Of lonely lighthouse­s and gre­gar­i­ous Ilong­gos

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - LIFESTYLE ARTS & BOOKS -

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.

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

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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