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Cape Engano Lighthouse | The Forgotten Sentinel of the Pacific

Manong Jun is a fisherman and doubles as a tourist guide in Palaui Island for more than 40 years. He recalls how pretty the lighthouse at Cape Engaño was in the late 70s. Manicured bushes surrounded the tower and the buildings’ thick granite walls were clean and smooth. He fondly remembers how the keepers’ children would welcome the visitors and cheerfully showed them the ships sailing from afar. As we ran our hands on the rusty handrails of the winding staircase going up to the gallery deck, I could feel Manong Jun’s nostalgic moments of this once beautiful Farol de Cabo de Engaño.

From the Spanish word engaño, which means enthralling, the lighthouse sits atop a hill on the northernmost end of Palaui Island. Designed by Magis Pers y Pers, it was first lit in December 1892. It guides ships approaching from the Pacific Ocean traversing through Babuyan Channel and the Philippine Sea. The octagonal stone tower rises 47 feet and overlooks on the islands nearby. Today, its beacons are solar-powered and remain to be the undying light in the extreme northeast of Luzon.
The coralline shingle of Siwangag Cove hems the cape on its eastern side. There are about 229 concrete steps and paved trail of earth going up to its summit. From atop, the lighthouse looks out to the rocky islands of Dos Hermanas and Gran Laja floating on the hurling waters of Babuyan Channel.
Today, the lighthouse sits on a heartbreaking state. The buildings stand roofless, its walls are crumbling and are heavily adulterated with graffiti. Obviously unkempt, twigs break out from the cracks on its posts and filthy with shrubs. According to stories, the cape started to decay wayback in the early ‘80s when the government stopped its support to maintain the lighthouse. It may have withstood the lashings of the infamous northern storms for 122 years but certainly it did survive the neglect of its corrupt republic and irresponsible tourists.
History tells us that the biggest naval battle in the world happened in the seas of the Philippines during World War II. The Battle for Leyte Gulf, which in part includes the Battle of Cape Engaño crippled the might of the Imperial Japanese Navy and its eventual surrender to the Americans in the mid-40s.
Lighthouses in the Philippines are under the care and administration of the Philippine Coast Guard. They are in the forefront of rehabilitating national maritime cultural and historical treasures. With the help of the local government of Sta. Ana and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, everyone is hopeful to bring back the shining glory of this 19th century lighthouse.
Despite standing forlorn of abandonment and beaten eternally by the northern winds, Cape Engaño remains to shine bright at night guiding ships of safe passage and harbor to home.
 (From Manila)
Sta. Ana Direct (15-16 hours)
  • Only Florida Bus Line travels straight to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. Their terminal is located in Sampaloc, Manila. Contact +63 2 743 3809 for bookings and reservations.
  • Take the tricycle from the terminal in centro Sta. Ana to the Port of San Vicente (about 5 kilometers away). 
Via Tuguegarao (11-12 hours)
  • Buses regularly ply the Manila-Tuguegaro route. Check Victory Liner (Kamias Terminal, Quezon City) at +63 2 920 7396. 
  • Take the V-hire or mini-buses to Sta. Ana (add 3-4 hours).
  • Hire a tricycle from the terminal in centro Sta. Ana to the Port of San Vicente. 
From Manila (via Air)

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