I have lost count as to the times that I have been to Jimenez, a quiet municipality in Misamis Occidental.
We usually spend our Christmas holidays here because my father hails from this place. My mother on the other hand, is from Panaon, the next municipality to the north. This is the reason why almost all our family reunions are held in these parts.
I assumed of course that I already knew Jimenez like the back of my hand. But one unplanned morning walk changed all that. I realized afterwards that there are actually a lot of things that I still do not know about my father’s hometown.
I started my ‘walking tour’ at the Parish Church of San Juan Bautista or St. John the Baptist Church. This Roman Catholic church was built during the second half of the 19th century by the Augustinian Recollects. It has a considerable influence in shaping the history of the town through the years. In fact Jimenez, was renamed from the original ‘Palilan’ to honor one of the church’s Recollect priests, Father Franciso Jimenez.
Adjacent to the church are the buildings of the College of St. John the Baptist. This was where my mom went to highschool. For those who are interested in Gabaldon schools, the Jimenez Central School at Barangay Nacional is among those built during the American occupation in the Philippines.
The ancestral houses of old families in Misamis Occidental such as the Chiongbian and the Ozamiz are also within walking distance from the church. One of the standouts would have to be the 1914 Bacarro-Tacan House, which is said to have the only printing press in the province during its heyday.
Little is known about these heritage houses. These were preserved in a way, when a shortcut or a diversion highway was constructed to reroute traffic to and from Ozamiz and Oroquieta. The houses as a result, were spared from the threat of speeding buses and the pressures of commercialization.
The mysterious ‘Camel’ tree
My tour ended at the enchanted ‘Camel’ tree located at Barangay Taraka. It was named as such because it supposedly changes colors and bears different fruits depending on the season, just like the way a chameleon would adapt to its immediate environment.
It was not named after the desert animal as what I previously thought. Many deliveries such as cars, pigs and furniture were mysteriously addressed to this very spot. This led the residents to conclude that there could be otherworldly beings that inhabit inside.
There are still many places to explore and to see in Jimenez. There is an old cemetery in Barangay Dicoloc which has a towering balete and mausoleums of prominent families. The Misamis Occidental Eco Park in Sitio Aquino in Barangay Carmen is waiting for those who like outdoor adventures. At the eastern portion is JOME (Jimenez Oil Mill, Inc), oil depots of petroleum stations, vast rice fields and an unused port.
These could be wonderful photography subjects or serve as follow-up story to this blog entry someday. If I’ll find myself in Jimenez again, I have already another agenda in mind aside from well, eating lechon and spending time with my relatives.
Our hometowns may have become too familiar to most of us by now, but there are still many stories that are waiting to be heard and to be told. That brief and unplanned morning walk around Jimenez taught me that and more importantly, allowed me to see my father’s place from another perspective. I am enriched by the thought that this place will continue to play a significant role not only in the lives of my parents and relatives but in certain respects, also in mine.