History isn’t always top of mind for domestic tourists, that many even remain unaware of the historicity of places in their localities. But that may soon change, at least in Northern Mindanao.
The Northern Mindanao Historical Trails Committee is now taking an inventory of historical places in Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental, to set up historical markers highlighting their significance in local history, and to improve access to these places with improved road networks. “We are doing this for the benefit of our people in these areas, that they may be aware of the historicity of these places, and share their stories with the younger generations,” said Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez, (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) whose office is coordinating the heritage conservation project. To start, the committee has identified some 17 places in Cagayan de Oro, five towns in West Misamis Oriental, six in East Misamis Oriental, and five locations in Camiguin with historical sites which have the potential for further development. Areas where these historical places are clustered may receive first priority since they require minimum intervention to be developed further. Committee Chair, Agnes Paulita “Nanette” Roa, a Cagayan de Oro historian and archaeologist, said foremost among these is the Old Poblacion of Cagayan de Misamis (the former name of Cagayan de Oro) where the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral and Convent, Old Water Tower (City Museum), Gaston Park, Executive House (Casa Real), Duaw Park, Ysalina Bridge, Club Popular, Casa del Chino Ygua and Plaza Divisoria are all within walking distance of each other. Still another is the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) Heritage Zone where eight historical buildings will be formally honored with a plaque from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). Xavier Ateneo is the first Jesuit University in the Philippines, as well as the first in Mindanao. It was also used by the Japanese Imperial Army as a detention center for suspected guerrillas during World War II and were completely destroyed by two bombing raids conducted by seven B-24 Liberators of the 22nd Bomb Group on October 21, 1944 and 12 B-24s of the 43rd Bomb Group in October 22, 1944.
In Laguindingan Municipality, Western Municipality can be found the Spanish-era Cotta sa Punta Sulawan (Old Moro Watch Tower); the guerrilla headquarters of the 109th Infantry Regiment during World War II in Barangay Lapad; the landing site at Barangay Moog of arms, ammunition, medicines and supplies unloaded by Pilipino guerrillas of the same unit from the US Navy submarine USS Narwhal on December 5, 1943, which also embarked two men, three women, and four children of the De Vries family.
More significant perhaps, is the 2010 excavation site in a river in Barangay Sinai which yielded the fossilized bones of a Stegodon, considered to be a sister group of elephants and mammoths, which lived from 11.6 million years ago (mya) to the late Pleistocene, and found in Asia and Africa, when it was more prevalent than the Asian elephants. Stegodon may be derived from Stegolophodon, an extinct genus known from the Miocene of Asia.
An exhibit of the fossilized bones which were identified and classified by the late archeologist and anthropologist Erlinda M. Burton can be found in the XU Museo de Oro, said Oscar Floirendo, acting curator.
The Congressional Office of Rep. Rodriguez is already coordinating with the Department of Tourism (DOT), for inclusion of the identified sites under DPWH’s “Convergence Program for Enhancing Tourism Access” to facilitate efficient and more coordinated efforts to identify, evaluate, prioritize and implement “technically-correct and politically-participative” road access projects leading to tourist destinations.
This Annual Tourism Road Infrastructure Program aims to identify, evaluate, prioritize and implement the tourism road infrastructure in priority tourism clusters, development areas in the country in support of the goals and targets of the National Tourism Development Plan and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP).
The road tourism projects included local roads under the jurisdiction of the local governments. These roads will remain as local roads and the DPWH only asked to be given the road right of way. These local roads, which serve as entry and exit points of tourist destinations, will be paved and upgraded to national road standards.