Raul Ilogon .
CAGAYAN de Oro City, once known as Cagayan de Misamis, is an old place with grand and heroic past. The history of this place was written in the blood of its people — not one or two but the blood of so many heroes who died fighting for our freedom and way of life. In fact, except for a few, all streets in the old district of this city were named after “the town heroes.” They died fighting in a war in 1900 called the Filipino-American war. When the Americans hijacked our independence, which we won in combat from Spain, Kagay-anons gathered at Club Popular and voted to fight to death for our home and liberty.
Cagayan de Misamis had produced so many heroes in that war. They were so many that we ran out of streets to name after them. Some streets were sacred for it was spilled with the blood of our heroes. They died glorious death that inspired poets to compose songs and poems about their courage and bravery. Poems were also made about the tragedy of losing love ones, dedicated to the many grieving mothers and widows.
For those who survived,the struggle continues. The living heroes made sure the ideals they fought and died for will not be forgotten. Kagay-anons of the past were true leaders both in war and in peace time.
Gen. Nicholas Capistrano whom the Kagayanons voted to lead them in war became a senator after the war. He continued to fight on floor of the Philippine Senate for the benefit of the people he once led to war.
Col. Apolinar Velez, the second-in-command, gave the whole Philippines the first victory against the Americans in the Battle of Makahambus Cave. He became mayor of Cagayan de Misamis after the war. His peace time deeds are also worthy of our remembrance. He continued to fight for the living as well as for the dead. He used the power of his office and the available logistics to build a monument in honor of those who fought and died in the Fil-Am war.
In 1928, Mayor Apolinar Velez built a monument at Divisoria dedicated to “Our Town Heroes.” In his last heroic act, he gathered all the bones of those who died in Fil-Am war — the remains of those he once led in battle, his comrade-in-arms. He never forgot. He gathered and buried them, with full military honors, underneath the monument he called “El pueblo a sus heroes.” Roughly translated to English: “The town heroes.”
In the past, we have been calling this monument “Bonifacio” which is a mistake. However, we cannot be faulted for our ignorance because the statue is, in fact, a Bonifacio statue. Probably because at the context of that time, this Bonifacio statue was mass produced. It might cost the town a fortune to commission a sculptor. Mayor Velez was healthy but probably, he could not foot the bill because he just gave up his prime properties to the town for the use of a military camp and for a public high school. Perhaps, for practical reasons, he opted for the affordable mass-produced Bonifacio statue and just inscribed in bold letters a dedication so everyone would know for whom it was built for.
Nobody cared to tell us the story. Oops, forgive me if I think someone did but we just didn’t care. Now the social media and the whole wide world know the history behind this monument like who built it, why it was built, and for whom it was dedicated to. We have to stop calling it “Bonifacio Monument.” It’s right and proper for us to correct the mistake and start calling it for what it really is. The monument was built by someone who fought in that war. It is a monument for those who died in that war. In fact, it is more than a monument. It is a final resting place for those who died in that war.
Ka Andres Bonifacio, the father of the Katipunan, was a great hero but this is not his monument.
Velez was not only a great local hero but a visionary, too. Lest we forget, he inscripted the monument with these words: “El pueblo a sus heroes.”
How can we call it by any other name when the name is staring at us in the face? This monument is called “The Town Heroes.”