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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Velez kin restores patriot’s monument at MOGCHS

Recognizes the forgotten master sculptor from Jasaan

Every day is always a good occasion to recall one of Cagayan de Oro’s greatest patriots, leader and philanthropist, who despite his remarkable deeds during his lifetime, remains relatively unknown to the new generation of Kagay-anons, who are only familiar with the eponymously named thoroughfare dedicated to his honor.

Don Apolinar Velez y Ramos

Apolinar Velez y Ramos served four different governments during his 60-year career as public servant and leader: the Spanish Colonial government, the Philippine Revolutionary government, the American administration, and the Philippine Commonwealth.

He became a municipal secretary, councilor, vice mayor and mayor of Cagayan de Misamis (present day Cagayan de Oro). He also served as provincial board secretary, board member, and was twice elected governor of Misamis province (now divided into Misamis Oriental and Misamis Occidental).

On August 22, 2023, the heirs of Kagay-anon Patriot honored his legacy with the unveiling of the restored monument of their esteemed ancestor at the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School (MOGCHS) in Cagayan de Oro City, a school he helped found in 1909.

Msgr. Eutiquiano “Tex” M. Legitimas, PC, SSJV, Parish Priest of San Isidro Labrador Parish Church, in Barangay Gusa, lauded his legacy which has been sustained by his descendants.

“We thank you for giving us the Velezes of Cagayan de Oro, whose ancestral lineage has been part of the city’s historical past, fought for freedom during the colonial eras, and up to now they are still engaged in a classic battle. A battle against poverty, against hopelessness and many other things we have done against God’s will!”

The project arose a few months when the Velez kin with Ruby Corrales SantosJocelyn Velez and Gil Blas M. Velez entertained their relatives Noel Velez Tiano and his wife with a trip to the school but were aghast to find the monument in a state of disrepair. Right then and there they decided to mount a crowdfunding drive among her cousins to restore the monument.

The restoration was coordinated by Ruby Bebot Santos and Rosario Cielito Muñoz Maandig in coordination with MOGCHS Planning Officer Roldan Magsacay.

With the help of a skilled mason, carpenter and painter, the project was jointly undertaken on July 10-16, 2023 with the assistance of the  MOGCHS staff headed by Abdon R. Bacayana, PhD, Secondary School Principal IV, who contributed porcelain tiles for the base of the monument.

Heirs of Col. Apolinar Velez unveil his restored monument on Aug. 22, 2023 (RMB)

“I am proud to represent my family in welcoming all of you to this moment of remembrance in honor of our Great Grandfather, the Hero of the Battle of Macahambus, Founder of the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School-formerly the Misamis Provincial High School, and the first governor of the Province of Misamis, Don Apolinar Velez y Ramos,” said Ms. Santos in her welcome remarks as chair of the restoration project.

The Velez clan present was headed by the three grandchildren of Col. Velez: Maristela J. Banaag, Lourdes Velez Jongko-Quiblat, and Jocelyn Yap Velez. The blessing and unveiling of the restored monument was held on August 22, 2023 to accommodate the descendants of Col. Velez coming from overseas who would be in town for the Cagayan de Oro town fiesta.

Ms. Jongko-Quiblat recognized the following Velez family members through whose concerted effort the restoration of the monument was achieved: “From the 4th generation namely Noel V. Tiano, who’s recent visit here from the US of A proposed for the restoration and initiated by Ruby “Bebot” Corrales Santos, Tingting Muñoz Maandig, Marisol Muñoz Tan, and Manolito C. Muñoz. Special thanks also to my cousin from the 3rd generation  Jocelyn Y. Velez for sharing the records of Tatay being kept by her father Dr. Blas Ch. Velez, an alumnus of this institution (MOGCHS).”

Aside from the three direct descendants, the following kin of Gov.Velez also participated in the unveiling of the restored monument: Rafael C. Muñoz, Jaime C. Muñoz, Jr.; Sandra Wilson-Sales, Manuel Corrales, Ruby Corrales Santos, Maria Rosetti-Velez-Izaki; Stephen J. Banaag, and Rosario Cielito M. Maandig.

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Rolando “Klarex” Uy was represented by Councilor Suzette Magtajas-Daba, chairperson of the City Council Committee on Education. Coincidentally, it was also during the term of her late father, former Mayor Pablo “Ambing” Magtajas, that the monument was originally unveiled on March 21, 1981.

Another highlight of the program was the presentation of a plaque of recognition to the surviving kin of Ramon Icayan Cabello, the forgotten sculptor from Jasaan, Misamis Oriental, who sculpted the hero’s statue, who has all but faded into oblivion despite the continued presence of his sculptures in the public spaces of his hometown, as well as in Cagayan de Oro City.

“We thank the sculptor (the late RAMON ICAYAN CABELLO) whose passion for his craft put this up beautifully,” Ms. Jongko-Quiblat noted. “Represented here by his daughters, Mrs. Angela Cabello Baldovino and Mrs. Bing Cabello Mendoza, son, Engineer Cayetano A. Cabello, and nephew, Mr. Jason Abellanosa.

MOGCHS Principal Bacayana lauded Gov. Velez’s legacy to the education of countless generations of Misamisnons.

“Your generosity is like a beacon of hope to all our school children. It has touched our hearts. Thank you for being a champion for our cause. You made a profound  impact bringing light into the lives of many students, creating positive change, thank you so much for our thoughtfulness and for the love!”

In response, Ms. Jongko-Quiblat thanked the MOGCHS and the Alumni Association of 1981 in behalf of the Velez clan for their enthusiasm and support in facilitating the setting up and restoration of the monument.

“This monument, the only one in all of the Misamis Provinces and Cagayan de Oro, honors a man that has dedicated his life and much of his wealth for the people of this place and you have allowed it to stand proud in your campus for 42-years! Thank you MOGCHS!”

“Not the least, our sincere appreciation to the MOGCHS Alumni Association of 1981 headed by its President, Mr. Virgilio Velez Neri, for their generosity in causing the creation of this monument and donating the same to the school in honor of its founder.”

Origin of the Monument

The monument was originally conceived by the MOGCHS Alumni headed by Virgilio V. Neri for the 72nd Foundation Anniversary and General Alumni Homecoming (1922-1980) of the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School (formerly known as the Escuela Provincial, and later as the Misamis Oriental High School).

As explained by Mr. Neri during the March 21, 1981 turnover of the monument to MOGCHS, it was explicitly created to honor Don Apolinar Velez Y Ramos who founded it in 1909 during his tenure as the Provincial Governor of Misamis (now divided into Misamis Oriental and Occidental).

“On this occasion of our homecoming, we also singularly honor the man whose love and devotion to his community and fellowman must always be remembered and emulated. I am referring to no other than the late Governor Apolinar Velez . It was Governor Velez whose unselfish love for the moral, physical, social, and spiritual development of our youth who donated the land and building where our school presently stands. To Governor Velez and his family, we owe an immeasurable and eternal debt of gratitude,” Mr. Neri said in his dedication.

“It was Don Apolinar Velez, who in mobilizing the whole province (Misamis Province in 1906-1931) into action, fervently preached the gospel of self-reliance and hard work, who told our people then that only by the sweat of their brow would their dream of a high school for their children become a reality,” stressed former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor and later Assemblyman Reuben R. Canoy.

“For the admirable qualities of Don Apolinar Velez-his shining integrity, his devotion to duty, and his spirit of sacrifice – qualities which were also the hallmark of his administration- have become the proud badge of services worn by former students of Misamis Oriental High School,” he added.

Then MOGCHS Principal Francisco commissioned Cabello to do the statue of Col. Velez which was originally colored white as related by his daughter Eusebia, due to the white cement he used to finish the statue. However, extant pictures of the unveiling show the statue was later painted in gold/bronze.

Aside from Messrs. Canoy and Galarrita, the unveiling was also graced by relatives of the late former governor and local dignitaries, led by Mrs. Lourdes Velez-Corrales, daughter of the late Gov.Velez, then Misamis Oriental Gov. Homobono Adaza, Dir. Leo Y. Mabulay, Asst. Dir. Frank  Rebosura, MEC Asst. Dir. Francisco B. Concillo, Division Supt. German A. Guazon, Atty. Macrobio Chavez, Atty. Angel Quimpo, and Engr. Plutarco Velez. 

The monument was then blessed by Rev. Fr. Marcelo Tubac, OFC after which the late Dr. Vicente Jose Velez, grandson of Gov.Velez, gave a response on behalf of the Velez clan.

This was followed by the formal turnover of the monument to MOGCHS by Mr. Neri to MOGCHS Principal Francisco C. Galarrita.

Remembering Señor Cayong

Señor Cayong, as he was fondly known, was born on July 23, 1865, in Cagayan de Misamis to Blas Velez and Saturnina Ramos.

He was educated at Fra. R. Zueco’s private school of Attorney Leoncio Roa, and S. Jis de Ortega’s college. In 1884, he was a clerk in the office of the Court of First Instance of Misamis. From 1886 to 1891, he held the positions of oficial de mesa, interpreter, and defensor de presos pobres.

During his term as Misamis Provincial Governor, he founded the Misamis High School of Arts and Trades, which survives to this day as the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School, and Mambajao Industrial High School in Camiguin.

Señor Cayong the Patriot served with distinction in four major battles during the Spanish-American periods.

1 Commemorative Marker

On October 14, 1887 he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Ejército de Tierra (Spanish Army) and decorated with the Cruz Roja de Merito Militar  (Awarded to people who, with courage, carried out effective actions, deeds or services in the course of an armed conflict or military operations that imply or may imply the use of armed force, and that entail significant military or command skills) and Cruz de Merito Civil, which recognizes “the civic virtue of officers in the service of the Nation, as well as extraordinary service by Spanish and foreign citizens for the benefit of Spain.

On August, 1896 he was again decorated by the Spanish Government with the Red Cross of Silver, Military Merit (Orden de Merito Militar/Cruz de plata con esmalte rojo) and Campaña de Mindanao Medal (Mindanao Campaign) for his key role in leading the Tercio de Voluntarios de Cagayan against the mutinous Disciplinarios of Calaganan, present day Iligan.

In 1898, he was made chief of the division of justice of the provincial council of the Revolutionary Government; two years later, he was promoted to the rank of major of the revolutionary army and chief of El Mindanao Battalon.

On April 7, 1900, he joined the battle to recapture Cagayan from the American Forces. Unfortunately, superior American firepower repulsed the Filipinos with great loss of life.

But Major Velez was to have his revenge.

On June 4, 1900, Señor Cayong led the El Mindanao Battalon to victory in the Battle of Makahambus, the only victory by Filipino patriots over American troops in Mindanao during the Philippine-American war.

But the greatest contribution of Apolinar Velez to the future of Cagayan de Oro would probably be his donation of 32 hectares of his property in Patag as the cadre training site for the Citizens Army of the Philippine Commonwealth.

This is the site of the present day Camp Edilberto Evangelista, headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division. The military presence in the city is credited with keeping Cagayan de Oro the most peaceful city in Mindanao, which has been a great factor in its growth and progress as one of the fastest growing cities in Mindanao. The 4th ID delegation to the event was led by Col. Ted B. Dumosmog, Assistant Division Commander for Reservist and Retiree Affairs (ADC RRA), Maj. Emmanuel C. Dalman, and Capt. Bacarrisas.

2 Commemorative Marker

There have been numerous initiatives to properly recognize this great Kagay-anon patriot and philanthropist by promoting the numerous petitions to rename Camp Evangelista to Fort Apolinar Velez, but these have all so far resulted only with the naming of one of Cagayan de Oro’s busiest thoroughfares as Apolinar Velez Street.

As he blessed the restored monument, Msgr. Legitimas acknowledged Señor Cayong’s legacy in prayer:

“Lord hear our prayers for your son, Don Apolinar Velez y Ramos who labored so generously: as a hero of the battle of Macahambus, founder of the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School, and former Governor of Misamis. May he be the more worthy to share the rewards of your kingdom. Be merciful to him as he was faithful to you in this life. Reward him with life forever in your presence and may he be counted among your Saints forever. We ask all these in union with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Generous to his family and the community. An honorable public servant. A noted defender of the poor, a fearless soldier, and a hero. Don Apolinar Velez y Ramos.


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