People can be forgiven if they tend to pass off the town of Jimenez as another nondescript Misamis Occidental municipality on their way either to the cities of Oroquieta, the provincial capital or Ozamiz, the financial hub. Come to think of it, vans and buses just pass this town and sometimes, make a brief stopover at the terminal. And there’s really nothing much to see.
But for those in the know, Jimenez is a gem, unpolished, waiting for its time to shine. And for heritage advocates, this town is one of the beautiful places in Mindanao. Just consider this, it’s church, the San Juan Bautista, built in the 1880s, is the best preserved Spanish colonial era church in Mindanao and is a declared National Cultural Treasure (2001). The first time I visited this place was to photograph the church for a coffee table book, Philippine Church Facades.
Around the church are interesting heritage houses and structures, an art deco high school, unfortunately in ruins and have been abandoned. The cemetery, is the only one I have found in Mindanao that still has its colonial stone fence and pillars of the entrance arch. Inside, probably the biggest balete (banyan) tree in the south.
A walk around the old town center is pleasant as one is greeted by elegant heritage houses at both sides of the road. There’s the Bacarro printing house, three storeys and one of the biggest in the town, will make any ancestral house enthusiast salivate. The Sen. Jose Ozamiz residence, a beautiful heritage house stands regal, adorned with beautiful wrought iron ventanilla grills. And there are more pleasant surprises in terms of heritage architecture.
Farther off, there’s a mystical tree near the river that many locals attest is enchanted. But I’m not superstitious. After going around town, a hot bowl of lomi or pieces of shanghai lumpia for snacks at Shanghai Noodle House is the best way to cap a tour.
GETTING THERE: Vans and buses from Ozamiz, Dipolog and Oroquieta pass by the town. To reach the church, hire a tricycle from the bus terminal.