If the old trees of Plaza Divisoria could talk, they would be busy regaling the crowds with tales of its storied past, and how it often played a major role in the city’s local history.
Plaza Divisoria was constructed in 1901 by Tirso Neri y Roa, a rich merchant who was then municipal mayor of Cagayan de Misamis, the old name of the city. Much of the site used for the plaza was donated by Neri to the town.
“The purpose of this plaza was to serve as a divider for the town. Divisoria is a Spanish word which means divider," said Antonio J. Montalvan II, Ph.D., a Kagay-anon columnist, social anthropologist, university professor and heritage activist.
“At that time, Cagayan de Misamis, as the town was then called, was continuously razed by big fires. So, in order to contain such kinds of conflagrations, Tirso Neri built this fire break known as Plaza Divisoria."
However, due to its central location, Plaza Divisoria soon became the socio-political and cultural center of Cagayan de Misamis.
On September 10, 1916 it was the scene of a big parade celebrating the passage of the Jones Law, which granted a bicameral congress to the Philippine Commonwealth.
On June 19, 1917, the patriot Porfirio Chaves and his wife Fausta Vamenta turned over one of the earliest monuments in the country of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal which still graces the center of the plaza.
To the east is the old monument to the Heroes de Cagayan, where the bones of local revolutionaries who died in the Battle of Agusan Hill on May 14, 1900 were once interred.
At the center of the old plaza used to be a structure known to all Kagay-anons as the Kiosko (and earlier, the Tribuna).
8In the 1950s, people gathered here for important social and cultural occasions, such as the annual celebration of National Heroes Day. By the 1960s, people were regularly gathering in the area which is now occupied by the Cagayan de Oro Tourist Assistance Center to discuss the burning issues of the day.
This group of residents became what is now known to old-timers as The Plazans and included many of Cagayan de Oro's finest like Councilor Pio Roa, Yo Amon Fuentes, Dr. Jose Montalvan, Jesus Roa, Anastacio Gabor, Ramon Echem, former Governor Paciencio Ysalina, Aquilino Pimentel, Sr., Tawag ng Tanghalan National Champions Tata Neri and Rizal “Boy” Ortega, the late police chief Melo Esguerra, Carlos Yamut, and former PH Ambassador to the US Raul Ch. Rabe, to mention a few.
For some time , the Kiosko was replaced by the Bandstand built by City Mayor Justiniano “Tiñing” Borja in the 60s, who also restored the central significance of Plaza Divisoria by building another structure, known to Kagay-anons as the Ampi (for amphitheater).
“All Philippine presidents who came to town, addressed the people of Cagayan de Oro in Plaza Divisoria,” Montalvan recalls. “So in a sense, this is the Plaza Miranda of Cagayan de Oro.”
Borja’s Bandstand has in turn been replaced by the “Kiosko Kagawasan”, built by the past administration of Mayor Vicente Y. Emano. It recalls the architecture of the original Kiosko sans the skylight and the two lions which remain missing to this day.
During the last term of the past administration, the Plaza underwent a major facelift. Besides the band stand’s replacement with the new Kiosko, the “ampi” has also undergone a similar renovation, which thankfully left it in better shape than it was before.
But even that “new ampi” was later demolished to give way to a new one is now being constructed and should be ready by 2022.
“Perhaps a better way of regarding Divisoria and its future is in order now,” Montalvan said. “We now have a national law in place, RA 10066, the National Cultural Heritage Law. Government is now capable of declaring sites and landmarks so that these can be protected. There is one classification there called the Heritage Zone that I think is the most appropriate way of ensuring the future of Divisoria. Soon we shall pass from this world. But what assurance do we leave behind?”
Residents and visitors remain hopeful that, in time, these transient problems are resolved and that Plaza Divisoria with its fruit stands, monuments, benches and trees would be there for the next hundred years or so for their afternoon paseos, paradas and procesiones to mark important and historic occasions in this city’s history.
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