For quite some time now, I have been fascinated with lighthouses -- lonely sentinels of the sea that welcome ships as they approach harbors and bid them farewell in their seafaring journey. I've been so fascinated in fact that I decided to visit as many lighthouses in my country as I can. In this mini-series I call Beacons Beckoning, I will document my progress in this wanderlust-driven endeavor.
Let me tell you about a mission I’ve been hoping to kickstart very soon: to visit most, if not all the lighthouses in the Philippines. I’ve always known that my country has lighthouses, but I’ve only recently discovered that nearly all of them are still standing more than a century later. Nobody knows how long they’ll be around, so while they’re still in good condition and I am able to take these trips, I have decided to try my luck and visit as many as I can.
I had my first lighthouse visit last year during my Ilocos Norte trip for my birthday. Among the places of interest we visited en route the coastal town of Pagudpud was Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Faro de Cabo Bojeador), also called Burgos Lighthouse after the municipality where it is situated. Like most of the lighthouses in the Philippines, it was constructed during the Spanish Colonial period as part of the Spanish government’s plan to illuminate the whole archipelago. It was designed in 1887, finished in 1890, and first lit on March 30, 1892.
After more than 120 years, the lighthouse still stands and serves as a welcoming beacon, guiding international ships coming from the north to a safe passage and away from the town’s rocky coast. It also guides ships heading further north to the Babuyan Channel, or down south to the ports of Ilocos Sur.
Sitting 160 meters atop Vigia de Nagpartian Hill, the 66-foot-tall octagonal brick tower is the most prominent structure in the area, and is visible on a clear day from as far away as the town of Pasuquin in the south, and Bangui in the east. Going to the lighthouse is actually easy-peasy if you have a car, and if you opt for a Laoag-Pagudpud Tour (with a hired van, driver, and guide), it’s going to be the first spot in your itinerary.
Once my companions and I (along with the guide) stepped out of the van, we were welcomed by a few stalls of souvenir items situated near the steps leading up to the lighthouse. After a good climb up the stairs, we reached a gate which leads into a courtyard surrounded by what used to be apartments, living quarters, or even storage rooms. There is also a well and a cistern at the center of the courtyard, used by the keepers for their water needs. Another flight of stairs leads further up into another building (which I assumed is the keeper’s house) with four rooms, one of them converted into a mini museum. It was the only room that visitors could enter, and inside, one will find a small replica of the lighthouse, some aged photos, newspaper clippings, and other relics.
From what I’ve read, it follows the typical layout of Spanish lighthouses in the Philippines, with a keeper’s house/living quarters, apartments, and enclosed courtyard.
While the keeper’s living quarters (and possibly the other buildings as well) could use some repair, the antiquated look undeniably sets the mood and feel for visitors. The brick and mortar walls and its peeling white paint, the aged wooden shutters and doors, the beautiful Spanish style windows, the fragile wooden ceiling panels, the high ceilings—-all of these lend a rustic charm to Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.
Needless to say, the view from the verandas of the keeper’s house and the actual lighthouse is so breath-taking. On one side, you will see Cape Bojeador and the vastness of the South China Sea stretched out into the horizon, and on the other, a scenic view of the mountainside.
However, during our visit, a sign posted on the locked door said entry into the lighthouse tower was not allowed because it was being repaired. Originally fitted with first-order Fresnel lens, it was was replaced with a solar-powered electric lamp after an earthquake permanently damaged and misaligned the original mechanism. The Philippine Coast Guard most likely was conducting routine check-ups and tune-ups by the time of our visit. Since I wasn’t able to go up the tower the first time I was there, I think it’s a reason good enough for me to visit it again.
Sources say visitors may actually stay in one of the rooms of the living quarters, which I should say could make for a very interesting experience given the stories of supernatural beings hanging around the area. Horror stories tell of voices, ladies in white, crying children, and even a ghost of a really big snake. Awooo…
Stay tuned for the next installments, as I have Corregidor Island Lighthouse and Capones Island Lighthouse next on my list!