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?
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…
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.