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Our first Independence Day celebration

A. Paulita Roa .

WHEN the first Philippine Republic was proclaimed in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898, Cagayan de Misamis (Cagayan de Oro) was still governed by the Spanish military governor, Lt. Col. Cristobal de Aguilar. But on Dec. 10,1898, the Treaty of Peace between Spain and the United States was signed in Paris where the Philippines then became a colony of America for the sum of $20 million. Later, the Spanish civilians and soldiers left the country though some who married Filipinas remained. Lt. Col. Aguilar organized a junta composed of five men headed by Jose Roa y Casas and turned over the reins of governance of Misamis Province to them before he left for Spain. Roa was then elected as the first Provincial Presidente or Governor under the Aguinaldo revolutionary government.This historical election of the provincial and municipal officials took place on the later part of December 1898.

On Jan. 10, 1899, Cagayan de Misamis finally had a grand Independence Day celebration, seven months after that of Kawit, Cavite. According to Kagay-anon historian Filomeno M. Bautista, it was a two-day celebration with a parade, music, speeches and cannonades. The parade started on Victoria St. (now Hayes St.) and had colorful floats and the main one was the float of the La Libertad Filipina. This float was the exact copy of the one in Kawit where Cagayan’s most beautiful woman, Isidra Yamumu, held the Philippine flag while standing on a broken chain that symbolized slavery. Below her on the right was a little girl, Conchita Fernandez, who held a crown of laurel that signified Victory and on the left stood the boy, Jose Velez, who had a bolo that symbolized Defense.

The float stopped in front of Casa Real, the former colonial administrative building and official residence of the Spanish military governor. There, the newly elected local officials sat notably the Municipal Presidente or Mayor, Toribio Chaves who composed the patriotic poem, Pinahanungud that was recited by Pedro Akut for this occasion. This poem was written by Chaves who was considered as one of the finest poets of his generation. Here are excerpts of this poem written in Visayan:

Mga igsoon mao kini ang hinungdan,

Sa lungsay ta karong kalipay,

Ang bandila sa hinandom kaugalingnan,

Mikayab na gayud sa atong kalangitan.

Matahom larawan sa nasud nga Pilipinhon,

Paglaban kaniya unungan ta sa kamatayon,

Nagdalag bulok puti, azul ug pulahon,

Usa ka adlaw ug tolo ka bitoon.

Isaad ta aron kanunay siya buhi,

Kadunganan sa Inahang Pilipinas,

Ang mangahas kaniya pagtampalas,

Usikan ta sa atong mga kinabuhi.

Ang adlaw nagapahayag sa iyang  dan-ag,

Nga ang Pilipinas karon na miabut,

Ang kanunay ginapaabut,

Nga mao ang Independencia ug Libertad.

Ang hinungdan sa tolo ka bitoon,

Mao ang mga pulo nato nga nagakauyon,

Mindanao, Kabisay-an ug Luzon,

Timaan nga kitang tanan managsoon.

Bautista wrote that after the recitation of the poem the crowd sang two important hymns — the first was the Revolucionarios Viva Filipinas and the second was composed especially for this celebration. It was also in this historic occasion that the first hoisting of the tri-colored flag of the new Republic took place in front of Casa Real. The town’s first flag was sewn by  Paz Roa de Neri and her two sisters -in-law, Getulia and Agapita Chaves de Neri. Later, this flag was carried by the local resistance army to the hills when they fought the Americans in their  vain attempts to regain their independence at the cost of their lives.

Today, one can go to the old City Hall and see two distinctive historical markers. The first one is situated on the small island fronting the main door of the building. This is the prestigious black cast iron marker from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines  that was installed in 2015 and it commemorates the first hoisting of the Philippine flag in Cagayan de Misamis on Jan. 10,1899. The second one is the marker from the Cagayan de Oro Historical and Cultural Commission that was placed at the side of the building fronting Capistrano St. in 1999. It commemorates the town’s first Independence Day celebration and the names of the first elected  and appointed officials under the Aguinaldo revolutionary government.

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