“When the unthinkable happens, the lighthouse is hope. Once we choose hope, everything is possible.”
— Christopher Reeve
There’s something about lighthouses. These lonely sentinels at sea have been used for centuries in literature, poetry and arts. Lighthouse appeals to our sense of wonder, to our sense of adventure, to our sense of leadership as we guide people to the right path.
The lighthouse is a symbol of hope. To those at sea and navigating in the dark, the flashing of lights from a horizon gives one the right direction. Even to those of us on land, seeing the flashing of lights gives us a feeling of assurance that no matter how stormy the situation is, there is hope.
I’ve been fascinated by lighthouses ever since I first saw the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse from afar while travelling on a bus in Ilocos Norte. Since that first encounter, I probably visited several dozens of Spanish era lighthouses in the Philippines.
I never realized that many people are fascinated by lighthouses as I do. When I made an announcement that I wanted to challenge myself by visiting two of the most beautiful Spanish lighthouses in the Philippines, many of my friends responded that they also wish to join. When I finally fixed the itinerary and the schedule, which included stop-overs in several hidden attractions along the way, I was able to fill the space for a 13-seater van with lighthouse lovers and intrepid travelers, half of the group were seniors, all willing to ensure the long drive just to see two lighthouses in one day.
We assembled in Greenfield Mandaluyong. People came as early as 5 a.m., and I saw that they were all eager to take on the challenge of seeing the two lighthouses. By 7 a.m., we were already at our first stop-over in Tagaytay, the La Bella Boutique Hotel, where we had our breakfast of Filipino favorites. After breakfast, we headed to Maka Forest Villa in Alfonso, where it’s owner, Architect Ronnie Liang explained the principle of Regenerative Architecture. He also explained the concept of Japanese “wabi-sabi,” which is appreciating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” This concept prepared our group to the highlights of the trip, the two lighthouses.
From Tagaytay, we drove for about one hour to the tip of Calatagan Peninsula, where the Cape Santiago Lighthouse is located. Located at the southern extreme of the peninsula, the lighthouse is surrounded on the east by Pagaspas Bay and Balayan Bay, and on the south by Verde Island Passage. The lighthouse was built in 1888, and was first lit in December 1890. It has a 14-meter high cylindrical tower and a Victorian Renaissance Revival pavilion.
The Cape Santiago Lighthouse used to be under the care of Philippine Coast Guard (they actually placed a historic coast guard helicopter as a monument inside the lighthouse compound), but now under the jurisdiction of Calatagan LGUs, which now charges ₱50 entrance fee to visit the lighthouse.
The group which I brought all seemed eager to explore the lighthouse as soon as we entered the compound. Everyone was excited to visit the pavilion which used to house the lighthouse keepers. We could feel the history of Cape Santiago as we explored each room. We also saw the kitchen and the old stockroom which we were told will be converted in to a coffee shop (we are hoping it won’t). We were not allowed to climb the tower as it has become fragile with age. Happy with our first lighthouse exploration, we were ready for lunch.
We had late lunch was at Casa dela Rosa in Taal before we proceeded to our next destination, which is Montemaria. As we were approaching Batangas City, rain started pouring in heavily.
It was still raining when we arrived at Montemaria. The group gamely went out of the van and explored Montemaria under an umbrella. The site of mostly old people having fun in the rain made me smile.
It was already getting dark when we reached Punta Malabrigo Lighthouse in Lobo. This lighthouse stands on 47-meter hill overlooking Isla Verde Passage and the Island of Mindoro. Construction of this lighthouse started in 1892, and was completed and lighted on October 1895. It has a 12-meter cylindrical tower and the same Victorian design pavilion as Cape Santiago’s.
As soon as the van arrived in front of lighthouse, everyone went out quietly. We could see the light flashing from the lighthouse but there was not enough light to take a good photo of the lighthouse. I was getting worried that the quietness of everybody as they stared at the lighthouse could mean disappointment.
I was wrong. When we asked during dinner which part of the trip they liked best, almost all said seeing Punta Malabrigo lighthouse at dusk was magical. The sight of a lighthouse beaming in the dark symbolizes hope. That no matter how dark or how stormy our path is, we will find our way as long as there is hope. The first lighthouse beaming in the sun was simply beautiful. The second lighthouse beaming in the dark was pure bliss.
(The author is a senior who recently retired. His taste for adventure has not kept him from travelling, usually via not-so-usual routes.)