26 Sep2007

cape1

Just over a half hour drive out of Laoag, and past increasingly beautiful and less populated vistas of the South China Sea, one comes up to the Cape Bojeador lighthouse sitting up on a hill. A quick ascent in our car and a few dozen steps got us to the base of this impressive lighthouse that is more than a century old and still very much functioning and guiding ships through the Northernmost passages of Luzon. No other visitors were around and we got to spend some time chatting with Mang Celso, a 4th generation lighthouse keeper whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather had the same career. On duty for 3 months at a time, then taking a week off before returning for another 3 desolate months, it is an amazingly solitary assignment, or is it?

cape4

With his family hours away in La Union, Mang Celso looks after the lighthouse and amazingly he has no television, or even electricity! There is a generator for the lamp in the lighthouse but his living quarters were appallingly stark! He uses batteries for his radio! There is no fresh water connection, and he and other caretakers must collect rain water during the wet season and ration their water until it makes it to the next rainy season! Outrageous. Thank goodness there is a steady stream of tourists who come by and who chat him up and he is gracious and hospitable to all of them, despite the same questions, I am sure. Tourists leave him token amounts of money as tips and we had read somewhere that it would be nice to bring the man some food or something as a thank you. At the market in Laoag, I figured it had been some time since he had had some fresh fruit so we brought him an odd selection of apples, oranges, and local fruits. He had no refrigeration though so I hope he ate the fruit rapidly…

cape2

Unless I had a connection to the internet, I think I would personally go nuts if assigned to watch this or any other lighthouse. Tales of huge storms and the need to keep the light burning no matter what the weather conditions just sounded so “perfect stormish,” if you know what I mean. The Kid and Mrs. MM insisted on venturing to the top of the lighthouse and one look at the cast iron grill circular staircase, the height and the whole agoraphobia/claustrophobia thing meant I was heading up RELUCTANTLY. It didn’t help that there was a sign that went something like this “Totally high voltage area, one wrong move and you will fry your gonads to kingdom come…” hahaha… I liberally paraphrased… At any rate, I gingerly made it to the highest point of the circular staircase and looked out one of the “windows” and had instant vertigo. Mrs. MM and The Kid rose a few steps further on a thin metal ladder and they made it to the top and looked out on the Ilocos coastline. I told them to take a photo for me. Sorry, I don’t have the photo with me so I can’t post it just now… This is definitely a worthy stop on your Ilocos sojourn if you ever take one.

cape3

 

COMMENTS:

  1. portugalbear says:

    Thanks MM for the post and pictures. It was very sweet of you, Mrs. MM and the Kid to bring Mang Celso something to eat. Next time I travel to Ilocos, will make sure to do the same thing and bring something for Mang Celso to eat or drink.

    Sep 26, 2007 | 2:48 pm

     
  2. allen says:

    I’ll put this on my must visit list… Will I pass by here on the way to Sagada? I could bring Mang Celso some gallons of water :) Hemingway wrote the Old Man & the Sea… maybe someone could write a book about “The Old Man and the Lighthouse.”

    Sep 26, 2007 | 3:01 pm

     
  3. Marketman says:

    allen, I would have thought you would have to pass through Cagayan to Banaue, Bontoc and Sagada, but I suppose you could pass through the other side of Luzon…

    Sep 26, 2007 | 3:03 pm

     
  4. Blaise says:

    Light houses, at least for me, are so romantic..

    Actually the light house is that main reason why I wanted to go to Ilocos last summer (but didn’t push through).. geesh..

    Sep 26, 2007 | 3:12 pm

     
  5. palengkera says:

    MM, thank you for this beautiful post. Waves of nostalgia came rushing through…

    So Mang Ben finally retired…

    Months before I went to Luzon, I saw an episode Isla did on the lighthouse and I was really floored by the sad yet beautiful story of Mang Ben the lighthousekeeper. I made a mental note to include it on our itinerary. Pagka-upo sa plane, nagulat ako kasi right infront of me was Mabuhay Magazine’s August 2002 issue and on its cover was the lighthouse. Yes, it was a sign that the trip was meant to be. On our plane ride back, I chucked a copy of it and sent it to Mang Ben via courier along with several copies of his favorite Reader’s Digest Condensed book. Of course, I made pakyaw his postcards and sent it to my Dad in Belgium where he is a ship captain. My Dad told me that the lighthouse has guided him on his many trips from Japan to Philippines. I hope that government did something to restore the roofs…

    Anyway, I was singing Hanggang sa Dulo ng walang hanggan on our walk from the lighthouse to the highway. It was some good 3 kilometers walk I think but the scenery is so beautifully breathtaking that I didn’t mind the heat of the sun.

    Sep 26, 2007 | 4:46 pm

     
  6. sonny sj says:

    For a little adventure, I hope you get to visit the Cape Engano light house at Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley. Getting there would entail around an hour boat ride from from Sta. Ana/San Vicente and some hiking to reach the top of the hill where the light house sits. The sorrounding vista is simply awesome! On one side is Engano Cove – an good area for picnic, swimming and snorkling. On the other side is the Tres Marias Island eternally being pounded by waves of the Pacific Ocean.

    I was able to buy wild honey when I was there last summer. The locals said the honey/nectar was from flowers of the narra tree!

    While in the area, you may also want to take a dip Anguib cove, Crocodile Island (don’t worry, no live crocs there; the name came from the profile of the rocks as shaped by the sea) and Boacag water falls.

    Sorry to have sounded like a tourist guide, ang dami lang talangang places to see and discover while in the Cagayan Valley. And thats not even counting yet the old churches you will pass by along the way.

    Sep 26, 2007 | 5:26 pm

     
  7. aleth says:

    MM, I think I will visit the North provinces next vacation time … Good info from you – thanks… :)

    Sep 26, 2007 | 5:27 pm

     
  8. chris says:

    Sonny SJ, I agree with you on Palaui. It is a veritable paradise. My family spent Holy Week there years ago. We slept in a tent. This may be roughing it too much for Marketman though. We had to hike to a waterfall to take a bath and hide behind the brush to “go to the toilet” haha! We had a big fishing boat bring us supplies everyday, it was fun! I remember seeing a lot of giant hermit crabs and coconut crabs crawling along on the hike up the lighthouse… The view on the other side of the island, of the wind-swept, wave-battered coast facing the pacific was awesome.

    Sep 26, 2007 | 5:40 pm

     
  9. Maria Clara says:

    Nice brick building and the spiral staircase added twist to the place. Very good panoramic view of the ocean well I guess that what it is meant to be lookout for sea vessels.

    Sep 27, 2007 | 12:44 am

     
  10. nads says:

    Hey MM! Nice pics. :) How’d you get all the way to Ilocos? Did you drive/join a tour? Can you recommend any good tour groups? :)

    Sep 27, 2007 | 12:52 am

     
  11. dhayL says:

    Such a wonderful post! My father is from La Union, however I’m embarassed to say that I’ve never been to La Union before. My dad tells me that they have wonderful beaches in the area, now I have more reasons to bug him to take a trip north the next time we go back home!

    Sep 27, 2007 | 7:35 am

     
  12. corrrine says:

    Amazing! Ilocos – Cagayan Valley are in my wish list. Thanks for the tips folks. I love lighthouses. In some countries, they convert it into a some sort of bed and breakfast or even hotel.

    Speaking of ordinary folks leading extraordinary lives, you may want also to visit Mang Pitong who guards Siete Pecados Islands in Coron, Palawan from illegal fishermen and people that destroy the corals. He is used to be a muro-ami in his youth. Amazing transformation! He too leads a desolate life in his job, weathering many typhoons and tricks and threats from illegal fishermen and traders. Mang Ben, Mang Celso, Mang Pitong and the likes must have a higher purpose in their lives. Mang Pitong has many stories to tell too. It’ll be good to bring them food and water. A little money won’t hurt though. Your jaws will drop if you know how much monthly pay they get.

    Sep 27, 2007 | 8:44 am

     
  13. Mila says:

    Shouldn’t the town or municipality provide the guy at least regular running water? Having to ration rainwater till the next rainy season is insane (this year being a very long dry summer season). A well or pipeline to clean water is the least they can do.

    Sep 27, 2007 | 9:27 am

     
  14. The Steak Lady says:

    Beautiful post, MM! and it’s wonderful how you’re making your readers want to explore more of our beautiful country. Thanks!

    Sep 27, 2007 | 10:30 am

     
  15. erleen says:

    Hi sonnyj and chris!

    can you tell us how you got to palaui? all the details please…

    we would love to visit this…

    can you send the email to : erleen_16@yahoo.com

    thanks!!!!

    Sep 27, 2007 | 3:03 pm

     
  16. chris says:

    Erleen, You may want ot take a look at these links for more info about Palaui Island, and Cabo Engano in particular.

    http://guides.clickthecity.com/travel/?p=1320
    http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/4033/art51.html
    http://viajebaile.blogspot.com/2007/06/palaui-island-sunset-effect-i-love.html

    There are some tour groups mentioned in these posts but I do not know the organizers so exercise caution as you would out in the real world. I guess the safest, sure fire way to get there would be to go to Tuguegarao by Bus or plane, stay overnight and have your hotel make arrangements to for a trip to Palaui.

    Sep 27, 2007 | 6:04 pm

     
  17. Marketman says:

    chris, thanks for those links. For readers, I think there was recently a series of articles by Architect Villalon in The Inquirer about adopting lighthouses all over the Philippines, I found it very interesting… Mila, I agree about the water arrangements, or even bring them a truckload once a month to fill their tanks…

    Sep 27, 2007 | 6:42 pm

     
  18. chris says:

    MM, here are 3 more links that are more helpful…

    http://www.dotpcvc.gov.ph/starstudded/wowcagayanprov.html
    http://www.ceza.gov.ph/secondary_menu/press_room.htm
    http://echavezfamily.blogspot.com/2006/05/palaui-island.html

    Hope this encourages you to go through with the cancelled Cagayan trip earlier this year… =)

    Sep 27, 2007 | 8:06 pm

     
  19. Lev says:

    Hi guys,
    Just saw here a link to my blogspot (viajebaile.blogspot.com), posted by chris:
    Erleen, You may want ot take a look at these links for more info about Palaui Island, and Cabo Engano in particular.

    http://guides.clickthecity.com/travel/?p=1320
    http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/4033/art51.html
    http://viajebaile.blogspot.com/2007/06/palaui-island-sunset-effect-i-love.html

    There are some tour groups mentioned in these posts but I do not know the organizers so exercise caution as you would out in the real world. I guess the safest, sure fire way to get there would be to go to Tuguegarao by Bus or plane, stay overnight and have your hotel make arrangements to for a trip to Palaui.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Yup, we do have organized tours to Cagayan Valley, Palaui Island, Tuguegarao and Isabela. Erleen, I’d be happy to assist you if you have queries on visiting Palaui Island.

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS ONE AND ALL! HAPPY HOLIDAYS MM!! =)

    Dec 31, 2007 | 6:32 pm

     
  20. lonnie says:

    I do hope that this lighthouse will keep its lights shining for all to see.

    Nov 6, 2008 | 12:24 pm

     
  21. JM Ibanez says:

    Lovely pics :) We did visit the lighthouse recently, and I took some pics from up top (http://flickr.com/photos/jmibanez/3269235848/). The lighthouse, I think, is in need of repairs in bits and places. It’s sad that this lovely yet desolate spot is so badly maintained.

    Feb 10, 2009 | 6:16 pm

     
 

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