Archive for the 'Watchtower' Category


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.

Fort Pikit • Pikit, Cotabato

Built in 1893, Fort Pikit was built by the Spanish military to consolidate its hold on Cotabato and the Pulangi River that run through it. Designed as a bastioned fort but adapted to 19th century armament, Fort Pikit was similar in design to its neighbor Regina Regente in Dulawan. Citing the report of Gen. Julián Gonzalez Parrado, Aguilar Nieto describes Fort Pikit as follows: “Pikit. On the right bank of the river and 34 miles from Regina Regent we find this fort. The perimeter is surrounded by a rubble wall 38 meters per side, two corner towers on a diagonal to each other, and two batteries at the remaining corners. Inside the perimeter is a quarter of two floors, made of wood and covered with a metal roof, an infirmary of tabique pampango and roofed with zinc. Central command, quarters for the artillerymen, workshops—all covered with nipa and wood. A powder magazine of rubble and an armored roof. Total personnel: one officer and 60 members of the infantry and 6 of the artillery.

For better control and dominion of the era, the establishment of a fort 46 miles upstream of Pikit, where ends the influence of the Malayan Muslims of Mindanao and where begins the settlement Montesa de Misamis (Bukidnon) is under study. To this garrison must be assigned one officer, 60 soldiers and 6 artillerymen.”

The fort is located on PC hill but is covered with vegetation. Made of rubble, the walls and the plain bastions are in place.  Some ruined structures are found inside.  The fort was made into a public park but had been abandoned in 1970s due to the conflict in Mindanao.  Some new cement floor and constructions are found inside. The fortification was cleared of vegetation in the 1990s. It can still be visited today a bastion offers a vista of the surroundings.

A picture of a bastion of Fort Pikit is found in the Heritage Conservation Society [of Manila] blogsite.


Loay Watchtower • Barangay Villalimpia, Loay, Bohol

To protect Loay, the town was divided into a lower town (Ubos, aka Canipaan because of nipa swamps in the area) and an upper town (Ibabaw). The church is built at the upper town and the Villalimpia tower is in the lower town. This suggests that the tower at the seaside worked in coordination with the structures at the upper town. The watchtower allowed the townspeople to seek the safety of the upper town in case of seaborne attacks.

Historical records indicate that stone fort and stone baluarte are reported in Loay. It is not certain where the fort was, it may have surrounded the church complex at Ibabaw. The baluarte, however, is probably the watchtower located near the mouth of the Loay River.  It is presently at the edge of a mangrove forest, and accessible by sea.  During high tide, the sea reaches the tower’s foundations and has exposed and eroded it. Jose observes: “Along the coast of Villalimpia, a barrio near the mouth of the Loboc River, is an abandoned watchtower of coral stone and brick tiles. It can be reached after negotiating several mangrove swamps, and in fact is better seen from the water.  Tidal action has exposed much its rubble foundation, allowing for a detailed study of colonial construction techniques. Apparently the only access to the tower is by a ladder; there is no clearly defined entrance. Much of the original roof has survived. One wonders how useful this tower was, because of its diminutive height” (Jose 1998, 2001).

There are no clear records when the baluarte at Villalimpia was built. But a history of Loay might give a sense when the structure was built. Juan Delgado (1754) reports that the village of La Santisima Trinidad was a new village under the Jesuits. Redondo (1886) says that Loay became an independent parish in 1799, when it was separated from Loboc. The church at Ibabaw was completed in 1822 as indicated by an inscription on the church’s inner façade. An outer façade following a popular plan in Bohol that added porticoes in front of existing façades has the year 1889. Inside the church is a pipe organ dated 1841.

The convento is built behind the church and follows the line of the nave before turning left to form an L-plan. The date 1838 appears over the doorway facing the church and over the entrance facing the grand stone stairway (built ca. 1836-37) that links Canipaan and Ibabaw.

The bell tower, which is a separate structure from the church was built by Carlos Ubeda, OAR (parish priest 1859-1865). A date inscribed over the entrance to the tower carries the date 1865 and the phrase “Ave Maria PMA [Purisima]”. Other structures found at Ibabaw and around the church plaza two school houses built by the Recollects during the last quarter of the 19th century. Jose suggests that a two-story structure, said to be old tribunal or municipal hall and ornamented with the monograph of Mary, is from the 18th century.

The dates of these constructions suggest that there was much building during the second and third decade and the last quarter of the 19th century. As the threat of seaborne raiders had decreased considerably after the Gov. Claveria’s attacks on Sama Balangingi in 1841 and the campaign against Jolo in the 1870s, the second and third decades of the 19th century seems to be the more probably context for the construction of the Villalimpia watchtower.


Panglao Tower • Panglao, Panglao Island, Bohol

Redondo’s 1886 reports states that Panglao parish was established in 1803. Whether Panglao as a mission station or a reduccion already existed before that date is uncertain because both town and island are named Panglao. Thus, when the name Panglao appears in a 1612 document it is uncertain if the town or the island is being referred to. If the island, the town referred might be Dauis.

Within the Panglao church complex are the ruins of an earlier church, which despite the Baroque touches to the façade is dated to the 19th century. Inscribed over the main entrance is the date 1858 or 1859. Jose writes “the rest of the nave consisted of wooden posts and tabique walls which have since disappeared. It seems that his earlier church extended all the way until where the convento now stands. One wing of the convento would have continued the axis of the church, as we see in Cortes and possibly in the earlier church at Dauis” (Jose 2001: 87). This means that the convento is older that the present church at Panglao. Part of the convento is now a parish school, San Agustin Academy.

The present cruciform church of Panglao began construction under Valentin Utande, OAR (parish priest 1894-1897). Wood needed for the structure had to be procured from Sevilla and Loboc, inland towns in Bohol and had to be floated downstream and across the sea to Panglao. The scarcity of suitable construction material may be the reason why the church was still being constructed up to the second decade of the 20th century, when the greater part of the nave was completed. Stone facing, however, was not completed and the apse and transept lack the coral stones that sheathed Bohol churches. The church was consecrated by Bishop Juan Gorordo of Cebu on 1 September 1924, while a native secular priest Quiterio Sarigumba was parish priest. A portico facade of poured concrete was added to the church façade and has the initials of Padre Sarigumba—P.Q.S. A cement walk leading to the main entrance also is also inscribed P.Q.S. with the date 1925.

The history of Panglao church clearly shows that the five-story tower is not related to any of the dated constructions in the church complex. It antedated the ruined church by seven or eight years. This suggests that the tower belonged to an earlier era. Perhaps there was an pre-1850 church of light material. This  five-storey bell tower is located at some distance from both church structures and its proximity to the shore, now far more distant because of mangrove and coconut growth, suggest that it also doubled it served as watchtower. This corroborated by local oral tradition. Jose writes:  “A stone watchtower stands guard over the edge of the sea, a short distance behind the church.  Reputedly Bohol’s tallest, the ponderous structure bears the year 1851 inside its lowest chamber.  Its hexagonal plan is rare in the Philippines” (Jose 1998). In Visita, Jose adds: “interestingly another hexagonal tower stands in Dauis, on the opposite side of this island (built 1774)” (Jose 2001: 88; also See 07-40).

The structure is in poor condition.  The wood members have all deteriorated and there is no access to the top floor because the wooden stairway that leads up has disappeared. The stone walls bulges outwards showing signs of structural stress and deterioration and the tile roof has caved in allowing rain and moisture to enter. This creates an environment conducive to the growth of algæ and vegetation.


Currimao Watchtowers • Currimao, Ilocos Norte

Most likely built in the late-18th century by the townspeople under the leadership of the Augustinian friars, the twin watchtowers of Currimao served to guard an important port; in fact, it served as the port of the capital Laoag. In Currimao, Tabacalera constructed its largest warehouse for tobacco, rice, indigo, maguey and other agricultural products.  Tabacalera opened a regular shipping route from Manila to Aparri with a stop at Currimao. Tabacalera’s brick and mortar warehouse was constructed in 1869. The defense of this port and its coast was important, hence, the watchtowers, which served to guard the northern and southern ends of the Port Currimao.The watchtowers’ construction antedated the formalization of Currimao as a port used by the Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). The towers were built  to warn of pirate attacks.  Some such groups established stations on the islands off Badoc from which they attacked coastal towns. 


Laoag Belltower • Laoag City, Ilocos Sur

It is generally assumed that the bell tower and church of San Guillermo are contemporaneous. The San Guillermo church was built in 1700 after the church site was transferred from an earlier site on Ermita Hill. The old church site is now marked with a cross. The bell tower is one of the landmarks of Laoag City. The tower is built at a distance from the church, the same arrangement found in Bacarra, Vintar, Sarrat, Bantay, Vigan, Santa Maria and other places. This plan is said to be typical of the Ilocos. Elsewhere in the Philippines bell towers are generally adjacent to the church or connected to it by a short corridor. The Laoag tower should be deemed part of the church complex. In the past, when there was no road between church and tower and no buildings intervening the unity of the complex was more apparent. While serving as the church bell tower, it was also a lookout or watchtower and contributed to municipal defense.Planned as multistory structure consisting of diminishing quadrilateral floors, the generous aperture at the second to the last register allows passage to the tower’s exterior, probably a concession to the allow the tower to have a dual purpose as watch tower and bell tower.


Fuerza de Corcuera • Malabang, Lanao del Sur

Built 1892 by Corps of military engineers under the direction Capitan Juan Gálvez y Delgado this Bastioned fort with auxiliary watchtower was as part of a pacification campaign of southern Mindanao. The fort assured control over Lake Lanao this fort and named after the 17th-century governor general, Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, who waged a major campaign to bring Mindanao under Spanish rule and check the advance of Sultan Kudarat.

Fort Corcuera guarded Illana Bay and was the southern terminus of a 50-kilometer road that led upland to Lake Lanao.The fort was apparently built in a short period of time. Turn of the 19th century and early 20th century photographs indicate that the fort was V-shaped and was complemented by a quadrilateral tower on one end. Other photographs (e.g. in the Filipinas Heritage Gallery; of Vibal publishing; NARA) depict a polygonal independent tower, accessed through a ramp and draw bridge. This polygonal structure is free standing and may have been an auxiliary outer defense work of the fort or structure built at La Sabanilla (see below). Fort Corcuera was damaged by a severe earthquake in 1976. Parts of the ruined fort still remains.

Aguilar Nieto indicates that there was most likely an earlier fort, a palisade not the permanent for that has been recorded in photographs. He reports: “Malabang. Near Parang-parang to which it is connected by regular road. The fort is a near the shore, located at a point where a stream flows on three sides of the fortification. It is a double palisade, where all the buildings of the garrison are located. They are made of wood and zinc. Fort personnel: one captain, 3 subalterns, 200 men and 10 artillerymen manning two pieces of bronze canons at the outer palisade.”

June 2019
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