Traveling around Mindanao has become my current guilty pleasure. I like giving it a chance, challenging myself, and proving to everyone who raises an eyebrow every time I plan a trip to the ‘dangerous’ side of the Philippines that it is actually a safe place.
Recently, I set foot in Ozamiz City, one of the many places like Zamboanga City that most Filipinos and expats alike veer away from just because it is situated in Mindanao. The city doesn’t have much of an online presence, hence I got no information about it on my pre-travel research. So I allowed the city to surprise me with its unknown grandeur.
Ozamiz is a small city located in Misamis Occidental surrounded by the Mindanao Sea on the north, Iligan Bay and Panguil Bay on the east, and Zamboanga del Sur on the south.
“We might be in Mindanao but you can walk here even at 2 o’clock in the morning, and I guarantee you, no one will harm you,” Department of Tourism (DOT) 10 Regional Director Catalina Chan III assures.
“The people here know each other. The place is very small but modern. You might not even court a girl right away because she may be your relative,” he laughs.
Related story: Zamboanga Hotspots: Where to go in Asia’s Latin City
Cost of living
The average cost of living in Ozamiz is quite impressive in its affordability. For instance, a stick of grilled barbecue is only PHP 2, three-roll bite sized rice is only PHP 5, and a cup of coffee in an elusive hotel is only PHP 80. The most common mode of public transportation to go around the city is a tricycle, with any trip ranging from PHP 5 to 20, depending on the distance. The estimated cost of tuition fees in universities like La Salle University (LSU) Ozamiz, formerly known as Immaculate Conception College-La Salle, is only PHP 15,000, maximum. Weekdays in Ozamiz could get jam-packed as most students from the neighboring provinces opt to study in Ozamiz, no matter the distance.
Meanwhile, restaurants, shops, malls, and establishments open at around 8 AM and close at 8 PM. Banks and ATMs shouldn’t be a problem here as every corner of the city is literally dotted around with it.
Sites in the City
Ozamiz surprisingly offers a city tour that includes, but is not limited to, destinations like Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish and its gorgeous pipe organ, Bukagan Hill, Regina Swimming Pool, Cotta Shrine, and Rodriguez Heritage House.
Upon entering the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral Parish, one would feel at ease in an instant with its stained glass windows that cast shades of blue and pink on the altar. The cathedral is also home to the second largest pipe organ in the country and the only one of its kind in Mindanao, whose music adds drama to its already heavenly vibe.
Meanwhile, the equally compelling beauty of the road en route to Bukagan Hill is something to look forward to when in Ozamiz. Upon reaching the hill, a four-concrete bell tower installation will welcome you with each bell named after saints, namely St. Peter, St. Marien, St. Joseph, and St. Michael. Interestingly, its chimes are loud enough to be heard across Panguil Bay up to its neighboring province, Lanao del Norte.
Regina Swimming Pool serves as the home break of the Ozamiznons for a refreshing dip. After all, who wouldn’t want to dive into a natural swimming pool fresh from the spring of Calusaran Barrion Bagakay? After the fun dip, munch into some plate-sized cassava chips topped with chocolate syrup to complete the fun!
Its Cotta Shrine, on the other hand, is also one of the prime destinations and is possibly the oldest structure in Ozamiz. Formally named Fuerte de la Concepcion y del Triunfo, the shrine is home to what is said to be a miraculous Vigen sa Cotta or the Immaculate Concepion. Nearby the shrine is a museum and a plaza where locals gather and munch on some affordable meals.
Another point of interest to check out is the Rodriguez Heritage House where our National Hero Jose Rizal once lived.
Taste of Ozamiz
Johann’s Cuisine is the best and the fastest way to know Ozamiz’ culture just by indulging in its gustatory offerings like the native chicken, baked scallops, dragon fruit ice cream, and Laya, a fish found in Panguil Bay, among others.
A few kilometers away from Ozamiz City is Tangub City where the Hoyohoy Highland Adventure Park can be found. The adventure park boasts of its longest and highest zipline in the country, if not in Asia, with two stations established in 2011 to 2012. For only PHP 600, you will get to see the best of the city on its first station that’s 1.250m long and 500m high, and the second station that’s 1.100m long and 500m high completed with photographs and a certificate. Upon reaching the end point, you may opt to ride their four-wheel buggy ride with a seating capacity of three persons, guided horseback riding, or trekking.
Also inside the adventure park is the Highland Stone Chapel and Hotel, a viewing deck, and a restaurant where organic chicken can be devoured while enjoying the picturesque view of Tangub City.
Related story: Lake Sebu’s Seven Waterfalls Zipline
Related story: CHAP and Its Bike Zip in Bohol
Hoyohoy Highland Adventure Park is located at Hoyohoy, Tangub City, Misamis Occidental. For inquiries, visit www.facebook.com/hsch.hoyohoy or email hoyohoy.adventure @gmail.com.
Where to stay
Two of the best accommodations to stay in Ozamiz are Royal Garden Hotel and Adriana’s Pension House. Royal Garden Hotel is a boutique concept hotel in the city, but staying here won’t cost you an arm or a leg. For as low as PHP 900/night, a contemporary, fully furnished room equipped with television, air-condition, bathroom, and Wi-Fi is yours to slumber in.
Adriana’s Pension Inn, on the other hand, is relatively affordable with a standard room that’s only for PHP 800/night equipped with amenities to keep you safe and sound during your stay.
Both accommodations have their respective in-house restaurants that serve delectable meals to keep you going through your awesome tour in the city.
Royal Garden Hotel is located at Burgos cor. Zamora Street, Ozamiz City. For reservations, visit http://www.royalgardenozamiz.com/.
Adriana’s Pension Inn is located at Juan Luna Street, Corner Parojinog Street, Aguada, Ozamiz City. For reservations, contact (088) 545 09 24.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Ozamiz is on the prime of its festivals every July, December, and January. On July 15, they celebrate the Subayan Keg Subanen Festival where the Subanen Tribe takes hold of their expertise in dancing while playing their bamboo instruments. On the following day, July 16, the Ozamiznons take a Pilgrimage to the Cotta in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel that’s believed to be miraculously growing and protecting the city. On December 8, they also celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, and the Sr. Sto. Nino Fluvial Parade on the fourth Sunday of January.
How to get there
By air. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights to and from Cebu and Manila.
By land. There are buses route to Dipolog, Pagadian, and Cagayan de Oro.
By sea. There are regular trips to and from Manila, Cebu, Tagbilaran, Dumaguete, and Dipolog.
With all these and more, the awesome city of Ozamiz made us want to explore more of Mindanao.
“The hardest thing that you will endear here in Ozamiz is leaving, so you just enjoy,” Chan said, and we couldn’t agree more.
All photos by Noel Godinez.