By Gwendolyn Ramos-Garcia
I have long pondered the question because of the vast number of transplants who have decided to stay and make Cagayan de Oro “home”.
Some understandably uprooted themselves from their hometowns and settled here because they married into local families. Prime examples : Segundo Gaston of Silay and Dionisio Fabella of Pagsanjan who married my grandfather’s 2 younger sisters, Celerina and Rosario Neri, respectively; Diego Imperio & Crispin Joaquin to Celerina’s & Rosario’s younger sisters, Gracia and Violeta, Jose Montalvan of Belmonte, Cuenca, Spain to Concepcion Corrales y Roa (my great grandmother’s sister), Dr. Francisco Xavier of Antique to Dolores Roa ( my grandmother’s sister), Valente Camacho of Bataan to Luz Chaves y Neri, Benjamin Denosta to Enriqueta Garcia y Corrales, Casimiro Tamparong of Ozamis to Felisa Neri, Silvino Maestrado to Josefa Chaves y Abejuela, George Willkom of Ohio to Maria Ramos (cousin of my grandfather, Lucio), Dr. Jose Marfori to Carmen Neri, Justininiano R. Borja of Bohol & Ilocos to Dulce Valdehueza y Roa, Monico Gacula to Nena Montalvan y Corrales, Manolo Jaldon of Zamboanga to Flora Yamut, Hernando Pineda of Manila to Trinidad Reyes y Roa, Fernando Torres to Victoria Avancena, Rosauro Dongallo of Cebu to Didi Valmores, Mike Siojo to Naty Tabique, Jaime Munoz & Johnny Wilson to sisters Soly & Editha Corrales, Bernabe de la Fuente of Cotabato to Mercedes.Velez y Xavier (actually, 3 de la Fuente brothers, all boarders at the Ateneo de Cagayan, married 3 local belles – Mercedes Velez, Dulce Bautista & Violeta Fernandez). and the list goes on & on.
But what about those who did not really have close ties to this town ? What magnet drew them to Cagayan? Was it a new job assignment or a business venture? Or perhaps just a pining to go elsewhere & try one’s luck someplace other than one’s turf. Some must have been assigned here – that is probably what happened to government doctors – Jose Zamora, Manuel Montenegro, Iluminado Almonte and Dr. Macaranas; or military doctors/dentists like aforementioned Dr. Marfori and Dr. Reynaldo Agoncillo, or judges like Ben Gorospe and Judge Antillon; still others worked for companies like Del Monte, San Miguel & Coca-Cola like Nene Celdran of Iligan and Juan Aguirre of Ormoc; or other families like the Floirendos of Luzon and the Luminarias brothers and the Vitorillos from Bohol who set up businesses.
In the case of Sally & Annie Ompoc, they were born in Seattle but came back to the Philippines with their parents in 1940, settled in El Salvador & moved to Cagayan de Oro in 1946 then married local boys Bonifacio Avancena & Jose Roa, respectively. Fairly recent transplants are Ben & Alice Trinidad, Jose & Carmen del Fierro, Jun & Cora Salcedo del Fierro, Arsenio & Girlie Sebastian, Mdm. Laureana Rosales and her daughters & their families.
One big family with interesting origins are the Malferraris. The original Cesar Malferrari of Bologna, Italy, was the photographer of a circus from Italy who got stranded in Manila when the circus went bankrupt. He met Dolores Fortich of Cebu; they married & settled in Cagayan de Oro and had Cesar, Jr., father of Tony, Ernesto, Nene, Berting & Nena M. Zablan. When Cesar Sr. died his widow married the father of the late Danding Cecilio, a soldier who came to the P.I. during the Spanish-American war.
The Nobles’ sojourn to our city is another interesting story. Albino Noble, father of Estela Fabella, Angelina Dayrit, Francisco, Rosalinda Vasquez & Mario, was a 9 year old boy in Antique when his uncle, Dr. Francisco Xavier sent for him, raised him & sent him to school at Silliman University. When Albino became a successful businessman, he in turn sent for his other siblings in Antique which included Armando Noble, the patriarch of that other branch, one of whose members is currently Mayor of Talakag.
Bienvenido Cruz of Marikina and his wife, Emma Johnson of Baguio, now both deceased, came to Cagayan because Bien’s brother, Alfredo, was a journalist here. Actually, the Cruzes had 3 cities where they had established their haberdashery/shoe businesses to choose from – Cebu, Davao & Cagayan de Oro but they chose our fair city over the others. Their eldest daughter, Biema was born here after 5 years of marriage so that’s one main reason they thought this was their special place. Another compelling reason was that he liked the local townsfolk among whom he had made good friends.. He used to brag to my mother that he was more Cagayanon than others because he could have had his pick but he specifically chose Cagayan.
Another big family that has found its niche here is the Paras family. Originally from Pampanga, Pabling & Nanang came to town in the early 60’s and have since raised their big brood here. Their original business thrived and their children have since branched out to other commercial ventures. They have all assimilated well and have been very active in civic organizations.
Others of foreign descent – Chinese like the Sias, Tans, Ongs, Ket Kais, Chans, Uys, Yees, and Macmangs (whose father was originally from Canton, China), Indian traders like Wadhumal Dharamdas Sr. & the Moorjanis, Lebanese Wadih Saab who married a Linaac, Americans like the Willkoms, Chaloners (Carrie Gaane, Nena Buhay) Greens, Kempskis, Tompkins, Howlands, Kelly-Limenas, Walters – they and their descendants have never thought of themselves other than as Cagayanons. And so must the Camiguingnons who relocated here after the volcano erupted in the early 50’s – the Magtos, Adazas, Alongs, Quiblats, Reyeses, Paderangas, etc.
The children and grandchildren of abovementioned families were born & raised here and they have made Cagayan de Oro their permanent residence or domicile. They consider Cagayan de Oro home even though they may not belong to native Cagayan clans. For them, there is no other place to call “home” except Cagayan de Oro because this is where they have established roots and found good friends. According to Tommy Aguirre of New Jersey, U.S.A., Cagayan is where he has his fondest memories and experiences, both good and bad; when Tommy & Jett talk of “going home”, they mean Cagayan de Oro, not Leyte where their father came from or Cebu, of which their mother Primitiva, was a native of. The same holds true for Mike Agoncillo who also says that his parents (of Batangas & Pangasinan), even though they left Cagayan and finally settled in Manila after retirement, continued to keep a special place in their hearts for the good memories of time spent in Cagayan de Oro.
Our city is a special place. It has a charm all its own. Even though it has grown tremendously in recent years, it continues to have that small town feel. Cagayan de Oro – the name conjures images of gold. But the gold is not in the meandering river now famous for whitewater rafting nor in yonder hills surrounding the city. It is in the heart of its people, warm and hospitable, welcoming to strangers. For many, they did find gold because they found a permanent place to cherish and call home. And for the lucky few who built their fortunes here – they actually found their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow here in the “City of Golden Friendship!”