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Beacons Beckoning: Corregidor Island Lighthouse

Very recently, I visited Corregidor, an island which sits strategically at the mouth of Manila Bay. I came wanting to know more about the island's history, marvel at its scenic views, and of course, visit its famed lighthouse.

To kickstart my lighthouse hopping mission this year, I went to the historic island of Corregidor located at the entrance of Manila Bay. To reach Corregidor, you will be taking an almost 2-hour cruise from the Sun Cruises dock of CCP Complex in Pasay City. The ticket isn’t just for the cruise fare; booking also means you’re having either a day tour, overnight package, or extended stay. I decided to have just the day tour since I was mostly just looking forward to visiting the lighthouse (which turned out to be a regrettable decision — a story I will reserve for later).

Corregidor Island Lighthouse in 1893. Photo via Wikipedia

Corregidor Island Lighthouse was built by the Spanish colonizers to mark the entrance of the Manila Bay, guiding ships and other vessels approaching from the South China Sea. The island was under the Spanish government since Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Manila in May 1570, but it was only in 1835 that a lighthouse station was recommended to be built on the island. Construction on the island’s highest point (later called Topside), rising 639 feet above sea level, was authorized in 1846, and was completed and first lit on January 18, 1853. The lighthouse officially started serving mariners on February 1, 1853.

The lighthouse in 1899, during the Philippine-American War. Photo via Wikipedia

The lighthouse’s tower, which was originally painted gray (painted white in 1920), appeared to be shorter than the current one which measures 60 feet from the base to the tip of the wind vane. Surrounding the base is the octagonal living quarters of the lighthouse keeper. The roof of the base also serves as rainwater collector for the cisterns siting next to it, which provides water for the compound and other nearby areas. The lighthouse was originally fitted with Second-order Fresnel lens, which emitted white light once every ten or twenty seconds. In clear weather, the light was visible from a distance of 20 miles. The lens was replaced with the same provision but of lesser power in 1897, flashing white and red light alternately every ten seconds separated by total eclipses. In clear weather, the light was visible from a distance of 36 miles.

I’ve also read about the neighboring Caballo Island having a lighthouse built around the same time as Corregidor’s, but I’m not sure if it can be verified since the island is now occupied by the Philippine Navy and is off limits to civilians. But, it’s said that the lighthouses of Corregidor and Caballo Islands were among the oldest to be established in the country, second only to the lighthouse built along the mouth of the Pasig River.

Repairs were made in the early 1900s when the Americans took over the country and inspected all the lighthouses in the archipelago. During World War II, at the time of the Japanese Occupation in 1942, the lighthouse was first damaged when bombers heavily attacked the Topside. However, it did not survive the heavy bombings later during the fight for liberation from the Japanese.

The lighthouse that stands today was rebuilt in the 1950s, using some of the original stones from the ruins. It was done in a slightly different design, with a more slender tower accented by crosses with glass panels. The lantern was replaced with solar-powered light in the 1990s. Nearby, there’s a marker with direction points as an added attraction. Aside from the lighthouse keeper’s dwelling, the base also houses a museum and gift shop.

Visitors should not simply admire the lighthouse from below. I insist you put aside your fear of heights and climb up the viewing deck of the lighthouse. The view from the deck is worth facing your fear, maneouvering yourself up the steep ladders, and getting wobbly knees at first sight of the view below. Then, if you have a bit of a history geek in you, proceed to imagining what it would have been like to see warships approaching from the horizon, war planes hovering around Corregidor and its neighboring islands, or flashes of light from the crossfire between the warships and the numerous gun batteries scattered across the island.

Needless to say, in the words of General Douglas MacArthur, one day I shall return to this fascinating island, partly because I haven’t really explored it yet and there’s still much to experience, and partly because I made a boo-boo with the LC-Wide so I only have one film photo of the lighthouse (the first two photos in the gallery above were taken by sgtpeppy, who went with me on the trip):

Photo by plasticpopsicle

All information for this article were sourced from Corregidor Island Lighthouse on Wikipedia.

If you liked this post, do consider reading all the other articles I’ve written for my Beacons Beckoning Series!

written by plasticpopsicle

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