Before 2.00 p.m. on Good Friday, we left Hotel Salcedo de Vigan for Ilocos Norte. The destination? The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in the town of Burgos.
It was a 115-kilometer drive. Laoag City is 80 kilometers north of Vigan and, from there, it was another 35 kilometers north to Burgos.
There wasn’t a lot on see along the way, except for the sea salt vendors. The proximity of the region to the West Philippine sea means access to salt water that only needs to be dried under the sun to produce sea salt. Judging by the number of roadside sea salt sellers, it seemed to me that sea salt is a significant source of income for the residents.
The drive to Burgos took about two hours. When we passed the Burgos marker, we were craning our necks for our first view of the lighthouse. We didn’t have to wait for too long.
The first photo of the lighthouse that I took from our moving vehicle couldn’t have been more bucolic. I wasn’t really aiming to include the goats in the frame but, there they were, and it really felt like they belonged.
Perched on Vigia de Nagpartian Hill, the lighthouse overlooks Cape Bojeador and the West Philippine Sea. It was designed in 1887 by an engineer named Magin Pers y Pers (or, perhaps, that was the name of an engineering firm).
It was first lit in 1892, six years before the Treaty of Paris when Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for $20 million.
The lighthouse was originally fitted with Fresnel lens operated by winding mechanisms supported by a counterweight.
“It takes approximately one hour for the weight to reach a full cycle, which would then enable the lantern to rotate. The job of the lighthouse keeper was then to wind the mechanism to ensure the continuous rotation of the lens throughout the night.” [Source]
Adjacent to the lighthouse is a living pavilion with apartments and an enclosed courtyard. All buildings were constructed with adobe and red bricks baked in a kiln at the bottom of the hill.
The lighthouse was partially damaged by a massive earthquake that shook Luzon in 1990. Today, the tower is fitted with solar powered electric lamp.
On Good Friday, tourists, including us, lorded it over the lighthouse. Speedy, Sam and Alex wanted to see the interior; I opted to remain outside.
I tried to imagine the lighthouse a hundred years ago.
I turned around and viewed the sea. Calm and still in the summer. Ferociously raging in the storm. And that was the reason why the lighthouse was there. It guided vessels during stormy weather to keep them from hitting the rocks that lined the coast.
But which vessels? Everything I’ve read refers to the construction of the Cape Bojeador lighthouse as part of some grand plan by Spain to “illuminate” the entire archipelago. During its colonial rule, Spain built some 60 lighthouses all over the Philippines.
The ones constructed prior to 1815, we can presume to be in support of the galleon trade. But the Manila Galleon (referring to both the Crown-owned Spanish ships that traded between Manila and Acapulco, and the route itself) was over by 1815 when Mexico gained independence.
It wasn’t logical to assume that the Spaniards would be interested in protecting the small boats of Filipino fishermen. So, I presume that the lighthouses were for inter-island travel. Human travel as well as trade.
I walked around trying to find a spot where I could take photos that would exclude people.
Speedy and the girls soon rejoined me. We were planning to proceed to the Bangui Windmills but there was a road construction. Besides, it was almost sunset. Too late to see the windmills even if we could navigate through the road works.
We stayed for another half an hour. Taking photos of the sun and the sea. Killing time, mostly, as it was too early for dinner.
It started to turn dark between Burgos and Laoag City. Then, we spent another half hour locating where we planned to have dinner. We found it. We feasted.