Perched on top of a hill in Palaui Island in the province of Cagayan, is the Faro de Cabo Engaño or the Cape Engaño Lighthouse. It was designed by the Spanish engineer Magin Pers y Pers and was built from 1887 to 1892. It has an 11 m octagonal tower and beside it is the pavilion and other service buildings. It looks similar to other beautiful lighthouses in the Philippines such as the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Ilocos
Sur Norte and the Capones Lighthouse in Zambales.
All of these are just among the 27 major lighthouses that were built by the Spaniards in the 19th century to provide safe passage for ships navigating some of the treacherous coastlines of the Philippines. The Faro de Cabo Engaño has been doing just that for over a century now; its beacon of light has guided countless ships that enter or leave the country by the northeast route.This was then our first stopover during our backpacking adventures that took us to coastal municipality of Santa Ana last month. After a long bus ride, we checked in at Jotay Resort and then headed straight for the Santa Ana Fishport where our bangka (motorized outrigger boat) that would take us to Palaui awaits us. Forty five mins later in the surprisingly calm sea, we can already make out the lighthouse attic or the platform where the lantern is housed. From the Engaño cove, it is just a brief trek to the lighthouse.
There are 229 concrete steps on the first portion of the trail. The remaining portions in the trail however, is quite straightforward and manageable. Along the way we were generously rewarded with magnificent views of the Engaño cove, the spectacular seascapes and the lush forests of Palaui island. This sensory overload is multiplied a thousandfold at the lighthouse, where one can have an unobstructed view of the ocean.
What is disheartening though is the sorry state of the Cape Engaño lighthouse. The tower is the only recognizable feature as the pavilion and other lighthouse buildings are without doors, windows and roofs. One can imagine as to what became of these fixtures since the lighthouse’s caretakers left in the 1980s. The empty space, walls laden with graffiti and the rusted winding staircase inside the tower whisper of the times when the lighthouse has seen better days.
Our group then posed for the mandatory jump shots and had a late breakfast and at the lighthouse’s exposed quarters, before leaving for Anguib, our next destination. We also wondered among ourselves if we did see a humpback whale flapping at the far right portion of the Dos Hermanos islets. The gentle giants which are known to frequent the Babuyan Channel, were the reasons why we traveled to Santa Ana in the first place. Looking back, it may have been just our creative imagination coupled with wishful thinking that made us to see what we wanted to see.
I hope that it would just be a matter of time when the Cape Engaño lighthouse would be revived and then finally live up to its Spanish name. It was declared as an Important Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in July 30, 2008. This recognition may hopefully not only lure more tourists to Palaui, but also bring in adequate funding to drive its restoration efforts.
Indeed, the Faro de Cabo Engaño has faithfully done its duties for more than one hundred years already. But one must also see beyond the lighthouse’s primary function and recognize its rich heritage. If seen in that light, then Palaui’s lonely sentinel of the sea must be preserved no matter what the cost.