Not many know this, that there are four bells, named by their German casters as St. Peter, St. Marien, St. Joseph and St. Michael, at Bukagan Hill (92 MASL) in Ozamiz City.
They were supposed to be installed at the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. But the church’s existing belfry could not adequately support the heavy bells. They reportedly weigh a total of 7 tons.
The residents however could not afford to build another bell tower as they have already raised a substantial amount for the construction of the church and its pipe organ. This was the reason why the bells ended up at Bukagan Hill in Barangay Malaubang.
Fernando Bernad, the city mayor back then, asked the local bishop to donate the bells instead to the city. He then raised the funds to erect a concrete bell tower at Bukagan. He had a road paved and the four bells were transported and installed afterwards.
The site was inaugurated on July 16, 1948. It was an event that was participated by various religious communities and civic groups.
When I asked my relatives and friends in Ozamiz about the bells, they did not know about them. They were only aware of the cell towers and a monastery at Bukagan Hill.
So when I got the chance to visit again the city, I knew that I have to find out for myself if the German-forged bells still existed. Thankfully, I was able to drag one adventurous cousin to accompany me in my madness.
I remember that Brgy. Malaubang was just a brief trike ride from the city center. We alighted at the foot of Bukagan Hill and hiked all the way to the top since there was no habal-habal (motorcycles) in sight.
It was an unexpected exercise, but the views along the winding road were welcome distractions. Nonetheless, our ascent was easy and quite manageable. After 30 minutes or so, we finally arrived at the peak and saw for ourselves the old bells of Ozamiz City.
The bells were stacked in tiers – the big ones at the bottom and above them are the smaller bells. I could only identify the ‘St. Peter’ bell which is located at the lowest level. If only there was a ladder or stairs, then we could have a closer look at St. Marien, St. Joseph and St. Michael.
It is said that during the inauguration, the bells were rung as ‘a symbol of the friendship between Muslims and Christians.’ But we may never get to hear them again because I noticed that their clappers are unfortunately missing.
There was also no signage or any marker in the vicinity to inform visitors about their interesting history. What would greet them instead are the the graffiti on the concrete posts and a few junk food wrappers strewn around – a far cry to the glorious moment when the bells first rang more than half a century ago
It is indeed disheartening to note that the historic bells of Ozamiz have been neglected. What they stood for, may be probably forgotten too by the generations to come.