Philippine Daily Inquirer
Of lonely lighthouses and gregarious Ilonggos
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:
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.
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