30
Jan
08

Fuerza de la Nuestra Señora de la Concepción y Triunfo • Ozamis City, Misamis Oriental

Known by its ancient name Pangui (Panguil), Ozamis City was the site of a fort built to guard the narrow Panguil Bay.  The fort prevented the free travel of the Iranun and Maguindanao who lived inland and along the coast. It was built in 1754, (some authors claim 1756) and apparently renovated in 1766.

The fortification of Ozamis City was a result of the successful campaign of José Ducós SJ in repulsing and containing the Iranun raiders. Ducós built a warship Nuestra Señora del Triunfo, which led a contingent of smaller vessels manned by a volunteer armada to engage the raiders at sea and to repulse them. The bastioned fort at Ozamis was the land-based and static component of the two-part strategy for containment, the flotilla of sea vessels being the sea-based and mobile component.

While Pedro Manuel de Arandia was governor general he entrusted Ducós and Paver with the task of fortifying at coast of Panguil Bay. Forthwith the priest complied although the official approval of the Council of the Indies was not given until 2 September 1755. The early structure raised by the two Jesuits was a palisade of wood trunks, as indicated in a document sent to Arandia indicating the seacoast and the position of the fort.

Four years later it is reported in a accompanying letter from bishop Lino de Espeleta of Cebu that three of the fort’s four bastions had eight courses of cut stone (tablilla or tablija in the local idiom) and a ninth was being laid on top of the fourth. Two of the curtain walls had gone beyond the foundations while the foundations of the remaining two were started.  Acting as interim governor, Espeleta opined in a letter to the king (1760) that the work was going too slow and very costly because it was planned in such a grand manner and sought the advice of the Jesuit provincial, Juan de Moreno, regarding this matter.  The provincial concurred saying that it was “of such as size that was unnecessary” and suggested the existing structure be modified to another shape, probably a triangle to reduce cost.

A report by the castle master Juan de Moreno confirmed the observation of Morales regarding the progress of work at Ozamis.  He stated that the bastions San Fernando and San Ignacio were completed, but the remaining two, San Jose and Santiago were still in process.  The military engineer Tomás de Castro y Andrade was asked to study the report and give his opinion about the proposed changes.  De Castro gave the report that such changes were a waste of resources because the work was far advanced.  Better to continue with the original plans, if a smaller fort could not be made.

Gov. José Raón asked the corregidor of Misamis, Jacinto Rodriguez de Morales to submit report on the fort, which Rodriguez sent to Raon on 19 March 1762.  The report admitted that while work was slow, after two years of construction, the bastions of San Jose and Santiago were finally finished, and three of the four curtains were completed with the laying of the ninth course of stone.  The fourth wall a work in progress with two courses laid.  The living quarters were made of nipa with palm flooring.  The casamata (gunpowder storage) was made of wood planks with a covering of lime plaster, and the storeroom was structure roofed with nipa.

The governor compiled these reports and annexed the plan drawn by Miguel Antonio Goméz in 1765, showing a moat around the fort. Raon’s report was sent to the Council of the Indies to resolve the question whether to continue or abandon the project.

The response of the Council was probably to complete the project that was near completion anyway. Fort Triunfo although greatly degraded still stand.

The fort was badly damaged by earthquake in 1955 sending the wall where the main gate is located crashing to the ground and damaging a bastion with it. The fort was occupied by the Philippine National Police, which used it as its headquarters. A bastion served as the base for a lighthouse.

Recently, the PNP turned over the use of the fort to a public park while retaining a small outpost for the police. The walls have been repaired. In July 2006, renovations on the fort was publicly announced as completed.

On one wall is a bas-relief image of the Virgin Mary under the title Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion y Triunfo, and considered as a religious shrine.  It was deliberately vandalized in the 1970s but was subsequently repaired. Restoration on the fort has been heavy handed and quite imaginative with elements added that were not in the original plan. 

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