Once settled, I called a friend whom I have not seen in 25 years. Fortunately, he was in town, so I had a local for a host. He was able to get in touch with another friend, so I was touring Ozamis with 2 friends from way way back.
First stop was Cotta, an old fort with major portions already rebuilt. But one can still see the old, original stones in some sections. The fort is right beside the pier on Panguil Bay. An old cannon stood there, presumably to ward off invaders in those days.
My hosts then took me to the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park in Tudela, about 15 kms from the city. This is clearly the top tourist draw of Ozamis. Crude boardwalks are laid out in the premises and walking thru this maze takes the visitor to a mini zoo, with monkeys, birds, and even eagles in cages - a wildlife sanctuary. They also have fish ponds, hatcheries and mangroves.
The highlight of the visit is the trip by boat to the Dolphin Island. The fare is P250 per person, round trip.
Dolphin Island is NOT an island. It is a complex that started form a solitary “bantay dagat” station. The government then created more structures that included a restaurant, a swimming pool, a grandstand, and an area enclosed by net where dolphins are kept and fed. Visitors can feed the dolphins, or swim with them, for a fee.
The are also has a section shallow enough for swimming, on a sandbar. There are designated areas, too, for diving and snorkeling. A photo of President GMA visiting the complex to dive is prominently displayed in the restaurant.
Food is good, especially the kinilaw na tangigue.
My friends later told me about Lawis, a barangay in Ozamis known to be the home of the Kuratong Baleleng. They were shocked to learn I walked in this lair earlier before they came to join me.
I checked in in what was said to be the best hotel in the city, Royal Garden Hotel, and got their Imperial Suite. It was a beautiful room with the bedroom separate from the living and dining area. For a provincial hotel, the suite was impressive.
Food service at the hotel was terrible. When I ordered for food to be brought to my room, I was told that it was going to take 30 minutes. I thought that was longer than usual. After 30 minutes, the food was still not in my room. On follow up, they said it will be ready soon. Another follow up and they said they were looking for a roomboy to deliver my food. Another follow up, threatening to dump the food in the waste basket because I was already so hungry and agitated, the food came. After a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes. And that is for a single order of crabmeat foo yong.
When I went down to the lobby, I saw my former office staff and their clients, also very hungry and agitated. They said they have been waiting like forever.
If you want convenient location, and are willing to wait long for your food, then the hotel is a good enough place to stay. My Imperial Suite was on a promo rate of only P2,295 per day. Their single rooms cost only P795 per day. Contact Royal Garden at (+6388) 521 2888. Website : http://www.royalgardenozamis.com
I should have stayed at Bethany, another hotel that is rather off the city center. I went there for a look-see, met the owner, and saw to place, especially the restaurant, to be properly staffed. The Tanduay bands stayed in the hotel.
Or maybe I could have stayed at the Aquamarine Park. they do have accommodations. A suite costs P2,950 a day on weekdays, P3,300 on weekends, andP3,500 on national holidays. They also have family rooms, as well as non-aircon native huts at P1,500 per day. Contact them at +(6388)5860292
Rewind: The Road to Ozamis
There are buses that go there from Cagayan de Oro, but I decided to hire a taxi, at P3,500 so I could stop along the way and do sidetrips and take photos.
I also stopped in El Salvador where I went up the venerated Shrine of the Divine Mercy. I was stopped at the gate, and told that shorts are prohibited. I was provided a skirt for free, that I had to wear over my shorts to be allowed to go up the shrine.
Another memorable stop is in the town of Lugait, famous for bibingka (rice cakes). Surprised to see that the international company Coca Cola has penetrated even the lowly bibingka stall with offers, much like the combo meals in fast food chains.
Iligan can not be missed - – it is a huge industrial city.
From there, it was another province – - – Lanao. Towns that i only read about, or mentioned on television with stories like police stations being attacked by Muslim extremists – - made the trip exciting. Heard of Kolambugan?
Oh, I never thought before this trip that Bacolod is also town in this region, and is very different form the very progressive Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.
More towns, until we get to Mukas where a barge transports passengers and vehicles to Ozamis.
Tanduay First Five Concert Tour
Sharing shots taken from the successful concert, with the crowd estimated at 45,000. The biggest show ever to hit Ozamis.