Cagayan de Oro has been dominant in our social consciousness lately due to the distressing images of the disaster wrought by Typhoon Sendong. Fundraising efforts have continued all across the globe. More recently in Edmonton, Tsada Edmonton (a group of Edmontonians who trace their roots to Cagayan de Oro) organized a drop off event by the 3J Variety Store for donations. Collected items were sent directly to Cagayan de Oro courtesy of Manila Forwarders , and cash donations were coordinated with the Canadian Red Cross. On other occasions, free concerts were held at the Millwoods Town Centre and West Edmonton Mall organized by the Pinoy Foundation for the Arts and Pinoy Singing Sensation, with 21 performers and groups involved, raising $7,195 in cash donations and 37 boxes of relief goods.
A lot of people, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, have supported these various initiatives. But what exactly are we helping rebuild with our contributions of time, talent and treasure? Cagayan de Oro is located along the central coast of Northern Mindanao. It should not be confused with other locations in the Philippines with a Cagayan name - Cagayan province in Northern Luzon and the Cagayan Islands in the Sulu Sea. This city has ‘de Oro’ appended to its name due to the gold mining activities dating back to the Spanish times.
Known as the City of Golden Friendship, CDO boasts of outstanding scenic places ranging from beaches, mountains, limestone caves, museums, historical landmarks, timeless churches, and rivers. Among these are: San Agustin Cathedral; Macahambus Hill, Cave and Gorge, site of the famous Battle of Macahambus Hill in June 1900, the first Filipino victory against the Americans; the Huluga Cave, where skeletal fragments were found dating back to 1600 B.C.; the Migtugsok Falls and Palalan Waterfall; the Museo de Oro at Xavier University, and Museum of Three Cultures; the Gardens of Malasag Eco-tourism Village and Mapawa Nature Park; and the Liceo University where most visiting artists from metropolis Manila perform. Other events and activities are the: Kagay-an Festival, a week long festival honoring the patron Saint Agustin, held every August; arts festivals and heritage celebrations spearheaded by the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts; Kumbira, the anticipated culinary show & exhibit of the region; and for the adventurous spirits - white water rafting in the Cagayan river, kayaking, river tubing and the dual zip line, which is reputed to be the longest in Asia, as of this writing. The white water rafting experience has twenty-three rapid count ranging from levels I to IV, the ceiling of most manageable whitewater rapids.
After the devastation of tropical storm Sendong, the focus is now on rebuilding, accountability of public officials, and environmental awareness. In a joint project between the Ateneo Innovation Center and the CDO city government, a temporary resettlement site located in Lumbia is being designed as a cost-effective and disaster-responsive community - with clean water system, solar powering, rain catchment & wastewater management system, plus composting and solid waste management.
Another initiative further boosting the rebuilding’s media exposure is the involvement of Black Eyed Peas’ member apl.de.ap (Allan Pineda, in real life). When he visited the city immediately after the December flood, he recognized that rebuilding the Balulang Elementary School was imperative. Leading the groundbreaking for the construction of a two-story building, he delivered the message that the disaster should not prevent the students from fulfilling their dreams of becoming professionals one day. This project is funded under the “We Can Be Anything” education campaign in coordination with the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF).
With these rebuilding efforts, let us continue to contribute and hope that soon Cagayan de Oro will be remembered not for the devastation, but once again for its golden treasures - the natural beauty, the peaceful environment and the friendly people.
* This article was written for the March 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.