Cagayan de Oro: The City of Golden Friendship

By: Fernando Fajardo - Columnist/CDN Digital | March 04,2020 - 07:00 AM

I am still in Cagayan de Oro City (CDO) today. Known as the City of Golden Friendship, CDO is the capital city of Misamis Oriental and the regional center of Northern Mindanao. Coming here again is very nostalgic for me because it was here where I spent the first 11 years of my 20 years of service to our government.

I have been to many cities in the six regions in Mindanao. The most recent before now here in Cagayan de Oro City was to Davao City and General Santos City last year that also allowed me to see Digos City while passing by.

The year before last year, I visited the cities of Tagum City and Mati City in Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental, Valencia City and Malaybalay City in Bukidnon, and Iligan City and Marawi City in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.

Not long ago, I was also in Ozamiz City and Oroquieta City in Misamis Occidental, Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur, and Dipolog City and Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte. Before I left Mindanao for my new assignment in Cebu, I have also been to Cotabato City, Zamboanga City, and Basilan Island and crisscrossed more than a couple of times the whole length of the two Agusan provinces and two Surigao provinces where I became familiar with the Surigao City and Butuan City.

Most progressive city in Mindanao

Through the observations I made in my travels to these places and the economic statistics that I gathered as an economic development-planning practitioner, I concede that Davao City is the most prosperous and progressive city in Mindanao, but the City of Cagayan is not far from being in second place. 

Region XI or Davao Region where Davao City is the regional capital has the fifth largest nominal gross regional domestic product (4.7 percent) among the 17 regions in the country after the National Capital Region (37.5 percent), Calabarzon (14.8 percent), Central Luzon (9.3 percent), and Central Visayas (6.6 percent). Region X or Northern Mindanao where Cagayan de Oro is the regional capital has the seventh largest GRDP (4.0 percent), after Western Visayas on sixth place (4.2 percent) where Iloilo City is the regional capital.

Cagayan de Oro was not like this when I first came to this city in 1974 to take up my post as Professional Economist in the 10th regional office of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA Region X). Then, it was either Butuan City, Cotabato City, or Zamboanga City that competed with each other to be the second most progressive city in Mindanao after Davao City. 

What was known as the City of Golden Friendship at that time was just a small urban center that clustered on both sides of the river that bisects the city into half. At that time, Cagayan de Oro city’s two-lane bridge, which connects both sides of the city, and the Carmen and Cogon Markets located on each side of the river were the main landmarks.

Cagayan de Oro’s take-off

Cagayan de Oro city’s take-off happened during the Mindanao uprising and imposition of Martial Law when the Carmen Bridge that linked the province of Bukidnon to Cotabato City and Davao City was destroyed because of the uprising. The destruction of the bridge meant that all that Bukidnon produced in surplus in crops, livestock, and forestry products had no way out but to Cagayan de Oro City. That also came with all its provincial imports. Everything has to pass through Cagayan de Oro City.

Of course, the city benefited greatly from the program of government of Marcos to counter the secessionist movement. Along with Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City was chosen as one of the four cities to be covered under the Regional Cities Development Program of the government. The other two were Iloilo City and Bacolod City. The project improved the city’s local infrastructure and service facilities.

Integrated Reorganization Plan

But the biggest thing that benefited Cagayan de Oro City a lot and transformed it into a bustling city today came with the decision of the national government to implement the Integrated Reorganization Plan (IRP) of the Executive Branch of the national government through PD No. 1. With it was the delineation of the country into 11 regions, including Metro Manila, to serve not only as administrative but also as planning regions for development purposes starting with the identified regional capital in each region.

As the identified regional capital for Northern Mindanao and showcase to demonstrate the concern of the government to develop Mindanao in response to the Muslim secessionist movement, numerous large infrastructure projects were poured in Cagayan de Oro City.

Biggest, ambitious projects

The biggest of these projects was the concreting of the 260-kilometer Iligan-Butuan Road that radiates from Cagayan de Oro City to the two cities. The new road allowed Cagayan de Oro City to have its first taste of a 20-km. four-lane road, which traversed almost the whole length of the city from Puerto to Bulua.

The asphalting of Sayre Highway came next. This highway connects Cagayan de Oro with Malaybalay, the provincial capital of Bukidnon. Coming with the Sayre Highway was the construction of the modern Macajalar port, which replaced the city’s small wharf on the eastern side of the mouth of the Cagayan River.

But the most ambitious project ever placed near Cagayan de Oro in support of the development of Mindanao was the development of the 3,000-hectare industrial estate in nearby adjacent towns of Tagoloan and Villanueva. Named the Phividec Industrial Estate of Misamis Oriental (PIE-MO), the industrial estate housed the first major industrial foreign investment in the country from Japan, the Philippine Sinter Corporation. The plant processed coal imported from Australia, Brazil, and Canada into sintered ore for re-export to Japan. 

I could write more about the development of Cagayan de Oro and Mindanao, but this could wait in the future for lack of space now./dbs

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TAGS: Cagayan de Oro, Davao, friendship, golden, Mindanao

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