Monday, September 7, 2009

Musings and Premonitions? at The Cotta, Triunfo, Fort Santiago

All those are in Ozamiz City, and yes, all are one and the same hehe! Had to go there as the hotel’s front desk staff told me it was a must-see. I am happy I did!

What is it?
Well, what else… a fort, built by the Spaniards against native pirates. The bastion of defense in those days. It is similar and reminiscent of Cebu’s Fort San Pedro, Zamboanga’s Fort Pilar and its namesake, the Fort Santiago in Intramuros. Their makes, sizes, purpose are very similar with a few characteristic identifiers. Let me describe this Cotta by mostly comparing and contrasting it to those other forts as indeed that’s just what came to mind as I roamed the place. Ha? What Fort San Pedro in Iloilo? It is just a name, a memory. Its been flattened long ago and what remains are chicken inasal vendors. So its out of this league!

Location
Near the sea and the port naturally. Except for Cebu of course! Because of various developments and “improvements”, Cebu’s Fort San Pedro is not anymore by the sea. Thanks to insatiable land reclamation projects! You can’t even easily see any water from there now! Manila’s Fort Santiago still sits by the mouth of Pasig River emptying itself to the Manila Bay. Zamboanga’s Fort Pilar is still by the sea with a clear vantage of any oncoming vessel and it is still near the sea-port with just Lantaka Hotel and some buildings and houses in between. This one on Ozamiz is really by the sea and the sea-port. Together they face any oncoming vessel from Panguil Bay. How close to the sea? Well, at one portion of the Cotta, the waves reportedly have started eating up on its wall – but alert and concerned residents noticed it. So they made a “breakwater” to prevent the sea from goading the fort and that is now the lovely Plaza De Los Jesuitas! See?! I learned something again!

Shape
Rectangular except for Cebu which is triangular. Corners have bastions supposedly for the guns and cannons and the personnel on duty. The best and most spacious of these are in Zamboanga and Ozamiz. Narrowest and insignificant are that of Fort Santiago in Intramuros. Hey the walk around the top of the fort is always best! That is where soldiers manned the forts during their time, looking outside to see if pirates were coming. These days, that is where lovers roam looking for quiet unseen corners so they can start pecking at each other – and so on! Ah!

Inside the walls
Well, this one in Ozamiz is ugliest of the 4 forts and Fort Santiago in Manila is the best. In Ozamiz, I could see that there was an attempt to spruce it up after the police left it, but it probably succumbed to ningas-cogon. There is a museum yes and you will laugh at having been in that decaying little building. It probably had a good start but has been abandoned with only 3 or 4 remnants to tell you it “has been” some kind of a museum! Maybe they should have left it home of their police force after all! Zamboang’s museum is fantastic with extensive displays and dioramas – I should say those are museums (plural) since there is one on the south wall and another on the north. Cebu’s has no museum as there is less room for them to have it there! But the Rizaliana is superb over at Fort Santiago in Intramuros. What with Rizal’s writings etched on big glass panels. Wow! Anyway, In the Ozamiz Cotta, in one of the huts selling native products, at least there is a monkey that you can start quarreling with if only to while away your time hehe!

The manicured lawn in Zamboang’s Fort Pilar is nice and green. Cebu’s is faltering and let’s hope the rains will make it green again. The one in Manila is well maintained and even has Rizal’s footsteps in brass. In Ozamiz, they scattered pebbles and stones to avoid the mud when it rains… ack! Oh, in all four forts, only that of Manila has no permanent stage. But ironically and fantastically, it is there where various concerts and cultural events are regularly staged – by the gardens! Those of Cebu and Ozamiz are more of “praktisan ng mga hip-hop dancers” while that of Zamboanga is a very convenient place to dry the personnel’s laundry! Oh yes yes, the inside gardens in both Manila and Zamboanga would be great locations for pre-nuptial photo-shoots. In Cebu and Ozamiz, don’t even think about it! But by the walls would be fine, I guess!

Hey in Manila there is a chapel inside the fort, in Zamboanga and Ozamiz part of the outside gardens became pilgrim’s open-air chapels while in Cebu there is nothing!

Outside?
Well, speaking of outside, the pilgrim’s park in Ozamiz is beautiful complete with life size concrete replicas of biblical characters. And onwards to the Plaza De Los Jesuitas are replicas of boats plus the many lovers’ seats that face the ocean! Up front is the big Imelda Park where the youth play soccer or baseball while on the sides await a platoon of ukay-ukay huts! In Zamboanga, fun that a lot of pigeons and doves flock at the pilgrim’s area. In Manila, it’s a golf course just outside the walls while in Cebu it’s the city streets and buildings plus the tunnel that will take you to SRP hehe!

Alright, back to my Ozamiz sojourn and the Cotta
I marveled at those carvings (or whatever they’re called) over at the main entrance (atop it) and no one could tell me what that meant. There is a long-haired bearded gladiator riding a horse with a prominent nose. Am sure it is supposed to mean something?! But no one could tell me. The guard said “I don’t know” while the woman who collects entrance fees said it’s a sign of strength. Asuu, strength ka dyan! There are also the letters PL & VS and VL & TRA on what seem like ribbons circling two pillars. As those are only letters and nothing descriptive, the more that no one could tell me what those meant!

Oh am not sure about the other forts but, the Cotta of Ozamiz also hosts the recent-day lighthouse that guides sea farers of today. Ah its nothing surreal, not really a “house” but a “post”, just a couple of meters of concrete and steel like most modern light houses of today are. that's the 3rd picture above.

Hear this though… the most scenic views from all those forts I mentioned above would be from this Cotta in Ozamiz. Oh yes the vintas at Zamboanga are also fine with Isla Del Sta Cruz Grande over at the horizon and the Weesam offloading passengers over at the port. But in Ozamiz, you get a clear front seat view of the Superferry slowly cruising through Panguil Bay on a lazy windy afternoon! Luvvit!

Then looking at the ship, I started thinking… “just how many people are on it right now? Isn’t September a season of rough seas? Is this a better ship? When will this one be involved in a tragic sea accident like the other Superferries had?” and so on. Bad thoughts? I don’t know, but I tried to keep away from imagining those things as I kept cringing and shuddering as I imagined those “bad thoughts”!

That is Superferry 5 and I took that picture at 1438H 05 September 2009. A few hours after, its sister Superferry 9 sank off Zamboanga Peninsula! Whew! I should stop imagining bad things as they seem to keep happening when I do!

Oh well, the Cotta was a fine enough visit! And here's a clip of the pics and vids that I took:

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