I’ve been in and out of Ozamiz for quite a number of years but it was more of either in transit to Tangub City, where we used to have a farm lot and where my father is from, or either going to Dipolog or Pagadian. Or cross Panguil Bay to or from Kolambugan in Lanao del Norte and I am always amazed at the view of the Malindang Range with Bucagan Hill near the coast during the approach to Ozamiz.
Of course, I’ve been to the Cotta, and sometimes pass by one or two old houses en route to the bus terminal or airport but it was only last year when I decided to go around the city and explore the side streets. Ozamiz City is not that big and most of the time, I take the pedicabs, the traysikads. It’s a great way to explore the tightly packed city center and eco friendly too, if you don’t want to walk.
The Fuerza de la Nuestra Señora de La Concepción y Triunfo, popularly known as the Cotta was first constructed in the 18th century as a means to prevent the Iranuns and Maguindanaos from crossing Panguil Bay in their slave raiding activities. During World War II, it was used by the Japanese and today, its now a park with a small museum. Lazy afternoons at the bastions are usually populated by lovers.
At one of the walls is the Cotta Shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the same title with devotees coming here to offer prayers and light candles. The setup is similar to Fort Pilar in Zamboanga City but smaller.
Ozamiz City boasts as having the biggest pipe organ in Mindanao found at its modern cathedral. Although I find the exterior uninspired, stepping inside is a different matter with the play of light and shadows making it a beautiful interior. The pipe organ is at the choir loft just above the main entrance.
After visiting both, I have to say that, well, that’s all. Why not have halo-halo at the former North Pole? Or some spaghetti burger at some sidestreet? But I still wanted to explore and having remembered some old houses, I hailed a traysikad and told the driver that I’m interested to see these.
There’s not much, actually. For Spanish colonial era structures, there’s only two: the Cotta and the massive Rodruiguez House which is a good example of a bahay-na-bato, not common in Mindanao. The first level is built of cut coral stones while the second level of wood. It’s kind of unusual that the haligis, main posts that support the entire house and usually made from whole trees are outside the first level. The structure has sliding windows with translucent capiz shells and ventanillas below it.
There is another heritage structure, the white Angbetic House with its beautiful carved transom ventilation and intricately carved arches along the house’s volada (second level) which might have been built within the first three decades of the 20th century. Other houses are in the streamline moderne style then those built starting in the 50s till the 70s.
After exploring, I had my caffeine fix at The Coffee Lounge.
GETTING THERE: Ozamiz City is the economic and financial hub of the province of Misamis Occidental. It is reached by flights from Manila and Cebu, passenger boats from Iligan and Cebu and is connected to major cities in Northern and Western Mindanao with bus trips from the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Pagadian, and Dipolog.