The Old World Charm of Ozamiz
By Jojie Alcantara
What can you possibly discover in some quiet, unassuming town devoid of tall buildings and flashy structures? What can lure you to spend time relaxing without haste in an almost obscure settlement far removed from noisy urban centers? A small town getaway is quite a delight in many ways —you never know what to encounter, more so with a city that adamantly corrects you each time you misspell its name. And yes, it is Ozamiz with a Z at the end.
Located in the Northern Mindanao region and the province of Misamis Occidental, Ozamiz City is a tourist destination that sets you back in time. Once an old Spanish settlement, its laidback charm is found in the streets where old houses of Spanish influence line up as postcard images in sepia tone.
The Cotta or Triunfo, otherwise called the Fuerte de Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion del Triunfo, is a 250-year-old imposing Spanish fortress at the bay area of Ozamiz, and a former Spanish garrison and outpost as well as headquarters of the Japanese army. Attractions inside the area include what Ozamiznons declare to be a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary, trenches dug by the Japanese soldiers, and a picturesque lighthouse built from pre-war years.
Another proof of its strong Catholic influence is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a beautifully preserved old structure that holds in its choir loft the biggest pipe organ in Mindanao. This organ was assembled and finished in 1967, and became one of the main attractions in the city.
Perhaps the most popular itinerary is to the municipality of Sinacaban, a good 30 minutes from the Ozamis pier, where an offshore man-made island becomes a habitat for marine mammals.
The Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park (MOAP), a 60-hectare territory owned by the provincial government of Misamis Occidental, houses a wide variety of species native to the Philippines in its marine wildlife holding and rehabilitation area, as well as amenities that combine coastal resource management and tourism like hotel accommodations, hatchery and aquaculture production, a mini-zoo, floating restaurants and function halls connected by bridges made of bamboo above the sea. Lush, healthy mangroves grow along the coastline, providing shade and privacy to suites and cottages that line the shore. Its restaurants offer the most delicious variety of fresh seafood dishes.
Dolphin Island is accessible by boat 10 minutes away. Upon reaching the facilities and a restaurant built on stilts, one can observe rescued dolphins and rehabilitated marine mammals swimming around their fenced sanctuary of deep blue waters. MOAP also offers aqua sports like kayaking, snorkelling and diving for the active visitors.
Other attractions in the city are the Heroes’ Park, Bukagan Hill which holds a tower of four giant bells, Naomi’s Botanical Gardens, and the Malindang Country Golf Course. Subayen Festival is celebrated every December which involves streetdancing in traditional garbs to celebrate ethnic rituals that form the Ozamiznons’ rich culture. Pension houses, inns to hotels vary in affordable accommodation types for the traveler.
Consider Ozamiz in your list of stress-free vacation stopovers. Visit www.ozamizcity.com. Daily PAL flights are available from Manila to Ozamiz.