During the visit of former
Philippine President Fidel V.
Ramos to Ozamiz City, he said of the late Senator Jose
Ozamiz as the “foremost but forgotten”. Nothing could be
further from the truth. The hero remains unknown to his province
mates. Only few know him as the first governor, congressional
representative, and senator of Misamis Occidental. The Japanese
killed him during the Second World War. He remains the only
senator coming from the province.
Senator Jose Ozamiz
Picture courtesy of Atty. and Mrs. Mario J. Montalban
Jose's parents were Jenaro
Ozamiz from Navarre, Spain and Basilisa Fortich, a
mestisa. Genaro left Spain at age sixteen and came to Moran,
then ended up at the municipality of Jimenez and engaged in the
business of abacca and copra trading which made him very rich,
acquiring through the years 355 hectares in tile province and
1,000 hectares ranch in Bukidnon.
Jenaro and Basilisa’s
son Jose was the oldest and the only boy among ten children.
Jose was born on May 5, 1898 in Moran in a house near the “old
bridge” His sisters are Pacita, Consuelo, Carmen, Pilar,
Remedios, Nieves, Mercedes, Paulita, and Lourdes. Three of
Jose's sisters Consuelo, Cannon and Nieves remained distinct and
never got married. Two entered politics: one was Consuelo, who
was a councilor for six terms in Jimenez and Remedios who became
a Congresswoman in Bukidnon. Remedios’ son, Carlos Fortich
became a politician also by becoming a governor of Bukidnon.
In 1904, the Ozamiz
family transferred to a big house in Jimenez, where they engage
themselves in the copra business and ship them off to other
islands in the Philippines. It is a very historical house where
great men like Douglas MacArthur and General Emilio Aguinaldo
came. Jose's son, Julio believed that even former Philippine
President Marcos had slept in the house. President Corazon
Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos had visited the house, too.
Senator Ozamiz house in Jinemez
At Ateneo, Jose Ozamiz
attended high school graduated proceeded to take law school in
the same prestigious educational institution and graduated with
honors. After finishing law, he took up his masters in Columbia
University in New York, U.S.A.
He came back to the
Philippines and had a big law firm in Manila and was the
retainer of Elizalde Group of Companies, and Madrigals, and De
La Rama Shipping Lines.
Mr. Ozamiz was the
first appointed governor of Misamis Occidental. Misamis used to
include the present two Misamis provinces and the Lanao
provinces. The two Misamis provinces were separated by sea. Mr.
Ozamiz worked for the creation of a separate province of Misamis
In the 1932
elections, he won as a governor. After that, he became a
Congressman and in 1935, he became a constitutional convention
delegate. While in Congress, he was a majority floor leader and
was called the “Prince Carol of the Philippine Legislature”
probably because he was handsome and tall. In 1940, he was
elected “Senator of the Philippine Republic”.
During his time, he was
responsible for the construction of Provincial Hospital, most of
the bridges in Jimenez, Aloran, Clarin, and Oroquieta and some
The handsome Jose
married Lourdes Hyndman from Cagayan de Oro in 1929. Her
grandfather was a Canadian. Mrs. Lourdes H. Ozamiz was a
graduate of music and commerce. She often engages herself in
charity work. She and Hon. Ozamiz had four children namely:
Leopoldo, Jose, Maria, Julio and Carmen. Jose Maria became the
vice-president of Philippine CONSAT. Carmen worked for the
Philippine Airlines. Only Julio followed the footsteps of his
father in politics. He was elected as a Concon delegate then as
congressional representative of the first district in 1987. In
addition, their brother Leopoldo died at age 17 because of
typhoid fever during the war.
Ozamiz’ term he rented two dormitories for boys and girls of
Misamis Occidental studying in Manila. Lodging is said to be
free on condition that report cards will be shown to him.
When the Japanese
occupied the country during World War II, Jose was among those who accepted a post in the Japanese government with the blessings of
the guerrilla movement who saw that his position would allow him
to move discretely. He became chairperson of the Games and
Amusement Board. Then in May 1943 he came to Mindanao to contact
Fertig. He came by boat accompanied by Jose Maria and Pelong
Campos of Aloran. During his arrival in Mindanao, he met Fertig
and Parson, both major leaders of the guerrilla movement
On his way home, his
family was under house arrest. Jose went back to Manila in
February 1944. He was arrested on February 11 on his wife's
birthday. Jose was condemned to be executed because there was a
certain Filipino and nicknamed as a “makapili” who squealed
on him along with twenty-nine other fellow Filipino who also got
arrested at the same time. They were the core of the guerilla
movement in Manila.
Ozamiz’ private secretary Paxedes Beluno from the municipality
of Lopez Jaena was also a guerilla member of the movement. When
the Japanese intercepted a message from Philip of Bukidnon where
the name of Mr. Beluno was mentioned as a member of the guerilla
Mr. Beluno’s arrest his last words to his family was “This
will be the last time you will see me”.
Every Sunday, the
Ozamiz family goes to Fort Santiago bringing Jose his medicines,
food and clothing but he was never shown to them. Two or three
months before Jose Ozamiz’ execution, the Japanese called up
and told them that Paxedes Beluno was dead. Julio recalls, “we
went to the funeral parlor with Judge Durias. We couldn’t
recognize his face because his face was burned with cigarettes
and all his nails were pulled off”.
A month before
Senator Ozamiz’ death, his oldest son, Leopoldo, died on July
29. Medicine was hard to come by then that became an obstacle in
curing Leopoldo’s suffering from typhoid fever. When the
Ozamiz family visited Fort Santiago, they were told not to come,
as Jose was already dead. His ring of gold and diamond and a
gold necklace with a round pendant marked March 1922 and with
initials JO were returned by the Japanese. Julio decided to wear
that necklace which was bought in Lourdes, France.
Jose Ozamiz’ family
spent two long years looking for his body. In 1945-46, Richard,
Sakakeda, a Japanese American interpreter told them where his
remains were buried. Jose’ doctors identified him through his
Jose was killed in the
North cemetery with the twenty-nine other guerrilla members
including the eldest sons of the Elizaldes and the Roceses and
Captain Antonio Montalban. The position of their bones tells a
story of how they were killed. They were made to kneel and while
their heads were chopped off. Their heads fell to one-side and
the bodies in the other part of the mass grave.
They were able to get
only the skull and some bones as all the bones were already
mixed up. “We wanted to bring him back to Misamis
Occidental”, Julio said, “But because the bones were already
mixed, a monument was built instead, with their names engraved
“Had my father lived,
he might have become a president of this country,” Julio said.
He was number two to Roxas in the guerrilla movement
organization. It should have been certain that he would been
Vice-President to Roxas in the post war elections.
To honor Jose Ozamiz, a bill was filed to name the
province after him, but some politicians were against it so it
was only the city of Misamis which was
renamed Ozamiz. Unfortunately, the people seemed to have
forgotten the long lost hero of Misamis.