Fond memories of the feast of St. Augustine

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, August 23, 2014

EVERY town and city in the Philippines has a fiesta of its own. In Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanao, it falls on Aug. 28. On that date, Cagayan de Oro marks the feast day of St. Augustine after the Recoletos made it the city’s patron saint in 1674.

Fiestas always bring out the best in us and depending on the local government unit, the celebration always improves every year. As I was writing this piece, it dawned on me that I’m not the only one who’s grown nostalgic about the Cagayan de Oro fiesta.

From all across the world, there are Kagay-anons who also reminisce about the city’s fiesta celebration.


From Gwendolyn “Wendy” Ramos-Garcia, the daughter of lawyer, former Cagayan de Oro City Press Club president and city councilor Pureza Ramos, the Cagayan de Oro fiesta reminded her of the time when she would always get a new dress for the occasion.

The Cagayan de Oro fiesta reminded her of the time when she would always get a new dress for the occasion. Wendy, who’s based in Union City, California and very much active at Kagay-anon International, also said she “looks forward to the procession in honor of St. Augustine.” “And best of all, the delicious fiesta fare at the house of Tito Angel and Tita Dory Chaves,” she said.

A former president of the Cagayanons of Northern California, her husband Peter is now on his third term as its president.

Florida-based Susan Cepeda-Burkhard (who of course would forget the Cepeda Studio?) said she always remembers the “abundance of delicious native food such as lechon and many more” as something she always looks forward to. Burkhard said she misses the colorful parade and the family gatherings and hanging out with friends. The last Cagayan de Oro City fiesta she attended was 23 years ago.

Marilyn Rago-Mabillin, now based in Pinole, California, recounts the time she was a choir member of the St. Augustine Cathedral since 11 years old. “The appearance of Archbishop Hayes in public by celebrating the high Mass was so heavenly and the presence of most (if not all) priests from all parts of the archdiocese coming to say Mass with him was so hair raising and this does not count the seminarians sitting in the front rows. And some of them joined us in the choir. Young as I was, I already had crushes and one of them was a seminarian,” she said.

Sandra Badon-Alm, formerly of the Cagayan de Oro City Information Office has this to say: “I missed my involvement in city fiesta activities, merry-making and praising God for all the blessings He gave the city for the entire year.” Sandra, (Sandy to friends) now resides with husband Jack and her family in Long Island, New York.

Miguela Saldua-Grant who worked at the Musni and Arcol Law Office before coming here in Charlotte, North Carolina, also shared that she looked forward to the parades, beauty pageants and other activities. “Medyo taud-taud na pong wala nako kauli ug wala nako ka witness sa latest (It’s been sometime since I went home and I haven’t witnessed the latest) events,” she said. Miguela, who’s very active in church activities here at St. Matthews is also reminded of the high Mass.

She said even if the St. Augustine Cathedral is full, she manages to always get inside.

Senny Macas-Trippe of Washington State, who used to work at the St. Augustine Cathedral, also said she always remembers the Cagayan de Oro City fiesta as the time for honoring the city’s patron saint. “The story I was told as a kid was how St. Augustine guarded the city along Cagayan de Oro river from its enemies. It is a time where all people (in different religion) unite for a day,” she said.

For me, I always look forward to the Cagayan de Oro City fiesta back when I was a little girl of the neighboring Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental, northern Mindanao. I used to count the days leading to the fiesta because it would mean I could ride on the jeepneys with my father as driver.

My father was the driver of Iyo Tilo Emano and I would be on the front seat in my Sunday’s best with my Nanay (mother). Then Nanay would go to Cogon market and purchase some clothes at Ludeñas while I watch the parade with lollipop in hand. I can remember watching movies either at Lyric Theater afterwards or at Nation theater in another year. Cagayan de Oro City changed overnight when I began work in the local media and I remembered reporting all the month-long city fiesta activities in my radio and TV program.

Most of the fiesta activities back then would be held at the Amphitheater or would start there like the civic-military parade, drum and bugle corps which added color to the celebration. It is nice to see the students clad in their uniforms joining the parade, but I think some of them don’t’ like it because it’s usually warm even if they don’t openly complain about it.

The passage of time changed the way I look at fiesta celebrations now and it made me realize that it is the spiritual aspect that’s more important though you can always balance both the spiritual and secular celebrations. I’ve been attending the nine days novena Mass no matter busy I got and I also attend the Holy Mass during the fiesta when all bishops and priests in the diocese act as the main celebrant.

Marilyn Mabillin says even the priests outside Cagayan de Oro take time to join with the faithful in celebrating the feast of St. Augustine because on that day, there is plenty of food for people to partake at the convent. I really miss the feast of St. Augustine, so, on behalf of Kagay-anons who now live abroad, I greet the residents of Cagayan de Oro a Happy Fiesta.

Viva San Agustin!


(Susan Palmes-Dennis is a veteran journalist from Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, northern Mindanao in the Philippines who is now based in Charlotte, North Carolina.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 24, 2014.


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