Several hours to go before it’s time for me to board the ferry for Cebu. I took an afternoon bus trip from Pagadian City to Ozamiz and now I’m in a cafe anchored in one of the new hotels in the city. Sipping on ice-blended choco drink, I made a quick plan on what to do and where to go around in the largest city of Misamis Occidental.
Ozamiz City is said to be a historical, cultural and pilgrimage destination in Mindanao. The Gem of Panguil Bay, it is the gateway to the northwestern part of the southern major island. The city is blessed with a good harbor. Its port caters to passenger ferries, cargo ships and barges on the busy Mukas-Ozamiz route.
What is there to see in Ozamiz City?
There is a handful of interesting spots to visit in Ozamiz. For a quick tour of the city, I recommend the following:
1. The Immaculate Conception Cathedral
2. Heroes’ Park
3. El Fuerte de la Concepcion y del Triunfo
4. Virgen de la Cotta
5. Cotta Beach
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral
I walked from the café at Parojinog Street to JP Rizal Avenue to drop by the cathedral. I have been to Ozamiz several times and I always visit the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
A modern church structure yet remarkable for its repeated interior arches and colorful walls. Interestingly in its choir loft is one of the largest pipe organs in the country.
Story has it that the pipe organ was bought through the efforts of an Irish-Colombian priest and the people of Ozamiz. The pipe organ was made in Germany and was completely installed in 1967.
I was not able to take photos of the pipe organ because a Sunday mass was currently held. Photos from the wires show how massive the pipe organ was. Colored in silver, the organ has a total of 1,936 pipes.
A few blocks down JP Rizal Avenue towards the Port of Ozamiz City is a corner park. A small white obelisk on top of a square base is visible contrast to the green patches of the park.
Memorial for the Heroes
A small metal arch above the gates read HEROES PARK. I entered the park and walked towards the obelisk. The place is quiet, except for a group of kids at the side, singing some local children’s song in front of members of a socio-civic group.
A dedication was inscribed in the obelisk. It is a memorial for all those who died in defense of the country. It is dedicated to those who died in battle, in prison, in sickness and those who died in exhaustion and torture for the supreme test of patriotism.
This 18th century fort may be the oldest visible structure in Ozamiz that is reminiscent of the Spanish colonial times. This fort is near the shores fronting Panguil Bay and was built for the primary purpose of repelling Moro attacks and also to provide shelter and protection to the Spanish fleet.
Entrance to the Fort
The fort is called by so many names. It was called Fort Santiago, the Triunfo, the Cotta of Misamis. An old marker near the ramp bears the complete name of the fort that was built in 1756: El Fuerte de Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion del Triunfo.
The only entrance to the fort is a gate at the north side. Details of the gate have similarities to the gate of Manila’s Fort Santiago except that it has no moat or bridge to cross. Entrance fee is Php 10. Inside the fort is a museum, an old arsenal, a ramp leading to the lighthouse and to the 4 bulwarks, an old tree and an art installation of a horse made of driftwood.
Birhen sa Cotta
Ozamiz is a pilgrim destination because of Birhen sa Cotta (Blessed Virgin of Cotta / Virgin of the Fort / Virgin of Triumph). An image carved into the west wall of El Fuerte was of the Blessed Virgin copied from the image of Nuestra Senora de la Inmaculada Concepcion y del Triunfo de la Cruz de Migpangi.
Birhen sa Cotta in front of the cathedral
Pilgrim Park with the Bas Relief of Birhen sa Cotta
Birhen sa Cotta
Praying thru Birhen sa Cotta
The miraculous image though is not the bas relief at the fort but the one which was lost in the 1970s at the height of Martial Law. The image was stolen and eventually ended up in an auction, then finally in the hands of an antique dealer, JV Esposa. When a TV show featured an exhibit of antique items, people of Ozamiz noticed the image was their stolen Birhen sa Cotta. The image which is more than 220 yrs old, was finally returned to Ozamiz in December of 2017 in time for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Blessed Virgin of Cotta is now placed at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
South of El Fuerte is the shoreline of Ozamiz fronting Panguil Bay. The shoreline connects with Ozamiz port at one end. A bay walk runs parallel to the shore. The area between the baywalk and the fort was developed into a plaza for people to visit after work, or just to spend the time away. A view of Panguil Bay and the mountains of Lanao del Norte is amazing.
A view of Cotta Beach and Panguil Bay
Staring at Panguil Bay at sundown is one of the few things I did before I went on to the Port of Ozamiz for my ferry trip back to Cebu.