‘Higalas’ parade wows the city (Part 2 of 4)-A A +A
A Matter of Taste
Thursday, September 5, 2013
AUGUST 27 was a sun-shiny day, perfect for the unfolding of the first “higalas” parade in the city to kick off the Higalaay Festival.
And the whole city thronged the sidewalks to oooh and aaah at the spectacular higalas designed and produced by Errol Balcos and his team of artists. (Jake Vamenta did some of the faces while JC Salon was the costume consultant and stylist.)
The higalas parade was spearheaded by Eileen E. San Juan, chair of this year’s fiesta committee. The committee included Evans Yonson and this writer.
The working committee must be commended for the great job: Eulogio Suaner Jr., of the Department of Education, who served as the parade manager; Engr. Nonito Oclarit, head of the city’s Road and Traffic Administration (RTA); Imma Ray D. Gatuslao, Ma. Elena Vonetta Y. Go, and Juan Carlos Valentino N. Baclig from the City Tourism Office.
To continue from the previous column, here are the other higalas.
6. Birhen sa Kota. Defender of the City.
Contrary to popular thinking, the Spanish colonial regime did extend to Mindanao. The island was divided into two districts: the east, which was administered by the Recollects; and the west, which was under Jesuit supervision.
The dividing line was what is now known as the Misamis Oriental town of Initao. But still and all, it was gloriously multicultural: with the indigenous peoples dancing to their gods, and the Muslim communities ardent in their faith.
The Recollects built a fort in the original township of Cagayan, while the Jesuits constructed the Fuerza de San Francisco Xavier -- both formidable structures made of whitewashed stone walls.
Inside the stone walls, i.e., Gaston Park in Cagayan, the parishioners would hide during the intermittent Moro raids. Once, during a siege at the Cagayan fortification, the Virgin Mary appeared above the parapet, and the Maguindanao forces ran away.
A wooden image of the Virgin Mary as she appeared above the parapet was ensconced at a wall of the fort. She was called the “Birhen sa Kota.”
The parishioners venerated her by praying the rosary before her image on Saturdays, hence the prayer was called the Sabadohan.
The fort was demolished at the turn of the 20th century upon the instigation of the Spanish governor of Cagayan de Misamis, and the statue came into the possession of Archbishop James -- later, Santiago—Hayes, S.J., who eventually turned over the statue to the museum of the school he founded, the Ateneo de Cagayan.
Today, the Birhen sa Kota has been enshrined at the San Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral as a symbol of the grace of Our Lady in times of disaster and calamity.
7. Tirso Neri: Developed Divisoria.
When the cry for independence rang throughout the Philippine archipelago at the end of the 19th century, it resonated in the homes and streets of Cagayan.
The sons of prominent families were educated in Manila and were aware of the issues and concerns that ate up the principalia. They took up arms and led the local resistance during the Philippine Revolution.
Among the revolutionary leaders was Tirso Neri. When the haze of war had dissipated and the American colonial regime was set in place, Tirso Neri was brimming with such a glowing reputation due to his bravery and leadership during the revolution that he was named mayor of Cagayan de Misamis.
It was, in fact, an administrative area that revolved in the township around Gaston Park initially called the Partidos de Cagayan but reached as far as what we now know as Misamis Occidental and the easternmost flank of Misamis Oriental.
To further secure the Gaston Park area, Tirso Neri opened up what we now call Divisoria as a swath of open space to fend off the sporadic fires bedeviling the houses and stores of the Chinese entrepreneurs’ on the other side of the divide. This, perhaps, was his most significant achievement as mayor from 1901 to 1903.
8. Colonel Apolinar Velez. Philippine-American War Hero.
During the Philippine-American War, there was only one battle won by Filipinos loud and clear. This was the Battle of Makahambus Hill in Cagayan de Misamis.
On June 4, 1900, Captain Thomas Millar led 100 American soldiers up the steep embankment from the Cagayan River to capture a fort manned by Filipinos.
The Makahambus Fort was under the command of Colonel Apolinar Velez of the Maguindanao Battalion, which was composed of 350 Filipino volunteers and Army men.
The Americans were aware of the strategic importance of the fort and they wanted to wrest its control from Col. Velez.
But from his perch up the fort on a steep hill, Col. Velez saw the Americans coming. He and his men greeted the intruders with cannon and rifle fire. Despite the Americans’ various attempts to come up the hill, the Filipinos forced them to back off.
But that was not all. Col. Velez had the prescience of mind to prepare a second line of defense: hollowed-out spaces in the ground staked with long and lethal bamboo spears hidden by leaves and vines.
Reports showed that there were as many as 20 American casualties and one American prisoner of war.
On the other hand, only one Filipino was killed and three others were wounded.
This was a resounding Filipino win during that onerous moment in history called the Philippine-American War, when, as part of its aspiration for empire, the Americans embarked on a chilling deracination experiment that would find its full expression in the Vietnam War.
To be continued...
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 05, 2013.