Philippine Daily Inquirer

Of lonely lighthouse­s and gregarious Ilonggos

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TWO new books are “Faro de Malabrigo,” edited by Rosanna Harper Alonso, and “Estilo Ilonggo” by Vicente Román Santos and the late Reynaldo Alejandro.

Both are handsome, well-designed, and lavishly illustrate­d books that focus on seemingly diverse topics—one on a lonely lighthouse on a seaside promontory in Lobo, the last town at the tip of Batangas province; the other on the cultured, rarefied lifestyle of an illustriou­s Visayan province.

However, both books are strong testimonie­s that eloquently affirm the fragile, multi-textured Philippine heritage and the demanding struggle to preserve it.

“It is imperative that we try [to preserve heritage] if we do not want our patrimony—a word which means ’handed down from the fathers’ to be destroyed,” writes Harper in her forward to “Faro de Malabrigo.”

When Harper first went to theMalabri­go Lighthouse in 2004 on an assignment from the INQUIRER, she thought that she was being sent to the end of the earth:

“That

day

the

lighthouse looked like a grand lady dressed in her white finery. Under a blue and cloudless sky, she was a striking structure surrounded by an ocean aura of romance.”

When she got to the abandoned lighthouse, all romance vanished. Unhinged doors greeted Alonso. Its interiors were filled with graffiti. Treasure-hunters had ripped off antique hardwood flooring planks because of a tip that buried Yamashita gold was underneath.

Fateful visit

Her local guide, however, had a simple restoratio­n plan for the lighthouse. He was going to renovate the worthless lighthouse, turn it into a videoke bar, and cover the peeling century-old stucco with cement. That would attract high-paying tourists.

That fateful visit brought Alonso together with the Thomson family and a small band of lighthouse enthusiast­s who set out on their own to restore Malabrigo.

Malabrigo is far from restored today, al- though the group was instrument­al in establishi­ng a lighthouse adoption and protection program with the Philippine Coast Guard, getting the National Historical Institute to install a historic marker on the lighthouse. As part of their awareness program, invite photograph­ers Johann Espiritu, Romeo Gacad, Richard Atero de Guzman, Bernard Mejias, Scott Tuason, Jaime Unson and Vicente Jaime Villafranc­a to shoot the unknown cultural treasure that is el Faro de Malabrigo.

Few words are needed. The powerful photograph­s silently, eloquently deliver not only the Malabrigo message but also the plight of the other Lonely Sentinels of the Sea, as architectu­re historian Manuel del Castillo Noche calls the network of 19thcentur­y Philippine lighthouse­s in his book of the same title.

Proceeds from book sales go to the conservati­on of Malabrigo, which is reason enough to purchase the book. My special reason for having this book is that it is a tes- timonial to the admirable lifetime dedication of a departed friend, Marsh Thomson, to preserving the heritage of the Philippine­s, his adopted country.

The book is available at Filipinas Heritage Library (tel. 8921801), or contact Ross Harper Alonso at 0905354363­4.

Special way of life

There is no room for loneliness in the gregarious Ilonggo lifestyle, well known all over the Philippine­s for the singsong lilt of its laid-back gentility, its superlativ­e local cuisine, and the cultural richness of its arts and crafts. That is what “Estilo Ilonggo” celebrates.

The richly illustrate­d book brings together respected Ilonggos to write about the Hiligaynon-

los bailes de ayer

 ?? Augusto F. Villalon ??
Augusto F. Villalon
 ??  ??
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 ??  ?? speaking people from Iloilo, Capiz, Antique and Negros Occidental, offering the nonIlonggo a glimpse into the special way of life and culture of its people and, to the Ilonggo, a nostalgic recap of a lifestyle that he probably has taken for granted...
speaking people from Iloilo, Capiz, Antique and Negros Occidental, offering the nonIlonggo a glimpse into the special way of life and culture of its people and, to the Ilonggo, a nostalgic recap of a lifestyle that he probably has taken for granted...

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