Saturday, July 26, 2008

Roaming Ilocos: Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

“Take the bus going to Pagudpud, sir” she said
“Where do I get off from that bus” I asked
“Any door. I suggest you go to the nearest”
"I mean where on the highway should I get off"
"Sa gilid ng hiway sir, ask the bus to stop"

So there, I got a dose of my own medicine hehe! The hotel’s crews have already adapted to my corny jokes and they were using it on me hahaha!

Anyway, they told me to either take a trike or walk one block to Laoag’s St. Joseph bus terminal on Lagasca St. near the corner of Gov. Primo Lazaro. So I walked, and there it was, a minibus station. Gosh! Well, I checked the bus myself and it looked like my long limbs would at least fit just about exactly. Then I told myself, I’m only going to Burgos and that should be just around 50kms, probably just an hour’s ride since the fare was just P60. Hmm, was I lucky? I was not even done looking around this ‘bus station’ and we left – bus not full! Yey! I had a whole row just for my royal highness! Yey!

Along the way, I told bus conductor to let me off at the road corner going to the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. He paused a short while and asked if I really wanted to get off at that corner or Burgos town proper instead. I said “the corner”. He said okay but cautioned me that the corner was still far from the lighthouse itself. When I asked how far, he estimated ‘about a kilometer away’ offering an explanation that the road winds up to a hill where the lighthouse is planted, and that there are no available rides going up just from that corner since trikes wait for passengers over at the town center. I thanked him but reiterated I would get off the corner. In my mind I was silently smiling and saying “JUST one kilometer? That’s only a 7th of the length I walked going up to the Dambana Ng Kagitingan” hehe!

Then I arrived, and the walk started on a hot 945AM sun. But I liked it. At some parts it was breezy. I could see the tower's tip as I walked... getting bigger as I neared. Hah, anytime I look back it was such a wonderful view. and I knew it was going to be more picturesque until I reached the lighthouse area. At least 3 trikes passed by during this walk, offering me a free ride (they already had passengers on board) but I graciously declined and forded on the ascent. Yes, nagmamagaling! Hah hah hah, at some point I asked myself… wasn’t I punishing myself too much for this lighthouse thing?! Its not a straightforward road by the way. The bus conductor described it precisely. This road circles around the hill until it reaches the tower. Anyway, I finally reached the base of the lighthouse and my oh my… great views of the plains down below and the sea beyond. And I was not even at the lighthouse itself. Whoa!

After some rest (there are folks selling snacks, drinks - and even ice cream and ice-pops in the area), I decided to follow the few tourists climbing up the concrete steps to the lighthouse itself. And OMG what a great vantage point to watch everything down below! The buildings around here are of course abandoned. Well, “not in use” may be the proper term for it. But they have converted one room into some kind of a museum. What is there? Nothing much, as in generally nothing. Just an olden instrument or two and the glass-encased replica of the lighthouse tower when the actual thing is itself just a few steps above the building. Anyway, the building/s and the lighthouse have red brick walls. Well, I would think those are recent fortifications or facelifts. And if so, they must have been done some years ago since some parts have either chipped or peeled off.

Together with a dozen or so tourists who came to the place on separate ways, I roamed around, took pictures, roamed around, took pictures. The tower itself was closed. But no one was complaining. Who knows if at all any visitor would be safe going up that olden tower!

As everyone was just about happily retreating down the stairs from the very foot of the tower to the buildings (it’s a steep kind of concrete stairs btw), there arrived a man who seemed to be authority in this place. He was wearing an ID. When he entered the “museum”, he immediately said bits and pieces of information about the whole facility to educate those who were still in there. Hmm, I got curious and went near. Ah, even dared ask if he was the authority in this place. He said yes, he was the caretaker, engineer, cleaner, maintenance man, tourguide, curator, guard and janitor of the place all rolled into one. As we laughed, he said other things else about the facility – of course he repeated those written on the historical commission’s marker.

Then I asked if the thing up there still works. He beamed with pride exclaiming (in English) “very much so, and for so many hundreds of years still guiding fishermen and sailors at night”. Everyone said “wow”! Then another tourist asked how the light works. He explained everything in detail. I even did so with my jaw about to drop to the ground hehe. What with the science of mirrors and reflected light being elaborated. Someone else asked something like ‘who changes the bulbs when busted’. His reply was “yours truly” then continued it with “as I told you earlier, I am the caretaker of everything else in this place. This is my baby, probably as important to me as my family”! And I asked if he can still go up there safely. He said yes. My question probably got him too engaged since he suddenly reached for his pocket and asked everyone if we wanted to go up there. Wheh? It was of course an affirmative chorus!

So he led us up but cautioned that we should go up four at a time as the light area is narrow. Whohoa! There immediately occurred a line, and I was part of the first four! Wheeeeh! Whaaaa! Its not easy hehe. Going up the narrow steel staircase is dizzying. Plus, there are two floors where you literally crawl on ladders. Made of steel yes, but nonetheless ladders. Hard to go up, harder to go down. But OMG OMG, the views from up there, even if we were inside the glass panels that surround the light mechanism, was breathtaking! Well, not really that ‘fantastic’ as I had this feeling the place I was standing at could crumble anytime soon hehe. But he assured us the concrete and steel structures are still very sturdy safe. Okay fine. But some of the excited people on queue started inching up even if we the first four were still there. Ah, the reverberation of voices while inside the tower was not also good to my aging ear hehe. Plus, we were gasping for more fresh air.

I was first to go down, but hah, a great experience just the same.


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