Faro de Punta Malabrigo: Perched between Man and Elements

Faro de Punta Malabrigo

It was very unexpected that I’ll be going to the town of Lobó in Batangas province with my dad for his routine trip for his work. It was my first time there, and it was the Barangay Elections Day all throughout the country. However, that old Spanish lighthouse is the ultimate destination that I like to go — Malabrigo Lighthouse or Faro de Punta Malabrigo. Since I haven’t been to Cape Bojeador lighthouse in Ilocos or even Malabrigo’s sister in Calatagan, Batangas, this was my opportunity to see that lonely sentinel perched on a hill overlooking Verde Island Passage. After convincing my dad, I’m off to Malabrigo!

Situated some seven kilometers away southeast of Lobó’s town proper, Malabrigo is a barangay that seemingly being edged by the mountains to the sea. Yes, it reminds me of Cebú or even Barangay Ilijan in Batangas City. The faro is situated on top of the hill. A steep climb for vehicles and for the tricycles that serve town proper-Malabrigo route. If you’re commuting, better disembark at the Malabrigo Resort gate and ascend towards the lighthouse on top of the hill. Malabrigo is one isolated community in Batangas-seemingly defying the notion that the province is easily accessible from the great metropolis of Manila!

Malabrigo Lighthouse or Faro de Punta Malabrigo was built during the twilight years of the Spanish empire in the Philippines — 1890 to 1896! According to Architect Manuel Noche, it was part of the modernization programme of the Spanish colonial authorities in navigating Philippine waters through putting up lighthouses all throughout the archipelago. The plan was known as Plan General de Alumbrado de Maritimo de las costas del Archipelago de Filipino.

Escudo de Inteligencia del Cuerpo de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos

Malabrigo lighthouse was designed by Guillermo Brockman and was aided by a Chinese contractor José Garcia. The lighthouse features an cylindrical brick tower, a machine room, steel fences and a gate with the seal of Inteligencia del Cuerpo de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos (Corp of Engineers for Roads, Canals and Ports), and a station made of wood, metal and bricks. It was a fine classic example of the late Spanish colonial era architecture — influenced by Victorian style. Through the years it has managed to conquer time and elements and still stands guard to the mariners that pass by the very busy and often dangerous waters of Verde Island Passage. (Learn more about the lighthouses of the Spanish colonial era at the ICOMOS Philippines blogsite).

When I went there, the sight of the lighthouse greeted me with enthusiasm — I was excited to see this legacy of the past. However, when I reached the lighthouse, I was immediately greeted by a sign at the porch: “Paunawa: Bawal ang mag-shooting, picture taking at pumasok ng walang pahintulot. By DOTC/PCG Management” (Attention: Film-shooting, taking photos and entering inside is not allowed without permission. By Department of Transportation and Communication-Philippine Coast Guard). Then, I had my second thoughts. I’ve come a very long way from Manila just to see this and was greeted with such unwelcoming sign-frustrating indeed. Why? While Fort Santiago or Bojeador or even Guisi have their pictures taken, why not Malabrigo?

A Stern Warning

Google gave me an answer: Architect Augusto “Toti” Villalon mentioned that there was an indie film crew that shot their film at Malabrigo without permission. However, the film crew were said to have been not meticulous with the location, leaving structural damages in the heritage structure. Utter disrespect indeed! They are artists who should know, appreciate and even respect this fragile cultural legacy. Later I found out that the Indie film movie that was shot at Malabrigo was an R-rated indie, “Ang Lalaki sa Parola.” (“The Man at the Lighthouse”) Geez, indie na nga, sana may respeto man lang sa lugar! Cultural assets pa naman ang tingin ngayon sa mga Pinoy indie film makers! I just hope that we have learned our lessons from this point on. (Read more here)

Bawal Pumasok! | ¡Prohibida la entrada!

The red brick hallway of Faro Malabrigo

With that sign in mind, the first thing that I thought was to look for the caretaker. But where is he? Tao po? I said once, twice and many times. No one was there. Faro Malabrigo was again a lonely sentinel by the sea. With that “sign” in mind, I’ll just take photos from a distance (thank goodness for the optical zoom of the camera) and never enter inside. (I know some people would criticize me of not following directions, or my mentors would castigate me-but going there without any warnings of it, albeit frustrating!). In turn, I have this sense of guilt mixed with sense of enthusiasm and pride to heritage. I am to share this experience, at least this is my effort to make the people aware of this cultural — even on my own personal expense. On the other hand, where are the ones who were supposed to guard this isolated station? In the first place, where will we ask permission to take a photo of Malabrigo lighthouse? (and that day was even the barangay election day)

Machine Room Window of Faro Malarigo

Faro and La Puerta

The hallway

Verde Island Passage - View from Faro Malabrigo

With all the threats coming from every direction, the Thomson family (and yes, Akiko Thomson-the famous sports figure and TV personality belongs to this family) decided to adopt the lighthouse and restore and protect it. In a few days after the film shooting, the National Historical Institute has placed a national historical marker on Malabrigo lighthouse. Supposedly, that would inform the general public of its historical importance (which led me to ask, are we Filipinos aware anyway of their “history?”) and at least give a cloak of protection from the national government.

Las Nuestras Responsibilidades | Our responsibilities

The Machine Room of the Faro

My companion and I were alone. No one was around. I wonder, with this loophole in place, would it be disrespect, neglect, ignorance or all of it would push Faro Malabrigo into the perilous sea of oblivion? As I left the lighthouse with memories of its tranquility, I just hoped that our authorities and even us, would come a time that we take pride on our heritage-and wouldn’t take history lessons taken for granted.

Faro de Punta Malabrigo

More photos of the Malabrigo Lighthouse here:

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2 comments to Faro de Punta Malabrigo: Perched between Man and Elements

  • Tweets that mention Faro de Punta Malabrigo: Perched between Man and Elements | HabagatCentral.com -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by alysyn curd, Berniemack Arelláno. Berniemack Arelláno said: Faro de Punta Malabrigo, Philippines — A Heritage Site in Peril — http://tinyurl.com/273tokg #batangas #philippines #lp [...]

  • thepinaysolobackpacker

    eto ata yung madalas pag-shooting-an ng mga indie films pero unti-unti ng nasisira dahil sa kapabayaan ng ibang gumagamit neto.

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