Wake Up, Philippines!

Guiding Light

Posted in Luzon, Places, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on July 17, 2009
By Text and Photos by RANEIL ANTONIO IBAY
July 4, 2009, 4:05pm
Faro de Cabo Engaño or Cape Engaño lighthouse in Sta. Ana, Cagayan
Faro de Cabo Engaño or Cape Engaño lighthouse in Sta. Ana, Cagayan

Sta. Ana, Cagayan is known as “The Gateway to the Pacific”  and is the last province on the tip of Luzon in Region 2. And with a 45-minute boat ride from Sta. Ana lays the wave and wind battered island of Palaui.

Palaui is home to 21 species of fishes, 90 species of migratory birds, 105 species of rattan and timber, and Faro de Cabo Engaño or Cape Engaño, one of 27 major lighthouses in the Philippines. Completed in December 31, 1892 by the Spaniards, it is the first lighthouse you will see when entering Philippine waters and is the last when heading out into the Pacific. Nestled on top of a scenic hill, its octagonal, cylindrical stone tower standing guard, it once played a crucial role in the trade between Spain and the Philippines, guiding ships toward the port of Appari.

Now, with its roof gone, probably torn off by forces of nature, this U-shaped building stands as a decaying reminder of the past. You can’t even go up the rust corroded metal stairs going to the top of the lighthouse. It is now closed, a sign or vandalism on the wall by the Philippine Coast Guard warns you not to go up because the flooring is rotted.

With nowhere to go, I peer out the crumbling windows and see the legendary islands of Dos Hermanas. Folklore has it that these are two sisters waiting for their husbands who went out to fish and never returned.

Peering out on the east side, I see a weather-beaten ridge. Waves relentlessly pound the rocky shores of the island and I am reminded of the car-sized waves we endured going to this beautiful island.

Our trip started on an early morning with a calm sea, we almost didn’t feel the waves. This lulls you into a false sense of serenity, of being one with the sea and all that romantic stuff. Then came a little sea spray here and there. This gets more frequent until we come to across car-sized waves that literally rocked our world. Shaken and stirred like a Martini, we at last get a glimpse of Faro de Cabo Engaño Lighthouse and docked at Palaui’s cove. I swear I could have kissed the shore, profusely thanking God that we arrived safely. This must have been how the Spanish sailors felt back then. The lighthouse must have really looked like a guiding light from heaven to those sailors.

I now look around the lighthouse and I see that vandals like Glenn, Arnel, Bullet, Aurelio, Ceasar and Noel were also once looking out this same window. Besides the forces of nature, this historical landmark has to contend with human nature.

We go down the hill and I count 240 concrete steps from the lighthouse. I could be wrong with my count, as I was hungry as the carabaos grazing on the lower side of the hill. We head back to our boat and have our breakfast.

Going back to Sta. Ana took 30 minutes because the water was calmer. We were again sprayed by seawater but this was because of the strong winds coming from the North East. Our boatman even had to make a second attempt to land on the shore, the strong wind and powerful waves pushed our boat off course.

And speaking of going back, will a 15-hour bus ride or an hour on a plane from Manila to Tugegarao plus a 3-hour van ride to Sta. Ana, Cagayan and almost an hour of being tossed like a salad on a small outrigger boat prevent me from going back and see Palaui? With the spectacular scenery and the Faro de Cabo Engaño Lighthouse to guide me back, I most definitely will.