What started as a department activity in our company became an eye opener to a national landmark of historical significance. Upon learning much about Cape Santiago Lighthouse, our maiden lighthouse adventure proved to be a worthy trip for all of us who saw a real lighthouse for the first time. Blessed that day with an amiable
weather and clear, blue sky, the vista of Balayan Bay where
the lighthouse is located offered a breath-taking view adding to our excitement — a refreshing experience for urban dwellers like us.
Cape Santiago Lighthouse of the Philippines, also known as
Punta de Santiago, is located on the western head of Balayan Bay, southern shore of the province of Batangas. It lights the Verde Passage between the island of Luzon and Mindoro's western entrance. At first, nothing seems to be of special admiration in this tower but rather an eerie nostalgic feeling of a bygone era. As we walked the hallway leading to the entrance of the tower, a sudden flashback of Spanish galleons mightily riding the peaceful Balayan Bay struck my mind.
A brick tower with lantern and gallery, the lighthouse is unique among other lighthouses in the Philippines because of its continuing circular shaft. Its focal plane is 27 meters (89 feet) and 10 meters
high. Built in December 15, 1890 by Magin Pers y Pers and later continued by Guillermo Brockman, it is one of the principal lights of approach to Manila Bay, the center of maritime industry, from San Bernardino or the southern route across the islands. The lighthouse is painted in white while the modern Japanese aluminum lantern is silver in color. We noticed the decorative metal grills, a classic example of rich Spanish architecture, that support the overhanging balcony used as a lookout.
We marveled at the sight of the beautiful one-story Hispanic lighthouse station, painted in white with red roof. It's like stepping back in time during the Spanish colonization era in our country some 400 years ago. The station has the usual arrangement of tower, pavilion, service buildings and enclosed courtyard. Inside the pavilion are four separate living quarters. The structures are made of bricks and wood paneling. The tower is located at the rear of the arrangement and stands roughly 22 meters from the edge of the sandy cliff.
We can't help but wonder what it's like living inside the station during that forgotten era of our history.
With Cape Santiago's fourth order lens, its main function was primarily to guide ships from Manila heading to the southern islands of the Visayas as well as navigators heading towards Manila from the San Bernardino Passage. Flashing once every 36 seconds then three flashes in succession, the lighthouse has served thousands of marine travelers with utmost dedication in this busy passage area of the country for over 114 years.
Although the state of restoration and preservation of
Cape Santiago Lighthouse is recommended, the general status of the tower, however, is in good condition, having been recently renovated. In fact, a plaque installed in the hallway tells of it being converted into a sort of bed-and-breakfast inn, giving tourists and visitors alike an opportunity to stay and experience living in a lighthouse. However,
due to changes in the operations and management of the lighthouse
in the Philippines — from the Philippine Navy to the Philippine Coast Guard and now to the Department of Transportation and Communication — this arrangement has recently been stopped.
It would have been a profitable cause that will eventually support the financial aspect of maintaining it as well as serving as a vehicle for public information about lighthouses. Moreover, it is interesting
to note that Cape Santiago's location is within the vicinity of rampant resort development
as Batangas continues to thrive as a perfect alternative for prime tourist destination due
to its proximity to key metropolitan areas
of the country. Therefore, a wide public awareness for Cape Santiago Lighthouse is
just within easy reach.
Three hours of touring around Cape Santiago brought sheer happiness to all of us. Our group felt lucky to have had a chance at this lighthouse experience — majority of the Filipino population are not even familiar with, much less have ever visited a lighthouse in their lifetime. Thanks to Lighthouse Digest, one begins to understand the importance of lighthouses especially to an archipelagic country like ours. With the lighthouse preservation movement just getting started in the Philippines, our group's conquest of one lighthouse from over 100 farolas brings a sense of pride and at the same time an urgency to help promote awareness and to support the preservation of what is left in the rich lighthouse history of our country.
Could this be the start of our love affair with lighthouses — the kind of passion shared by millions of people from around the world?
I don’t know. But I know we are already planning for our next lighthouse adventure.
This story appeared in the
April 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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