The historic fort in Misamis
AT RANDOM - Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ () - July 10, 2006 - 12:00am
The year 1754 was a time of great suffering for the people in the coastal towns and villages of the Visayas, Mindanao, and southern Luzon. With no warning, bands of pirates would appear, sometimes as many as 2,000 in number, burn the houses and the crops, and carry away as many of the people as they could catch to be sold as slaves in Maguindanao, Sulu, Borneo or the islands now known as Indonesia. To counteract this terrible scourge, the government created a flotilla and appointed a Spanish Jesuit missionary, Father Josep Ducos, as its commander. After several successful battles against the pirates, when some peace had been restored, it was decided to build a stone fort at the mouth of Pangil Bay, at a place called Misamis, and Father Ducos was put in charge of the construction. The construction began in 1756, two hundred and fifty years ago.

Because money was not always available to pay workers and for the transport of materials (the stones came from another island), the fort took nine years to finish. But it exists today, part of our dwindling heritage of historic buildings.

Because of that fort, Misamis became the most important town in northern Mindanao in the 18th and early 19 centuries. When Mindanao was organized into five Districts, the Second District was the "Distrito de Misamis" which comprised the present provinces of Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Camiguing, and Zamboanga del Norte. The capital was Misamis town until the 1870s when the seat of government was transferred to Cagayan.

Father Ducos belonged to a Society that had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. The fort was therefore put under her patronage. It was officially called "Fuerte de la Concepción y del Triunfo."

The "Triunfo" (Triumph) had been the name of the leading vessel in the battles that cleared the harbor of Misamis and Pangil Bay of pirates. It was named in honor of the "Triunfo de la Cruz" the decisive battle in which the united Christian armies of Spain defeated the Moors at Las Navas de Tolosa in the year 1212. In thanksgiving for that victory, the Spaniards celebrated a special feast on July 16 called Triunfo de la Cruz (Triumph of the Cross).

In the "cota" or stone fort at Misamis, above the back (or postern) gate, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was placed. It is really an image of the Immaculate Conception, but people refer to it as the Virgen del Triunfo.

The Blessed Virgin Mary therefore has two festivals in Misamis (now Ozamiz City): on December 8 as Patroness of the City; and on July 16 as Patroness of the fort.

The original image above the back gate (made of terra cotta) was destroyed by a mad person. What is there now is a replica, and many people come to venerate it. The City has done a splendid job in beautifying the park in front of the shrine.

This coming July 16, 2006, will mark the 250th anniversary of the construction of the fort and will be celebrated by the City with special programs. It will be a historic occasion to honor a historic fort and a popular shrine.

BLESSED VIRGIN MARY CRUZ FATHER DUCOS FATHER JOSEP DUCOS FORT IMMACULATE CONCEPTION LAS NAVAS MINDANAO MISAMIS TRIUNFO
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