Ozamiz Nurtures a Geographical Business Cluster 248.0
My hometown, Ozamiz City, is in the news again. But for not so good a reason.
Over the years, she has gained a reputation for organized crime such that, like political violence ascribed by the military almost on a proforma basis to the NPA, any crime conveniently chalked up to the “Ozamiz Group,” like the recent BDO ATM robbery in an SM Mall in Cavite, acquires a patina of fact.
Apparently, the precision of the three-minute robbery is, according to the police interviewed after the incident, a hallmark of the “Ozamiz Group”.
This post is not to deny what may be true or not true in this case; this post just seeks to highlight instead other facets of Ozamiz that make it your typical modernizing southern city in the Philippines.
Remarkably, a geographical business cluster is burgeoning as built mainly around traditional trading and logistics, education, healthcare, agribusiness, and banking services.
And as Jane Jacob, the noted urban planner noted, Ozamiz’s progress is assured because its business cluster imports and exports into its trading zone and beyond.
(Note: Photo on top is courtesy of Orville T. Calicdan.)
Ozamiz today. Ozamiz continues to be the gateway to northern Mindanao. It is a center of trading, transport and logistics, education, banking, agribusiness, healthcare, export labor services and tourism.
Trading. Its trading zone comprises the province of Misamis Occidental itself, southern Lanao del Norte and eastern Zamboanga del Sur.
The two biggest white structures in the picture below are shopping malls, Gaisano and Geegee. Ozamiz is also the biggest wholesaling and distribution center with the supporting stevedoring, warehousing and trucking services.
Transport and logistics. The major cargo and passenger entry is the harbor shown above. Cargo and passenger vessels regularly ply routes to Cebu and Manila. Note the Cotta at right foreground.
Roll-on, Roll-off (RORO) ferry service shuttles every thirty minutes to the Mukas port just twenty minutes across Panguil bay in Lanao del Norte. The RORO can accommodate passenger buses as well as cargo trucks and has made trips towards Iligan and Cagayan de Oro very efficient. You can see one such RORO ferry pulling out of the pier
The Ozamiz airport services this trading zone with two daily flights to Manila and Cebu with jet-size aircraft serving travellers from the zone.
Education Center. Ozamiz has two Universities, La Salle University – Ozamiz and Misamis University. It has three nursing colleges and two nautical institutes.
Together with the traditional agricultural base and trading, education possibly is the biggest source of value-creation for this geographic center.
Two technical training institutes for IT as well as a school for arts and trade are hosted in the city.
Ozamiz also hosts a major seminary, the St. Mary Theologate, that serves the DIOPIM (Dipolog, Iligan, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Ipil and Marawi) area.
Healthcare. Clustering with education, Ozamiz is also the center of healthcare, and increasingly so, with three hospitals and many special clinics including for maternity, cardiovascular, cosmetic, pulmonary, and diabetes.
Healthcare is one area where some congestion is noticeable and opportunity for investment is possible.
Export labor services. Another sector that clusters with education is export labor services mainly for medical care and ship crewing.
As with many of its sister cities, Ozamiz has sent away many expatriate Filipinos as nurses and ship crews to remit precious dollars home. My younger brother is now a ship captain; in charge of a valuable bulk carrier plying the North European to Mediterranean route.
A few contact centers have sprouted. Given that Ozamiz is an education center, this is another area that investments ought to give good returns.
Tourism. Ozamiz gives access to a nearby marine aquarium and a botanical garden that promotes eco-tourism.
The shrine of the Virgin at Cotta, that is sometimes ascribed healing powers, shown below as well as the Carmelite monastery gives solace to visiting devotees and those with panata.
Just recently, Ozamiz was designated Historical, Cultural and Pilgrimage Center of Northern Mindanao by the Department of Tourism.
Agribusiness. Ozamiz is a center to water- and land-based agribusiness.
Traditionally, there has been a lively trade in rice and other agricultural crops. Copra and crude coconut oil are major products from the area.
Panguil Bay is noted for its productivity in prawn farming due to the mixture of fresh and seawater at its innermost areas.
Most water-based agribusiness now is focused on hatchery and in prawn spawners. There is also a lively trade in crab fattening mainly because of the brackish water and mangroves at the base of the bay.
In the past ten years, poultry farms and piggeries, and related butchery fresh meat processing, have become major businesses that export even outside the city trading zone.
Banking and services. To service its wholesaling and distribution activities, Ozamiz is home to all the major banks as well as of rural banks.
As banking center, the city is a net saver, including remittances and trading proceeds. Its deposits well exceeds the credits granted.
It also hosts the Bangko Sentral regional office that supports the cash operations of banks in the area.
Bigger than crime. Ozamiz is much more than the negative brand equity it has acquired from selective media reports. Some work needs to be done to brighten its image and highlight its positives.
Ozamiznon Notables. In contemporary times, I know of four notables from Ozamiz:
- Patricio Abinales, PhD. Historian and author, interestingly, of Mindanao, and now teaching in Japan;
- Gerry Bacarro, Pfizer Regional President, South Asia (Southeast Asia + India)
- Jun Engracia, News Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer;
- Pepo Nunez, Jr, Chair, Development Bank of the Philippines (updated September 11): and
- Atty. Ivan John Uy, Chair, Commission on Information and Communication Technology from August, 2010 (updated September 20).
Miguel Bernad, S.J. and historian also had his roots in Ozamiz. Sen Jose F. Ozamiz, for whom the city is named, is a Fortich whose family migrated from Negros to Bukidnon and moved on to be pioneers in the then town of Misamis.
Until now, the political leadership of the city runs through the family lines of Spanish mestizos – many are often landed and asset-rich but cash-light.
In this sense, Ozamiz shares a history with other southern cities – the last mayoral elections was between descendants of the Ozamiz and Corominas (of Cebu) families.
Like many provincial cities, commercial leadership is dominated by the Filipino-Chinese businesspeople. It tells of the hidden richness of the place that a top five listed contributor (P20 million) to the PNoy campaign is from Ozamiz.
History. Ozamiz City was a frontier town up to two hundred years ago. The Fort or Cotta pictured at top left – the Fuerte de la Concepcion y del Triunfo – was built in 1756 to stop pirate attacks from across the Panguil Bay – a real frontier role. The picture below is from the parapet of the Fort and is of the southern half of Lanao del Norte.
As late as a few years ago, the city’s role as protector of the area designated by the Spaniards continued to play out. Twice when the rebels took over Maigo town in Lanao, just 30 minutes across the bay, the first responders who also took back the town – before the armed forces came – were from the citizen’s militia of Ozamiz with their long arms and on motorized boats.
There are anecdotes of how the robust negotiations were conducted that led to the town’s recovery that I will not tell here. Suffice it to say, both rebel takeovers were short-lived. The negotiations reflect the complex realities on the ground – quite often the rebels were neighbors and friends in less tense times.
The Church. Together with the Fort, the friars made sure of a strong religious presence. Legend has it that, because of the Virgin’s protection, the Cotta was never taken,
Virgin del Triunfo. On one wall of the Cotta shown at left, an image of the Virgin ascribed by many with healing properties continuously attract devotees and pilgrims especially on its feast day on July 16.
Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. The Irish missionary Columban fathers left as their legacy the Cathedral shown at right. It is home to a beautiful and only pipe organ in Mindanao.
I was educated by Irish nuns and, in 1967, was in the last batch educated with American Dick and Jane books in elementary that provided me a good foundation in English (later improved on by Fr. James Donelan, S.J.). Improving my writing continues to be a work-in-progress.
When Ozamiz was declared a non-missionary area and the missionary Columbans moved on, they transferred ownership of their school, Immaculate Conception College, to the La Salle Brothers. The Brothers consolidated and expanded the school that is now La Salle University – Ozamiz. My mother retired as Dean of College just before La Salle became a University.
Other vignettes. Ozamiz has a population of about 123,000 souls which is 1/100 of Metro Manila’s average daytime population.
To benchmark its level of growth with other Philippine cities, it has two Jollibee restaurants with one opened in the 1990s, one McDonalds, one Chowking, one Greenwich, two Dunkin’ and one Mister Donut, and a new Red Ribbon opening soon.
It may seem strange to use retail food service franchise to benchmark growth but it is a good commercial measure. With 80% market share, I used to use Johnson’s Baby Powder as a proxy measure to derive market size and growth.
I hope I have painted a vibrant picture of a growing city that is not what the impression gives based on what mass media finds important enough to report.
I love my home city. It shares the same characteristics and is just like many Southern Philippine cities too!
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