A quick tricycle ride to Bantay, a town next to Vigan, will take you to a beautiful belfry of the same name. Towering over the town, the Bantay Bell Tower is a sight to behold, standing separately over a hilltop next to the equally beautiful St. Augustine Parish Church.
According to the guide who accompanied us inside the bell tower, the original structure as it stands today was built by Augustinian Missionaries in 1591, most likely as a part of the parish church nearby. It was made of bricks, rocks, and a mixture of seashells and sugar cane (the guide called it apog, but I’m not sure if this is correct). There are hardly any renovations done to the structure, except for repairs on the stairs inside the tower.
Our guide also said that the bell tower stands on the tallest point in the town, and was used as a watch tower during the Spanish colonial period. As such, the tower is aptly named since “bantay” is an Ilocano word for both “mountain” and “guard.”
Climbing up the second level of the belfry is no problem, but going up the third level may take a bit more guts. The wooden stairs are new, but the rickety sound and the tall, open windows may trigger vertigo among the faint-hearted. The views from both levels are breathtaking; the bell tower provides a good view of the houses and town cemetery below, and the mountains in the horizon.
As a quick trivia before he parted with us, our guide mentioned that the bell tower is also popular as a location for the filming of the Panday movies by the late Fernando Poe Jr, one of the pillars of action flicks in the Philippines.
Photos taken using Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim + Fuji Provia 100
and Nikon FE2 + Eurocolor 200