Archive for the 'Luzon' Category

09
Mar
08

Watchtowers of Ilocos and La Union

A number of watchtowers still exist in the narrow coast of La Union and Ilocos. Going from north to south the towers are found at the following sites:

  • Ilocos Norte: Bacarra, Viquia or Natba watchtower at Natba Beach; Badoc at Barangay Lingasy;  Currimao at Currimao port (two towers);  Pasuquin at Puyupuyan Beach.
  • Ilocos Sur: Santo Domingo at Barangay Kasili; Sinait; Santiago at Sabangan Cove; San Esteban at Barangay Bateria; Narvacan at Barangay Sulvec; Cabugao at Salomaque. Bantay is a unique tower because it also serves as the bell tower for Bantay Church.
  • La Union: Balaoan at Darigayos Point; Luna, San Juan, and Carlatan a district of San Fernando City, north of the town center.
30
Jan
08

Fuerza de San Juan Bautista de La Lutaya • Agutaya, Palawan

In 1622, Palawan (Paragua) and the neighboring northern islands collectively known as Calamianes were entrusted to the spiritual care of the Augustinian Recollects by the Bishop of Cebu, Pedro de Arce OAR. Friars Francisco de San Nicolas, Diego de Santa Ana, Juan de Santo Tomas and lay brother Francisco de la Madre de Dios were assigned to this mission area. By 1623, the friars had crossed to the Palawan mainland but failed to succeed in conversion because of the strong influence of Muslim communities. Quite a contrast to the easy acceptance of Catholicism by the people of Cuyo and neighboring Agutaya. These fledgling Christian outstations were subject to attack by slave raider: 1632 Cuyo; 1636 Cuyo and Calamines; and in 1646 the raiders planned a concerted and massive attack on this frontier. In 1638, while serving as parish priest of Cuyo, Juan de Severo, OAR conceived of the idea to fortify the churches of Cuyo, Agutaya and Culion. While the friars built churches and residences and were advancing in their work, continued slave-raiding and lack of resources forced them to abandon Palawan briefly, except for Cuyo and Agutaya. This retrenchment set back the growth of the missions. In 1659, they returned determined to stay and so begun the construction of more durable defensive fortifications at Cuyo, Agutaya, and Culion, and also at Linapacan, Taytay and Dumaran, Malampaya, Calatan and Paragua (Puerto Princesa). In 1692, the mission at Agutaya was raised to the status of parish under the advocacy of San Juan Bautista. This is the same name given to the fort at Agutaya.

The fort built in 1683 was remodelled in the 18th century. It is not certain if the 17th-century fortification was a palisade or a stone fort. The plan for Agutaya appears in the Valdes Tamon report of 1738. Whether the fortification was built immediately is uncertain. A date given for the completion of the fort is 1784 and is attributed to the encomendero Antonio de Rojas who delineated the plan of the fort. Apparently, the earlier fort of Fray Juan was greatly modified.

Landor (1904: 65) describes Agutaya “a fort with four battlements was the principal structure, and inside its quadrangle was to be found a simple and modest church, the windows of which were cut into the east wall of the fort. This house of God possessed a choir-balcony and the usual cheap images of the altar. On the northeast battlements, which was crumbling away were the remains of a high tower.”

The degradation of the Agutaya fort continues to this day. 

30
Jan
08

Cuarteles • Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

The details of construction are sketchy but it appears that the fortification was built in a short space of time; there is no evidence of additions during the Spanish colonial period. Built in the 19th century by the Spanish military it had military barracks, probably of wood, and a prison. It was built to defend Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa, after the capital was transfered from Taytay.

Palawan was one of frontiers, which Spain sought to bring under Spanish rule. Also known as Paragua, the main island of Palawan was sparsely populated by indigenous tribes like the Tagbanua and the Tao’t Bato, in contrast to the northern island groups of Cuyo and Busuanga, which was populated by migrants from the neighboring islands of Luzon and the Visayas. Many were fisherfolk lured by the abundant fishing grounds of northern Palawan. 

An early 20th century postcard depicts a fortification built right in front of the Puerto Princesa church. The fortification consists of a pair of two-story quadrilateral towers projecting in front of a perimeter wall. At the towers’ lower registers are entrances leading into the perimeter’s interior. The perimeter wall, pierced by loopholes is not much taller than a standing person. The interior is almost completely occupied by a hip-roofed structure. The roof is made of metal sheets. The structure is morphologically closer to a blockhouse rather than a bastioned fort.

The postcard photograph suggests that this might be a fortified structure other than cuarteles because it is situated at the side rather than in front of the Puerto Princesa church. There is the possibility, though that the orientation of the church was changed over time. But then structural and design details, shown in the photograph, indicate an entirely different structure. The towers, for instance, are simple boxes supported by crisscross timbers. They have none of the articulation of the existing towers of cuarteles. There are no remnants of this second structure.

30
Jan
08

Fort Labog • Barangay Labog, Sofronio Española, Palawan

The historical marker for Fort Labo(g) reads: “Fort Labo. Site of Fort Labo built by the Recollect Augustinians to protect the town against pirates. The plans were prepared by Rev. Atilano de San Jose, A.R.. The fort, constructed with the permission of Governor Bobadilla, was demolished in 1720 by order of Governor Cuesta. Site: Labo, Palawan; Date installed: 1939; installed by Historical Research and Markers Committee” (NHI, p. 148).

It is not clear why the fort was demolished. Perhaps, the townsite was moved.

30
Jan
08

Dumaran Fort • Dumaran, Palawan

Warren lists a wooden baluarte or watchtower at Dumaran based on late 18th century reports by the diocese of Cebu on the defenses of the Visayas, which was under its ecclesiastical jurisdiction. If the fortification at Dumaran were made of stone and mortar conceivably the report would list it down as such. This might indicate that the ruined fort at Dumaran was built during the last decade of the 18th century or the early 19th.

The walls that remain at Dumaran consist of a bastion and short stretch of curtain wall, breached off center with an entrance. It is uncertain if the fortification was ever finished or that it had been ruined over time. Oral tradition claims that the fort was never finished and inspection of the evidence seem to corroborate the tradition.

The bastion is of an unusual shape consisting of a rounded projection at the center flanked by two short wall walls. The bastion does not conform to any typical shape. It is quite probable that the rounded projection is an older construction, possibly a circular tower of stone and mortar, which was then remodeled as a bastion.

30
Jan
08

Linapacan Fortification II • Barangay Caseladan, Linapacan, Palawan

Part of defense system built in Palawan by the Recollects from the 1620s to 1738, the mysterious ruins of a bastioned fort were recently discovered (November 2004) on Linapacan Island at Barangay Caseladan, said to be the original site of the town of San Miguel. Another set of ruins were found near San Miguel. It is uncertain if this or the fortification at San Miguel is the one referred to by the 1738/39 Report of Valdes Tamon as “muralla de piedra de figura irregular” or the one described in 1754 by Delgado a fortaleza. There are marked discrepancies between the Valdes Tamon description and the actual remains at Caseladan. The Valdes Tamon report shows a natural fortification strengthened by walls and other built structures. The Caseladan fortification may have been built after the Valdes Tamon report or may been a remodelling of the fortification reported in 1738.

The history of San Miguel, the principal settlement of Linapacan is unclear. Did it transfer sites more than once? If it did then Caseladan maybe one of many sites for San Miguel.

30
Jan
08

Linapacan Fortification • Barangay San Miguel, Linapacan, Palawan

This is one of two fortifications recently discovered by Cheyenne Morrison on the island of Linapacan. There are two structures, a lower and an higher fortification or bastion built unto the limestone hill beside the town of San Miguel, the principal town of Linapacan. The structure is overgrown by vegetation and straggler figs. Further study is needed to determine if this or the other fort at Caseladan is the one that is described in the 1738 Valdes Tamon report, where the fortification is drawn as a cluster of buildings surrounded by a perimeter wall that hugs the crest of a hill.

If this the structures at San Miguel are the ones cited by Valdes Tamon, then this gives an indication when the fortification was constructed, otherwise there is very little data on its history.

Landor (1904: 100-101) adds to our conundrum when he describes Linapacan because it does not correspond to any of the ruins discovered recently

“A mile or so farther we arrived at the town—about half a dozen huts among cocoa-nuts palms, scattered on the side of the hill, upon which an ancient Spanish stone fort overlooked the western bay.It was pentagonal in shape, with two angular bastions and three semicircular ones, with an inner area of 600 square feet containing a humble nipa church in a dilapidated condition, a shelter with three bronze bells, a rickety iron cannon on wheels—and some iron bullets for ammunition. There was all there was to the fort. The only noticeable portion of this of this structure was a vaulted door with a Spanish coat-of-arms elaborately and most artistically carved in stone, with graceful leaf ornamentations all around it. Seen from the outside, the wall of the fort looked much stronger than it really was, but where crumbling down from age—especially on its south and east sides—its flimsiness was apparent.” (Compare this description with the details on the other fortification discovered at Barangay Caseladan, Linapacan)