Cagayan de Oro: Stories Behind the Name
A lot of Kagay-anons, especially those who belong to the newer generations, have long been wondering about where the city got its name. Actually, different stories that tell us how the city got its name abound, online and in various books and publications. Below are some of the most popular.
Documents and sources that date back to the time of the Spanish Augustinian Recollect friars prove that the area now known as Huluga (then referred to as Himologan) was already called “Cagayan”. These documents also gave proof that the place was already known as “Cagayan” even as early as the 1500s. In 1571, the whole of Mindanao was established as an encomienda by the Spanish government (led by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, according to some sources) courtesy of a man known as Juan Griego.
At the time of the Spanish colonization, the place abounded in gold mining activities. This prompted the late Emmanuel Pelaez; former vice president of the Philippines, Misamis Oriental congressman and Ambassador to the US; to affix the words “de Oro” to “Cagayan”. When translated, Cagayan de Oro means “City of the River of Gold”.
On a related note, the late Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ explained the origins of the word “Cagayan”. According to Fr. Bernad, “Cagayan”, which is “ag” in Malayo-Polynesian, means “water” (as in Agusan; agus means flowing water, thus, Agusan means “a place of flowing water”). Kagay and kagayan, meanwhile, means “river” and “place with a river” respectively.
Aside from these etymological explanations, the name Cagayan de Oro also comes from a story that dates back to a romantic event of the earlier times.
There was once a Bukidnon chieftain by the name of Mansicampo. He was the leader of a land on the east side of what is now called the Cagayan de Oro River. One day, he had a squabble with Bagongsalibo, a Muslim Datu who ruled a territory across the river – an area which later became the RER Subdivision. This squabble was no ordinary tiff. It even escalated into war! Mansicampo would not have this settled by mere exchange of words. And as they say, “If you want peace, prepare for war!”
On the other hand, the Muslim Datu would not have war as an option, for he only wanted his people to live in peace in their part of town.
Nonetheless, Mansicampo called all his loyal subjects and everyone else from the Bukidnon tribes of Daan Lunsod who would fight for him. After all of his troops gathered on his side of the river, the Bukidnon chieftain sent his son, Bagani, to talk with the Muslim Datu and arrange a war council. Bagani obediently agreed.
So there they were, a young prince sent on an errand by his vexed father and a Muslim leader seeking peace, talking things over.
During the conference, an unexpected thing happened to our valiant prince. He noticed a young, beautiful woman snatching glances at him from behind a door. The woman, who happened to be the Datu’s daughter, was so beautiful that Bagani was immediately mesmerized and even forgot everything about the impending battle.
Bagani took the opportunity to tell Bagongsalibo his intentions and asked her daughter’s hand in marriage. With a Datu that wasn’t the least bit enthusiastic about warfare against a neighbor, the marriage proposal was accepted.
Meanwhile, back at the east side, Mansicampo eventually found out about his son wanting to marry the enemy’s daughter. This prompted the Bukidnon chieftain’s merry band of soldiers to disperse and return home whilst vowing never to go back to the chief’s settlement. Seems like they were really revved up for some bloodshed but ended up disappointed.
And thus, Mansicampo left his land and named it Kagayha-an, which, in Bukidnon, means “a place of shame”.
Little did Mansicampo know that the one place he called “place of shame” would become the City of Golden Friendship, now known as the “Gateway to Northern Mindanao” and considered as the rafting capital of the Philippines.
-Gillian Abonitalla & Maia Fortich-Poblete-