Cagayan has always been pronounced by lumad Kagay-anons as Kagay-an. In fact, nobody says Kagayanon but Kagay-anon.
It is the historical original name of Cagayan de Oro, formerly known as Cagayan de Misamis. Even the original citizens of the capital town of the Segundo Partido de Misamis pronounced it Kagay-an, attesting to the timelessness of the name.
Historical documents prove Kagay-an was used to refer to Cagayan de Oro as early as 1571 (Fray San Francisco de San Antonio, 1738-1744 & de Loarca).
It is cited in the Olaging (chanted) epics of the Proto Northern Manobo (Cagayan de Oro’s proto people) describing Yumagmag Katiguman, wife of the hero’s elder brother Paumulaw as ‘Queen of Kagay-an, Queen of Lambagohon’ (Opeña, 1979).
Kagay has its origins in the Filipino word for river, and ostensibly refers to the riverine origin of the city. It is a word recognizable in most places in the Philippines as river (or something close or similar to it like the Northern Cordillera kagayan, the Ilokano karayan, or the Kapampangan kayayan).
According to some friends who are members of the Ancient Baybayin Scripts Network (a Yahoo Groups Forum) Dr. Lawrence A. Reid, researcher emeritus of the University of Hawaii’s Department of Linguistics and Richard Elkins, ethnic linguist on the Manobo and Tasaday, agree that Cagayan comes from the ancient word for “river.” Some sources say that the original word for river is kagay, which, when combined with -an (place) became kagay-an (river place).
You can read more about it at http://cagayandeoro.elizaga.net/Appendix/meaning-of-cagayan.html
Regardless of its origins, it has in fact evolved in time into Kagay-an, with a dash, or what is more technically known as a glottal stop. Mr. Elkins explains a glottal stop IS NOT a hypen.
The glottal stop simply indicates the phonetic spelling of the word. You put a glottal stop when people pronounce it with a glottal stop. That’s why Kagay-an should be spelled with a glottal stop and a K instead of Cagayan, to differentiate it from Cagayan de Sulu or Cagayan Valley in the North.
Kagay-an is the one easily recognizable word Kagay-anons all over the world, all over the country, and anywhere in the city can recognize, so from the name alone, any Kagay-anon worth his salt can easily tell it refers to Cagayan de Oro.
Thus, the name Kagay-an facilitate easy name recall not only to Kagay-anons everywhere around the globe but to other Filipinos as well, without sacrificing its uniqueness as exclusively referring to Cagayan de Oro and not to other places with similar sounding names.
A footnote on the name Cagayan de Oro before we end. This is often credited to the late Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez since he filed House Bill which was eventually signed into law as Republic Act No. 521 which President Elpidio Quirino signed into law on June 15, 1950 creating the City of Cagayan de Oro.
However, without taking anything from the late statesman’s substantial contribution to the creation of the city, the name Cagayan de Oro actually antedates the city charter as proven by the existence of the Cagayan de Oro Hotel owned by the Bautista-Avaceña family a 1939 photo of which is found in the book of Filomeno Bautista Sr. “Glimpses of Mindanao.”
Local historian Antonio J. Montalvan II also cites documents in the Archivo de la Unibersidad de Santo Tomas (AUST) where students from then Cagayan de Misamis enrolled in the Ateneo de Manila and the UST from 1890s listed their place of origin as “Cagayan de Oro.
“So there already was a tradition for such name,” Montalvan notes.
Not the least, not many Kagay-anons today are aware that while R.A. 521 was signed into law under the watch of then Misamis Congressman Maning Pelaez, he was actually following up on an earlier bill for the creation of “Cagayan de Oro” filed by the late Misamis Congressman Pedro Sa. Baculio of present day El Salvador City.