Park, and the City Hall, which stands on the site of the old Casa Real. Our old main street used to be called Calle Real or the Royal St., now this is named in honor of Gen. Nicolas Capistrano.
Cagayan de Oro is considered one of the most Hispanized towns in Mindanao during the Spanish colonial regime. More on this next time.
On the second floor of the City Museum, there is a copy of the 1739 diagram of the town of 'Cagaian' which was then under the administrator-ship of the Alcalde of Cebu. The town was enclosed with a fort known as the Fuerza Real de San Jose or the Royal Fort of St. Joseph. There were neat rows of houses and well laid streets with a church in the center. This is a far cry from the pre-hispanic community of the Filipinos.
The creation of the town by the Spaniards was their way of "civilizing" the Filipinos for by then, they would be forced to look at the Spaniards as their central authority instead of their clan or village chief. It took a long time for the people to get adjusted to living in a town, more so, under foreign colonial masters. It was unlike what they were used to because this was not well suited to their needs, temperament and beliefs. But that was the way it was and that was how all towns in our country came to be.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 28, 2013.