Tuesday, September 26, 2006

2007 HCS Calendar

The 2007 HCS Calendar featuring heritage provincial capitols, city halls and municipios, is now on sale. For more information, contact:

Heritage Conservation Society
G/F Museo Pambata Building
Roxas Boulevard, Ermita
Manila, Philippines
Tel. +632 521 2239
Fax. +632 522 2497

For a closer look, you can download a pdf file here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Brick horno in Camalaniugan, Cagayan

The lost lighthouses of Ilocos Sur

By Frank Cimatu, Leoncio Balbin Jr.
Last updated 01:06am (Mla time) 07/26/2006

Published on Page A15 of the July 26, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a series of reports on lighthouses in Northern Luzon. The Inquirer is featuring these century-old structures to highlight their importance to the country's northern sea lanes and call public attention to their neglect.

ILOCOS SUR is one of the oldest provinces in the country and an important trading center for the Spaniards. The Chinese pirate Limahong used to pillage the settlements there and later traded with local folk four centuries ago.

The province has an extensive shoreline, but many residents are wondering why they can't spot a lighthouse as imposing as Cape Bojeador at the tip of Ilocos Norte.

But the lighthouses of Ilocos Sur are there, albeit forgotten and neglected. Now, local officials are calling for the restoration of the "lost beacons."

The once important lighthouses during the Spanish times are in Narvacan, San Esteban and Sinait towns, Vice Gov. Deogracias Savellano said.

"These are brick monuments of history. As much as we wanted to restore them, we have no funds yet for this project," Savellano said.

The structure in Narvacan may not even be a lighthouse but a watchtower.

Michael Canosa, 42, a resident of Barangay Sulvec, said the old brick facility in their backyard was built during the time of the Spaniards.

Canosa said based on the stories shared by his relatives, his great grandfather, Lope Canosa, was among the recruited soldiers who served as sentry under the Spanish government.

The watchtower was used to warn residents of the arrival of pirates.

"They would blow a horn to signal the arrival of the pirates for residents to prepare," Canosa said.

The watchtower is deteriorating; its bricks chipping off due to exposure to the elements. The ownership of the area where the watchtower sits is also being disputed in court between the Canosas and the municipal government.

Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson has initiated moves to restore the lighthouse in nearby San Esteban. "Even if these lighthouses are obsolete, they are still important reminders of the glory that was Ilocos Sur," he said.

He said lighthouses used to draw the community together. To make his point, he converted the Parola lighthouse in Barangay Darapidap in Candon City into a promenade. The lighthouse was built in the 1950s.

A boardwalk, a fountain and a mini-stage were inaugurated in the area in April. Bands perform onstage during the balmy summer nights. Singson said an amusement park would be added later.

The 20-meter lighthouse is useful to fishermen in the town, Eduardo Villanueva, chair of Barangay Darapidap, said. "It serves as a reference for fishermen during blackouts."

At first, they used kerosene for the beacon until 1971 when electricity was tapped in the village.

Another modern lighthouse is in Cabugao town.

Savellano said the historic Dardarat lighthouse also guided fishermen's voyages to the Salomague port. Because of the port, Salomague is among the few Ilocos villages found on ancient mariner's maps.

"During the American occupation, it served as a mooring place for USS Manauili that ferried thousands of mostly Ilocano residents across the Pacific to work at sugar plantations in Hawaii and California," Savellano said.

Now leased to a private corporation, it is the transshipment port of goods and products to Taiwan. It is also the unloading point of commercial fishing vessels.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

101-year-old lighthouse is Bolinao’s landmark


By Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes
Last updated 00:26am (Mla time) 06/28/2006

Published on Page A19 of the June 28, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a series of reports on lighthouses in Northern Luzon. The Inquirer is featuring these century-old structures to highlight their importance to the country’s northern sea lanes and call attention to their neglect.

FOR 101 years now, the Cape Bolinao lighthouse stands proud atop Punta Piedra Point in Barangay Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan, guiding ships and vessels cruising the international passage along the South China Sea.

Nestled amid trees, the lighthouse was built in 1905 by Filipino, British and American engineers. It is one of the five major lighthouses in the country and the second tallest, next to the Cape Bojeador lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It has become a prominent landmark that tourists frequent.

The 30.78-meter (101-foot) tower provides a panoramic view of the blue sea and white beaches, offshore reefs and rock formations, as well as rolling verdant hills. Once in a while, a passing vessel dots the sea, an international route of vessels going to Hong Kong, Japan and the United States.

The 140-step winding stairway of the tower leads to the illumination room, 76.2 m above sea level. According to Pedro Honrada, the lighthouse’s head keeper, the lantern is visible 44 kilometers away, guiding seafarers (led toward this area by a lighthouse in Zambales) toward the lighthouse in Poro Point, La Union.

The late Bolinao historian Catalino Catanaoan said the original light machine was manufactured in England, while the lantern, with three wicks and chimneys, was imported from France.

“Filipino machinists were able to copy the original [when they repaired it]. The light machine is rotated by a system of gears like that of a big clock with a pendulum of weights, winded and suspended with steel cable,” he said.

Kerosene fuel

The lighthouse was fueled by kerosene during its first 80 years of operation. When the Pangasinan I Electric Cooperative extended its lines to Patar, the lanterns were powered by electricity.

In 1999, the lighthouse was renovated through a loan package extended by the Japanese government to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which is in charge of the facility. Aside from repairing and repainting the tower, the assistance included setting up solar panels, a new apparatus and two beacon lights. The panels recharge the lights.

The lighthouse has also been getting the attention it deserves from the municipal government.

In June last year, Mayor Alfonso Celeste entered into a memorandum of agreement with the PCG to “adopt” the Cape Bolinao lighthouse to ensure its preservation and maintenance, under the PCG’s “Adopt a Lighthouse Program.”

Under the MOA, the PCG continues to be the sole owner of the lighthouse. It has the right to deny entry into the area during emergency cases and is responsible for the operation, repair and regular maintenance of the beacon light and its supporting mechanisms.

On the other hand, the local government will take charge of rehabilitation and maintenance of the immediate vicinity (except that of the beacon, solar panels and other equipment), provide maintenance personnel, and protect the facilities from vandals.

Cultural heritage

The local government is also tasked with promoting the declaration of the lighthouse as a cultural heritage.

Already, the lighthouse compound has been spruced up. The uphill road leading to the tower has been paved with the help of Pangasinan Rep. Arturo Celeste. A view deck has been put up in the area.

The rehabilitation of the administration building and a public bath was funded by the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Brunner Carranza, municipal planning and development officer, said a worker assigned by the local government keeps the area clean all day.

While the lighthouse has become a tourist attraction by itself, it has failed to do its “job” of guiding sea vessels at night, Honrada said.

In early November 2004, the beacon lights started to dim until it finally shut off on Nov. 8.

“The batteries bogged down,” Honrada said. He has been following up with the PCG navigation command the repair of the batteries that cost about P1 million—to no avail.

“My wish is that before I retire [in October], the lighthouse will be working again,” Honrada said.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Petition to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines: Please Stop the Further Defacing of Philippine Heritage Churches

Most Reverend Eminences and Excellencies:

Almost every town in the Philippines has at least one church built during the Spanish colonial period, all of which are inherent parts of the architectural heritage of Filipinos and stand as testaments to the excellence and creativity of Filipino artisans and craftsmen of yesteryears who labored to create these works of art.

These properties of the Filipino people are under the custodianship of the Roman Catholic Church and their representatives in the Republic of the Philippines.

It must have come to your knowledge that several parish priests have taken it upon themselves to modernize and renovate heritage churches under their care without proper consultation with conservationists or representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage. In their desire to "leave their mark" on the churches, parish priests have caused irreversible damage to our old churches during their short stints in their parishes.

Sadly, there have been instances where parish priests sold off priceless antiques and other church property to unscrupulous antique dealers and collectors to fund these renovations, with the treasures of the Church ending up in homes and other private collections.

In many occasions, the renovations are costly and unnecessary, and at times ostentatious. Priests and parish pastoral councils have undertaken and continue to undertake large-scale fundraising campaigns for these renovations when such funds could be put to better use, especially in a Third-world country such as the Philippines.

The funds could instead be directed toward the three-fold pastoral program of action of the CBCP, to build character, capability and community. Instead of spending on renovations, the various parishes could use the funds “to empower those who are needy to construct a better future” by supporting “social action programs, training programs and institutions, research centers, schools, charitable agencies and organizations, religious orders and congregations, lay organizations and movements, Basic Ecclesial Communities,” that would “help people grow in capacities, such as the capacity to govern themselves, the capacity to develop their abilities, the capacity to find meaningful and fruitful employment and work, the capacity to care for our environment, the capacity to make leadership accountable.”

We, the undersigned petitioners, thus urge the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to protect the cultural heritage of the Philippine Catholic Church from further damage by ordering the immediate stop to all ongoing and proposed renovations to heritage churches that have not been approved by the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church or reviewed by representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage.

We also urge the CBCP to declare all Catholic churches in the Philippines fifty years or older as part of the cultural heritage of the Church and create a comprehensive list of all these churches for the information of the Filipino people and to aid the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in monitoring the said churches.

It should also empower the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church by giving it the sole authority to approve any restoration, construction or further improvements of heritage churches, with the aid of representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage, and the power to order the halt any restoration, construction or further improvement that it deems damaging to a heritage church.

Finally, we urge the CBCP to adopt a policy of frugality with the renovation of churches. It would be best to channel the funds for unnecessary renovations to the pastoral program of action of the CBCP.


To sign the petition, visit http://www.petitiononline.com/cbcp/

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Faro de Cabo Engaño

Cagayan’s guiding light won’t let darkness fall

By Melvin Gascon

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a series of reports on lighthouses in Northern Luzon. The Inquirer is featuring these century-old structures to highlight their importance to the country’s northern sea lanes and call attention to their neglect.

TERESA Jamorabon was beaming as she recalled the years when living at the Faro de Cabo Engaño was everything she, her husband and their brood of nine could only dream of.

Her husband, the late Gregorio Jamorabon, was among the longest-serving lighthouse keepers in the Cape Engaño light station on Palaui Island at the northeastern tip of the archipelago.

From 1946 to 1968, the Jamorabons called the Cape Engaño lighthouse their home.

“It was wonderful. We were like living in paradise; we had everything we needed. We were happy because best of all, my husband was working while he had with him his family,” Jamorabon, 80, said.

The Cape Engaño is one of the 27 major lighthouses in the country, which, until now, continues to play a crucial role in navigation, especially for ships traversing the Babuyan Channel in Northern Luzon and the Pacific Ocean. It is under the supervision of the Department of Transportation and Communications, through the Philippine Coast Guard’s lighthouse division.

Perched on the northern edge of the island, Cape Engaño is still regarded as one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the country.

Built in 1888, mostly by Filipino laborers, the structure has withstood the Spanish-American War and World War II, as well as the wrath of scores of typhoons.


The fortress-like station sits atop a hill 92 meters above sea level, overlooking the Cape Engaño cove on the east, the clear waters of the Babuyan Channel and the Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters) Islands on the north, and the vast Pacific Ocean on the west.

It is said that Spanish seafarers who first set foot on the cape were so enthralled by its natural beauty that they named it Engaño.

From the Santa Ana town proper, the station can be reached by a 30-minute boat ride from the Barangay San Vicente port, going northward and docking at the white sand beach of the Cape Engaño cove. It takes 20 minutes to hike the top of the hill.

The station has four major structures: The one-story main pavilion that serves as the office and the workers’ quarters; two smaller identical buildings, which used to be the kitchen; and the storage and powerhouse.

At the center is the 11-m (47-foot) octagonal tower, whose protruding attic (the platform on which the crown and lantern rest) is visible from all angles around the cape.

Lighthouse families

According to Jamorabon, the complex used to shelter seven crew members tasked with maintaining the lighthouse. Their families lived with them.

It used to be like a castle, she said, describing how for a long time, it stood in all its grandeur, and how its lights used to glow at night like a modern city in the middle of the jungle.

To live there was to be the object of envy for many people in Santa Ana, according to Jamorabon, because, for one, it was the only place in the area where residents enjoyed electricity.

“Santa Ana was still then a dense jungle, so that when people came here, it was like they had gone to the city,” she said.

Jamorabon described how well the government took care of the lighthouse keepers and the station. The workers’ families lived harmoniously in separate rooms, but under one roof.

Their rations—rice, beans, noodles, cooking oil and kerosene—arrived every month and were shared equally among the workers, regardless of rank, she said.

Imelda Jamorabon-Leaño, 47, Jamorabon’s eighth child, recalled how she and the other workers’ children, coming home from school every weekend or during Christmas or summer breaks, found joy in watching ships as these arrived from the Pacific Ocean and the Babuyan Channel.

The lighthouse keepers also raised goats to augment their food. The forest and the sea were also abundant sources of food, said Leaño, now a grade school teacher at the Santa Ana Central Elementary School.

But the light station received substantial attention from the government only until the early 1980s, said Jamorabon, adding that assistance dwindled with the change of administrations.

She has not set foot again on Cape Engaño since her husband retired from service in the 1960s.

Sorry state

But Jamorabon feels that pinch in her heart whenever she hears people’s accounts of what has become of the lighthouse.

Today, the light station sits forlorn on the island and is in a sorry state of decay and neglect. It continues to be destroyed by elements, aggravated by the government’s apparent apathy to preserve this cultural and historical treasure.

The windows, doors and roof of the main pavilion, as well as that of the kitchens and the storage rooms, have been destroyed, leaving only the two-foot thick granite walls intact. The rusting power generators are now pieces of junk.

The tower has also fallen victim to thieves and vandals. The eight bronze lion busts, which used to cling onto the tower’s eight corners underneath the attic, have been stolen. Even its bronze marker was also pried off from the front wall of the pavilion.

The cisterns or concrete reservoirs, where lighthouse keepers used to collect rainwater for drinking and household needs, are no longer in use.

Treasure hunters had dug a tunnel underneath the main building and graffiti dominate the buildings’ white granite walls.

But all is not lost for the Cape Engaño light station.

Thanks to dedicated lighthouse keepers like 51-year-old Cesario Sumibcay, who, despite the low pay and lack of adequate attention from the government, continues to ensure that the lighthouse remains functional.

The Coast Guard has replaced the lantern with a solar-based lighting mechanism, which required little human intervention.

Gov. Edgar Lara is optimistic that a joint restoration project that the provincial government was embarking on, in partnership with the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority and a number of nongovernment organizations, would restore the luster of Cape Engaño.

“This is why we are opening up the place to ecotourism to raise public awareness about the need to preserve the lighthouse and possibly attract future investments on the island,” he said.

Help a beacon, save a national treasure


By Cristina Arzadon

BURGOS, Ilocos Norte -- The over a century-old Burgos lighthouse (known locally as the Cape Bojeador lighthouse) is not just a beacon to seafarers.

It is also a source of provincial pride after the National Museum declared it a national cultural treasure in December 2005.

Perched on Vigia de Nagpartian hill, the lighthouse, however, cries out for national attention as it continues to battle the elements that have been battering it the last 114 years.

The structure is composed of a 160-m tall light tower, living and office quarters and a courtyard.

Completed on March 30, 1892, the lighthouse was built by Guillermo Brockman from a design by Magin Pers y Pers. It is made of locally fabricated bricks and accented with cast metal grillwork.

Octagonal tower

Motorists driving north through the province of Ilocos Norte can catch sight of the lighthouse which dominates the Burgos skyline.

Lone lighthouse keeper Vicente Acoba Sr. is kept busy by the steady stream of visitors who climb the steep steps leading to the tri-level complex that supports the octagonal lighthouse tower.

Panorama of the sea

From its top, one can easily take in the sweeping panorama of the sea and the surrounding countryside.

“Sea vessels making the voyage from the Babuyanes Channel toward Hong Kong or Yokohama (Japan) can’t miss the lighthouse,” Acoba told the Inquirer.

Based on an initial study commissioned by the National Museum, the base of the lighthouse needs to be strengthened before the structure could be improved.

The building is in good condition but the living quarters and offices need to be repaired.

At one point, Councilor Joegie Jimenez, chair of the Burgos Tourism Council, said, archeologists from the University of the Philippines who did research on the lighthouse excavated a site where the kiln that was used to fire up the bricks that make up the structure was buried. Old bricks were also found in the hole.

Jimenez said the tourism council plans to put up a landmark at the site.

“We need to make people aware of the need to save the lighthouse. This is the town’s single, most important structure,” he said.

Jimenez said efforts to preserve the lighthouse complex were continuing after initial restoration work for the roofing was completed.

Symbol of Spanish times

Donations, mostly from Burgos residents here and abroad, helped restore the town’s most enduring symbol of the Spanish era.

The funds, however, were not enough to restore the entire structure.

“We need to have more improvements. We only managed to repair the rotting roof and upgrade its wooden support,” Jimenez said.

“We thought that by being declared a national treasure, the national government would pay attention to its preservation by helping produce funds,” Jimenez, a board member at the time, said.

He said the lighthouse was in bad shape after being whipped by Typhoon Feria in 2001.

“The iron sheets were flapping while several glass panels surrounding the lighting device were shattered.”

“The structure itself was left rotting,” Jimenez said.

He said the foundation is preparing a rehabilitation proposal it will submit to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for funding support.

1,000-postcard campaign

The proposal would contain a technical study on what kind of preservation the lighthouse should undergo.

The roof improvement was made possible through the “Save the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse” campaign that Jimenez and the Cape Bojeador Development Foundation initiated in 2003. Ilocos Norte Gov. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the foundation’s honorary chair.

Burgos Mayor Benjamin Campañano caused the placing of streetlights in the courtyard, which serves as the main entrance to the complex.

Jimenez reproduced some 1,000 postcards, touting the campaign, which were distributed to Burgos natives living in other countries.

The campaign raised some P2.2 million from contributions and from provincial government funds.

It was the second rehabilitation the lighthouse underwent since its construction in 1892. The first improvement was done in 1982.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Las Estaciones Ferrocarril Manila-Dagupan

by Manuél Máximo Nóche Lopez del Castíllo

Train travel has always been a major component in nation building. The Manila-Dagupan line of the Manila Railway Company Limited, precursor of the Philippine National Railways opened its first line in 1892. This quickly led to the efficient delivery and transport not only of goods and people but also information to the north via an efficient, reliable and fast (8 hours at that time) mode of transport the Philippines during the last decade of the 19th century has yet seen.
Along the rail route, numerous stations were built to house and accommodate passengers and Station Masters. These structures, most made of brick and wood, who shelter the official needs and functions of the assigned Station Master as well as commuters who would wait for their rides as well as onlookers who as part of their daily routine would flock to see the trains pass by. The station thus became a hub of the community, springing to life a multitude of activities from selling food to travelers as well as meeting place for travelers.

With the proposed revitalization and modernization of the North Line, a plan has been put forward to demolish the old stations and replaced with new ones. This wanton destruction will remove from history the vestiges of these stations leaving the people no trace of the rich architectural past the railways had on Philippine History. It is the purpose of this study to document and study the Spanish built stations along the North Line. To secure, document and if might be preserving the rich architecture these stations had for future generations of travelers to come.

Growth needs progress, and progress sometimes leads to the removal of the old in place of the new. The government in its desire to revitalize the North Line of the Philippine National Railroad has now seriously undertaken the task of rebuilding the destroyed North Line. Part of the modernization program of the government is the revitalization, and upgrading of the rail link between Manila-Clark, which forms part of the First Phase, and eventually the whole line to Dagupan City. In line with this redevelopment is the replacement of all the old terminals with new ones.

With the impending revitalization and thus modernization of the Manila-Dagupan Line, the need to chart and document the remaining Spanish Built Train Stations along the line is integral. The management of the Philippine National Railroad as yet has not signified their intentions of retaining these structures prompting some local government particularly those of San Fernando in Pampanga to declare these stations as historic. But unfortunately not all-local officials are enlightened. With time fast ticking by and with the proposed revitalization not only a dream but also now a reality. The demolition of these stations is fast becoming a reality as well.


Meycauayan Station

Bocaue Station

Bigaa Station

Malolos Station

Calumpit Station


Apalit Station

Sto. Tomas Station

San Fernando Station
(NHI-declared historical site)

Angeles Station

Mabalacat Station


Bamban Station

Capas Station

Tarlac Station

Paniqui Station

Gerona Station

Moncada Station


Bayambang Station

San Carlos Station

Malasiqui Station

Calasiao Station

Dagupan Station

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bridge Over Not So Troubled Waters: Spanning Communities and Building Relationships

by Manuel Maximo Lopez del Castillo-Noche

Notice when one travels the length and breadth of the country, the traveler is greeted with a myriad of scenery’s, from pristine beaches with powder fine sand, azure blue seas covered with a forest of corals, majestic mountains with profiles that tests your most vivid of imaginations, ancient and not so ancient structures left by various colonizers, and the most fun loving and hospitable of peoples in this part of the world. Yet when we visit these sights we normally forget that there are structures dotted in our landscape that make visiting and experiencing these marvels possible. Traveling by land is still the most natural and preferred mode of transport in and around the country and this has been made possible not only by the provision of quality grade road networks that make traveling comfortable and memorable, but also in a very discreet way, by bridges, which span the gaps of the earth’s profile. These bridges which in most cases are unnoticed by any seasoned traveler bring communities together, enabling produce and relations to be established and sites which other wise would be passed by, noticed. And what was once separated by torrents of water, or treacherous ravines can now be accessed with ease with the presence of a bridge. No wonder throughout the course of history, bridges have played an integral part in the building of communities.

Bridges have appeared in different guises throughout the course of human evolution. From one made by Mother Nature, in the form of a fallen wooden tree, to those made by man such as a simple wooden plank laid out across a gap. With a little know how in engineering and with the basic tools of construction, soon men crossed the gaps with more interesting designs and with longer spans enabling distances to be crossed at any desired location. Bridges became part of the landscape, in some cases it heralded the arrival into an important town. Tolls were collected and customs laid claim to any item deemed taxable. On the other hand there were those which became so significant in the survival of communities that they were converted to virtual fortresses, inventing devises that would enable spans to be drawn away from intruding enemies, thus saving the town from intrusion and subsequent destruction. In highly populous communities, bridges became virtual cities with houses built on top of them, a fine example is the Renaissance Bridge of Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, where today expensive shops line both sides of the span. Similarly in London, England, the famed London Bridge, which as the nursery rhyme would say “kept falling down” was once an inhabited bridge, only later in the early 19th century did the original structure give way to a much wider and modern bridge which, in a strange twist of fate would as well be replaced by the new London Bridge of the 1970’s. By the mid 19th century with the Industrial Revolution in full steam across Europe, a new material, steel became the material of choice. Bridges made of metal plates, riveted together crossed daring spans. Bridge design as well took a different turn, with spans traversed either in suspension or a series of trussed beams. In time, bridges started to accommodate different modes of transport. From the traditional horse drawn carriage to the automobile, from trains to narrow hull boats, from people to water, bridges have been built primarily to assist man in his needs to travel.

In the Philippines, the construction of bridges occurred with the colonization of the islands by the Spaniards. Prior to their arrival, tribal communities lived beside bodies of water and traveled from one place to another via small boats. The Spaniards on the other hand in their desire to colonize and Christianize the natives established fixed communities under a system of governance and town planning known as Leyes de las Indias, or the Laws of the Indies. This dictated that communities should be permanent and safe, and accessible by land or sea to other towns. With the necessity of accessibility, especially by land, the need to establish road links and subsequently bridges became a priority of the Spanish Colonial authorities. The building of roads and bridges, Caminos y Puentes, in the country was initially conducted by the Spanish Friars assigned to a particular mission. These friars were neither trained engineers nor builders but with a basic understanding of Renaissance building techniques as well as most likely a pattern book brought in from Mexico or Europe, the construction of lasting bridges commenced. Though subsequently replaced by trained Engineers from Spain, the Inspección General de Obras Publicas or the General Board of Public Works was created by Royal Decree in 1866, the construction of these bridges, some still standing has proven that ancient building principles and techniques can never be replaced by modern technology. Though during the latter part of Spanish colonization, and with the arrival of the Americans in 1898, technology did come in with the construction of four significant bridges in the country. The Puente de España, the precursor to the Jones Bridge was a bridge of major proportions to be built across the mighty Rio del Pasig. Erected in 1875 to replace the earlier Puente Grande, the Puente de España had six spans of masonry and two central arches of iron. Capable of accommodating pedestrian and vehicular traffic, at that time consisting of horse or carabao drawn carts and carriages as well as a modern trolley system, the tranvia, the Puente de España lasted until its subsequent replacement during the 1930’s with Juan Arellano’s Neo-Classical masterpiece, Jones Bridge. Another significant structure erected across the Pasig was the precursor to the art deco Quezon Bridge in Quiapo. The Puente de Colgante was the second bridge to be opened to cross the river. A beautiful piece of engineering in a time when Manila was vying for the title of Paris of the Orient, the Puente de Colgante was a suspension bridge. Erected in 1852 by Matia, Menchacatorre y Cia, a private company, the bridge, had the distinction of having probably two “firsts” in its reputation. The first suspension bridge, not only the Philippines but in South East Asia as well, and, probably the first toll bridge of its kind in the Philippines, a precursor of the modern Sky Way, albeit for pedestrian use only. The third to be built spanning the Pasig was the Puente de Convalecencia or better known as the Ayala Bridge, originally composed of two separate spans connected by the Isla de Convalecencia, which is home to Hospisio de San Jose, dropping point for abandoned babies, the bridge over this island was originally made of wooden arched trusses. Completed in 1880, it suffered major structural damage and completely collapsed 10 years later. This was subsequently replaced with a simple metal saw trussed bridge in the last decade of the 19th century, though not significant for its design, its engineer nevertheless is important in the annals of Philippine history, for it was the only bridge that the famed French Engineer by the name of Gustave Eiffel built in the country. This bridge, famous for its engineer or otherwise, similarly didn’t last long and was subsequently replaced. The fourth significant span to be erected in the islands is small in comparison to those that crossed the mighty rivers of our country. Covering only a small distance, roughly about 15 meters, the bridge over the Estero de Binondo in Manila is unique due to its ability to lift its platform from the ground to accommodate passing boats or cascos. The Lift Bridge inaugurated in 1913 was the only one of its kind in the country. Spared from the destruction that befell most of colonial Manila during the Liberation, the Lift Bridge of Estero de Binondo was until recently the only link to both banks of the estero along Calle Dasmariñas until, its subsequent replacement by the most beautiful of all DPWH bridges, the standard concrete bridge.

During the American Commonwealth Period, a frenzy of bridge building was experienced throughout the whole archipelago. Great engineers and builders as they were, the American Master proved that what could be linked by a bridge was indeed connected. Only immense distances hampered the erection of a bridge and it was only long after independence that a bridge would connect major island groups.

Other bridges as well crossed the various spans that litter our country. With the arrival of the trains, railroad bridges became increasingly important. Though uniform in nature, these bridges especially those built along the northern and southern lines bear witness to the growth and prosperity of the communities that the railroads passed. Though a majority of these bridges were destroyed during the Second World War, its eventual reconstruction heralded a new dawn to a war ravaged country. Today these rail bridges that connect Manila to the north and south are still standing, though the north line has been abandoned, the ghosts of its past still haunt the familiar landscape with its bridges standing isolated and unused. The south line on the other hand is very much in use and its bridges constantly being inspected and repaired for the safe journey of not only the locomotives that pass above her but the make shift trolleys that ply her rails.

Today as we enter the new millennia, ambitious projects are underway, though most of it still in the drawing boards. Old bridges, aesthetically appealing as they may be are being replaced by modern albeit mundane spans, capable of carrying a much greater load and a larger capacity. A link connecting the Islands of Panay and Guimaras and eventually to Negros is being studied. Likewise a bridge from Dumaguete to the southern tip of Cebu is being planned. Also in the drawing boards is a bridge connecting Luzon with Mindoro. Utopian as it may seem, it should be remembered that it was only recently that the famous San Juanico Bridge joined the Islands of Leyte and Samar. Today another bridge has been inaugurated crossing the Mactan Straits. So it is not impossible that in the future bridges would connect our scattered islands making travel from Aparri to Jolo possible by car without ever boarding a boat or ferry to cross the treacherous seas that once scared even the most experienced navigator.

With the future within our reach, and technology making the impossible possible, soon the whole nation would be joined in one. As most of the western world has started to connect with one another, physically as well as through cyber space, the globalization of our country has similarly begun. Bridges and eventually tunnels would span open waters, and through these people and the commerce and cultures that they bring will be experienced and shared by all. What Mother Nature initiated, with a fallen tree across a treacherous gap has been improved by man with the multitude of bridges that he has designed throughout the ages. The country has been part of this experience, hosting a variety of designs and technology, from the primitive span to the Steel Cabled Suspension Bridge. It is only a matter of time, and money for our utopian dreams of linking the whole country to become a reality. For with the progress in development of technology and innovative bridge design, the Philippines will be bridged not only into the future but also into a brave new world.

Mauca Railroad Bridge
Ragay, Provincia de Camarines Sur
Used more by makeshift trolleys that ply the Southern Tracks, the Mauca Railroad Bridge has a unique span with inverted truss support rather than the usual saw truss.

San Juan del Monte Bridge
San Juan del Monte, Metro Manila
Built in 1883 as a viaduct to supply fresh drinking water to Manila, the bridge over the San Juan River, drawn up by Geraro Palacios y Guerra, stands as a mute witness to the turmoils that led to the start of the Philippine-American War of 1898.

Puente del Caprichio
Majayjay, Provincia de la Laguna
Built in 1826 by Fray Victorino del Moral de Calatrava to provide a footway to town. Built over the river Olla, the arch is 90 feet high, constructed using Mamposteria technique, (rough stone placed one on top of another) and bound together using only a lime mixture.

Quezon Bridge
Spanning the mighty Rio del Pasig, the Quezon bridge, built in the 1930’s replaced the aging Colgante Foot Bridge. Designed in the prevailing Art Deco style, the bridge echoed the Sydney Harbor Bridge which no doubt was its inspiration.

Candaba River Suspension Bridge
Candaba, Pampanga
Spanning the mighty Rio Grande de Pampanga, this bridge built during the American Period was heavily damaged during the Second World War and was subsequently rebuilt in 1946 with the reconstruction aid granted by the United States of America. Today, a more modern concrete bridge is replacing this unique bridge over the Rio Grande de Pampanga.

Labangan Railway Bridge
Calumpit, Provincia de Bulacan
Spanning the Rio Grande de Angat, the bridge erected in c.1887 is made of metal lattice work and previously decorated with cast iron moldings in its approach.

Bauang River Bridge
Bauang, Provincia de la Union
Completed in 1929, the Railway Bridge over the Bauang River in la Union was the longest bridge ever built by the Manila Railroad Company. Today this bridge lays silent, abandoned after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo destroyed much of the track of the Manila North Line.

Puente de Santa Maria
Santa Maria, Provincia de Ilocos Sur
Built during the 19th century, one of the few remaining bridges built by the Spanish Colonial Authorities, the bridge in the town of Santa Maria is made entirely of bricks. Proof of its durability and strength, the bridge still withstands the weight of passing busses and trucks.

Puente de Mabacao Bridge
Maragondon, Cavite
Crossing over the Cay Alvaran River, the Mabacao Bridge is one of the few remaining steel trussed bridges built during the Spanish Period.

Puente de Malagonlong
Tayabas, Quezon
Built in 1850 by Don Julian S. Francisco, the bridge which is one of the few remaining long spans built by the Spaniards in the Philippines, is made of 5 wide arches spanning the Dumacan River.

Puente de Alitao
Tayabas, Quezon
Built in 1823, the bridge which traverses the Alitao River in Tayabas, Quezon, was built by Don Diego Urbano. Composed of two Adobe arches, the bridge has been recently been widened with cement piers attached to the original adobe span.

Puente de Capricho
Lucban, Quezon
Now more popularly known as Puente de Arco, the bridge made of adobe was constructed in 1851. Originally a two arched bridge that spans the Camatian River only one arch remains standing.

Puente de Olla
Majayjay, Laguna
A single arched bridge which spans the Olla River, is made of adobe in 1874. The bridge is also dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de la Porteria whose shrine is situated below it.

Puente de Dampol
Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya
Built in 1818 by Fray Francisco Rocamora OP, the single arched brick bridge spans the Abanatan Creek.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cape Melville Lighthouse

Lonely Sentinels of the Sea: The Spanish Colonial Lighthouses in the Philippines

by Manuel Maximo Noche Lopez Del Castillo

In the 1880’s, the Spanish Colonial government undertook massive construction frenzy. Its main goal: to protect the ever-increasing maritime trade the Philippines was then experiencing. With the end of the famed Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, the Philippines was opened to a wider network of international trade. This necessitated more shipping routes to and from the islands, as well as more connection between Manila and beyond. In the absence of modern satellite or radar technology, navigators at that time relied heavily on astronomy; on stars to map and chart their courses. Though medieval, this proved adequate, considering that explorers were able to find their way around the globe with nary an incident. But to further ensure the safety of the galleons – by these time coal-burning transport ships laden with precious commodities – further guides were needed to bring the ships safely into harbor or open waters. This brought about the construction of faros (lighthouses) throughout the archipelago.
Lighthouses in the Philippines are nothing new. The oldest lighthouse in the country was erected way back in the 16th century, almost at the onset of Philippine colonization. This lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Pasig, guided navigators to the banks of the river, which served as the main port of Manila, the capital of colonial Spain in the Orient. Centuries would progress with the Philippines comfortable with the wealth that the Galleon trade would bring, but not a single lighthouse except for the one located in the mouth of the Pasig as well as fires lit on top of Corrigedor Island was built

By the 19th century, towards the end of Spanish colonization, the Spanish Colonial Government undertook a massive lighting of our seas. The Plan General de Alumbrado de Maritimo de las costas del Archipelago de Filipino or the “Masterplan for the lighting of the Maritime Coasts of the Philippine Archipelago” was undertaken by the Inteligencia del Cuerpo de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos or the “Corp of Engineers for Roads, Canals and Ports. The task to light the seas and channels of the country to guide ships in and through the most important sea channels to the Ports of Manila, Ilo-ilo and Cebu. This plan, which was drafted in 1857, was immediately set into action with the preparation and eventual construction of roughly 70 lighthouses allover the archipelago. Of these 22 are of major construction works while the rest were of lower classification lights.

Spanish Engineers were tasked in the preparation and supervision of these lighthouses. Engineers such as Guillermo Brockman, Magin Pers, Eduardo Lopez Navarro, Ramon Ros, Enrique Trompet Vinci, Alejandro Olano designed structures that were functional, comfortable and beautiful as well. These structures located in the most beautiful and spectacular sites, lonely isolated islets, cliffs, barren rock outcrops, bluffs, capes and points, are testament to the commitment the Spanish Colonial government had on the Philippines to modernize it and make it competitive at the dawn of the 19th century.

Designed in the prevailing renaissance revival style as well as the Victorian Style of Architecture, these structures, composed of tower, pavilion and service buildings were built to house the lights as well as the keepers who would man them. The tower, the most significant part of any lighthouse was made strong and tall to ensure visibility at any given condition. The pavilion on the other hand was designed to accommodate the lighthouse keeper and his family whose role it was to ensure that the lights were lit every evening and that the prisms or Fresnel Lens are rotating. Two service buildings, usually flanking a grilled courtyard would contain kitchens and almacenes or storage rooms for the combustible materials that were used to light the tower. An outhouse situated a few meters away from the complex served the toilet needs of the keepers.

Different towers were designed by the Corp of Engineers. The most significant are those made of masonry of either brick or stone. Of the lighthouses visited during the course of this research, 13 towers were built of masonry. Faro de Cabo Engaño, Isla Palaui, Santa Ana, Cagayan, Faro de Cabo Bojeador, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, Faro de Punta Capones, Islote de Capon Grande, San Antonio, Zambales, Faro de la Isla de Cabra, Lubang, Mindoro Occidental, Faro de Rio de Pasig, Binondo, Manila, Faro de Isla Corrigedor, Cavite, Faro de Punta Malabrigo, Lobo, Batangas, Faro de Cabo Santiago, Calatagan, Batangas, Faro de Islote de San Bernardino, Bulusan, Sorsogon, Faro de Punta Bugui, Aroroy, Masbate, Faro de Isla Gintotolo, Balud, Masbate, Faro de Cabo Melville, Isla Balabac, Palawan, and Faro de Punta Capul, Capul, Samar del Norte. Towers of metal were also fabricated, these towers known as Tourelle, were made and manufactured in France and would easily be assembled on site. Such towers are found still standing at Luz del Puerto de San Fernando, San Fernando, la Union, Luz de Isla Bagatao, Magallanes, Sorsogon, Faro de Islote de Siete Pecades, Dumangas, Ilo-ilo and Faro de Punta Luzaran, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras. Though the towers of Faro de Islote de Manigonigo, Carles, Ilo-ilo, Faro de Sibulac-Babac de Gigantes, Estancia, Ilo-ilo, and Faro de Isla Calabazas, Ajuy, Ilo-ilo have been replaced with modern aluminum towers and lights, they originally contained metal Tourelle towers. Metal towers too were used for Faro de Islote de Tanguingui, Bantanyan, Cebu, and Faro de Islote de Capitancillo Tobogon, Cebu, supported by metal framework, these towers were able to rise taller than the Tourelle, which had a standard height of 6 meters.

The main pavilion of the Lighthouse, which is elevated from about a meter to over 3 meters above ground is used primarily as an office for the assigned engineers as well as living quarters for the lighthouse keepers and their families. For 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and even to some extent 6th order light stations, complete dwelling facilities are provided for. Though those, which are within easy access to communities, are provided only with the most basic of shelters, as surmised in the Luz del Puerto de San Fernando, and Luz de Isla Bagatao. Both being 6th orders stations, its original quarters were of light materials, only during the American Commonwealth Period were permanent quarters built. The pavilions were built of the same materials as the tower, either locally sourced granite or locally made bricks. Hard wood, such as Molave, Tindalo, and Narra was used for the beams, joists, trusses, floors, nailers, doors and windowsills. Walls were plastered and painted with some examples stenciled with interesting patterns. Marble, clay tiles or plain cement finishes were used for the verandah. Decorative Metal Grilles surround the fence, balconies as well as the bottom level of windows. Corrugated iron sheets cover the roof. Most 1st to 3rd order lighthouses are equipped from 2 to 4 quarters, with each quarter provided its own receiving area. An office for the on-duty engineer is also provided. This office which normally has a view of the sea, is also used as the lighthouses’ watch room. In most cases, this watch room is accessible to the tower. A hallway, which bisects the pavilion in two, is commonly provided for. This enables the engineers and keepers easy access from their rooms to any part of the building. A verandah is situated either in front or at the rear of the building. For Faro de Islote de San Bernardino, Faro de Punta Malabrigo, Faro de Punta Bugui, Faro de Isla Gintotolo and the Faro de Punta Capul, a surrounding verandah is provided. Finally basic furnishing such as, camas, escritorios, mesas, sillas, armarios, and estantes are provided

Today, these lighthouses built by the Corp of Engineers of the Spanish Colonial Government over 100 years ago are in various states of disrepair or ruin. Some are in admirable condition such as those of Faro de Cabo Bojeador, Faro de Punta Malabrigo, Faro de Cabo Santiago, Faro de Isla Gintotolo, Faro de Siete Pecados, Faro de Cabo Melville (which still retains its original 1st order Fresnel Lens and could be made operational again with minor repair work), and Faro de Isla Corrigedor, which was restored by the Cooperacion Español, while others are in need of immediate attention, such as Faro de Punta Capones, Faro de Sibulac-Babac de Gigantes, Faro de Isla Cabra, Faro de Islote de San Bernardino, Faro de Punta Capul, and Faro de Punta Bugui (with its 3rd order lens still intact). Though some are still repairable, there are a few which are today sadly in total ruin. Lighthouses such as those in Cabo Engaño, Islote de Tanguingui, Islote de Capitancillo, Punta Luzaran, Islote de Manigonigo, and Islas Calabazas are in total ruin and would need massive amounts to restore and made habitable again.

But what is the point of restoring, when these lighthouses do not function the way they did a hundred years ago. True, these lighthouses are still needed to light our seas. The tower receives numerous funding for its modernization and upkeep, with most towers retrofitted with modern solar light, thus necessitating the removal of historic bronze cupolas and its inch thick Fresnel Lens. With the towers automated, the need for lighthouse keepers to man such structures is obsolete. Today, lighthouse keepers have an easier task, visiting towers only once in a while to replace busted bulbs and to do minor maintenance work. But with funds scarce, the damages wrought by over 100 years is too daunting.

The Spanish Colonial Lighthouses built over 100 years ago still serves its master well. Guiding ships to their ports of call, these structures, stripped of their dignity still stands proud in their lonely windswept location. Yet even with time and the elements acting against them, the beauty that the Spanish Engineers erected on our soil cannot be erased. It is time that we, the inheritors of this patrimony should do what we can to ensure its survival for the next 100 years. For these lights not only lit the souls and imaginations of those who chanced upon them they also guided a nation to progress.

The essay is based on a report conducted by the author on Spanish Colonial Lighthouses in the Philippines through a grant received in 1998 from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Spain “Towards a Common Future” and the Center for Intercultural Studies, The University of Santo Tomas. Throughout the study, from 1998 to the present 24 Spanish Colonial Lighthouses all over the country were visited and studied. A detailed assessment of their conditions was conducted and recommendations made to the Coast Guard of the Philippines for their eventual restoration.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Friday, March 17, 2006

Basilica Minore de San Sebastian

When we say Quiapo, the first things that come to mind are images of the Black Nazarene, the multitude of people that makes an annual walk of fate with the image during the 9th of January processions, and the Basilica Minore of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) with the myriad of hawkers and stalls, herbal medicine and anting-anting vendors and fortune tellers abundant in adjacent Plaza Miranda. But unknown to many, Quiapo is home to an even rarer gem, another basilica minore in fact in Plaza del Carmen. This is the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, the first all-steel church in the Philippines and in Asia, and the second in the world.

I was looking through my archive of photos which I took long before I started to blog. In fact, several were taken even before I enjoyed internet access. And among them were photos of the San Sebastian Church which I shot way back in high school during an alternative class day exposure trip to old Manila. I realized that my photo archive was a wealth of untapped material and not featuring these places I've been to and documented would be a waste.

It was sometime in 1995 or 1996, my third year in the Ateneo and we were the beneficiaries of the first-ever alternative class day called KLIK... Klaseng Ibang Klase. We had a choice of selecting three talks throughout the day or pick a day trip for a fee. And I chose this trip to old Manila, with social studies teacher Estela Banasihan and Fr. Mac Reyes, S.J. as tour guides. I consider this trip my introduction to Philippine architectural heritage. The trip tickled my fancy in fact that the next year, I chose another heritage tour during KLIK, a church tour in Rizal and Laguna.

One of our stops was the San Sebastian Church. And to tell you honestly, I was not ready for what I was going to see. Upon entering, this young high school student never realized that such a treasure existed in the country. And I remember distinctly Fr. Mac knocking on the walls of the church to prove to us that the structure was indeed made of steel!

I would later find out that the Philippines used to have much more than that. But the very structures which made us the Pearl of the Orient, architectural treasures that spanned hundreds of years, were flattened by the American Army in a few days during the liberation of Manila.

The structure was prefabricated in Belgium, dismantled and shipped back to the Philippines. It was said that after three earthquakes that leveled the earlier San Sebastian churches, the Recollects decided to use an unconventional material to build an earthquake proof church. Which explains why the structure is entirely made of steel. But nothing is decay-free and we all know that the biggest enemy of steel is iron oxide, more commonly known as rust!

This is why the World Monuments Fund (WMF) included the structure in the List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in 1998. Inclusion in the World Monuments Watch entitles the structure to grants for restoration. And I find it stupid that the custodians of the church rejected the $25,000 grant given by the WMF simply because of jurisdiction issues with the Philippine government. As a result, the Philippines had to do the embarrassing act of returning the $25,000 to the WMF!

It reminds me of the lack of appreciation for heritage rampant in the Catholic Church. In fact, priests are the number one destroyers of Philippine church heritage. They sell off antiques to raise money, lured by heavenly sums offered by sneaky antique collectors. A big number renovate their heritage churches according to their whims and caprices simply to leave their mark, damaging or even eradicating centuries of work in a few months. Right at this very moment, the hard-headed parish priest in Paoay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is plastering the walls of the church with cement! When will this carnage to heritage churches end? Will the CBCP please put its foot down and end this wanton disregard for Philippine architectural heritage. In Mexico, after their own revolution against Spain, all church property became state property which is why all their churches are untouched and well-preserved. Sometimes, I wished that happened in the Philippines as well.

Back to San Sebastian, rumor has it that the metal structure of the San Sebastian Church was designed by Alexander Gustave Eiffel himself. But I have yet to hear the official word from the NHI or NCCA.

Metro Manila is host to more heritage churches or what's left of them. You can check out the Visita Iglesia Manila Project for a complete listing.