The first thing that catches most visitors’ attention upon arriving in Ozamiz City is the fort that stands guard over Panguil Bay. Dubbed as the Cotta Shrine or Fort Santiago, it is made from blocks of sedimentary rocks and coral stones found along the coastal parts of the city. It stands as one, and probably the sole reminder, of the city’s once colorful past.
It was drizzling as I arrived in at Ozamiz City. A blanket of white clouds obscured the sky as I avoided puddles made by the rain. Taking shelter at the makeshift stores of the street food vendors in the area, I spotted the ornate stone gate of the Cotta Shrine.
Attached on its northeastern wall is a small outdoor chapel where once stood one of the fort’s gates. After the rain abated, I entered its grounds, vendors selling prayer candles immediately flocked me.
Concrete benches painted in the Marian colors of blue and white face an altar with a shrine dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. I heard that the locals consider the icon, which they refer to as the Virgen sa Cotta, to be miraculous.
Officially, the fort is named as the Fuerte de la Concepcion y del Triunfo; quite a mouthful if you ask me. I’m not sure of its exact English translation, but I’m guessing it’s the Fort of Our Lady of Triumph. Please do correct me if you know its exact meaning.
The impressive gate of Cotta Shrine, which reminds me of the one inside Intramuros’ own Fort Santiago, was closed during my visit. I’ve read that the fort has four baluartes or bastions named to four saints; San Jose, San Fernando, San Ignacio and Santiago, too bad I wasn’t able to see it personally during my visit.
Before boarding the ferry that would transport me back to Iligan City, I tried once more to enter the fort after visiting the Ozamiz Cathedral; but again, to no avail. Once used as a fort to repel Muslim raiders during the Spanish era, the Cotta Shrine now stands as a religious shrine for Christians residing in Ozamiz City today.
Ozamiz Cotta Shrine
Address: Rizal Avenue, Ozamiz City
Entrance Fee: Php5.00
GPS Coordinates: +8° 8' 24.60", +123° 50' 48.96"
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