Monday, June 9, 2014

Capones Island and Lighthouse in San Antonio, Zambales

Capones Island, located off the coast of the town of San Antonio in the province of Zambales, is favorite weekend travel destination in the Philippines as it is conveniently accessible from the capital city of Manila. The island is famous for the century-old Capones Lighthouse. Pundaquit Beach is the jump-off point to this island, as well as to a number of other coves in Zambales.

Capones Vista Resort at Dawn

We arrived at Pundaquit Beach in San Antonio, Zambales around noontime and checked-in at Capones Vista Resort where we will spend the night. The resort offers comfortable accommodation and a fantastic view of Capones Island. They also have swimming pools where we enjoyed night swimming that evening.

Pundaquit Beach in the Morning

Most visitors would leave Manila very early in the morning and would go straight to an island hopping tour of Capones Island and the nearby coves. We find that quite tiresome so we decided to spend the night at Pundaquit and do the island hopping the following morning. This way, we are all well-rested and can better enjoy the visit to the island.

Big Boat docked in front of Capones Vista Resort

We contacted Mang Florante (0910-8053388) and booked a big boat for our group of seven. The boat was big enough for 10 passengers but we were charged the standard rate of P300.00/person for an island-hopping tour of Capones Island, Camara Island and Anawangin Cove. As agreed, our boat docked in front of our resort at 5:30am to pick us up for the tour.

Boat approaching Camara Island

It was still dawn when we left Pundaquit Beach and the sun was about to rise when we were approaching our first stop, Camara Island.

Camara Island

We docked on a small patch of beach on Camara Island where we had a quick dip. The water was cold enough to wake us up. We also explored this part of the island and took some photos of the beach and the small neighboring island.

Sunrise at Camara Island

We went back swimming and waited until the sunrise. We were told that visitors can bring a tent on the island and stay here overnight. A view of the magnificent sunrise over Pundaquit is definitely a great way to start the day.

Sunrise over Pundaquit

From Camara Island, we continued our island hopping tour to Capones Island. We made a quick stop at the eastern coast of Capones where we also had a quick swim. We then moved to the rocky cove near the western tip of the island to visit the famous Capones Lighthouse.

Cove leading to Capones Lighthouse

We were thankful that we started our island hopping tour very early because the cold breeze of the morning made the trek to the lighthouse much easier. There are cemented steps near the coast to make the climb much easier. An unpaved footpath then leads the visitors to the lighthouse.

gate of the lighthouse

The lighthouse was built by the Spaniards in 1890 to guide ships entering Subic Bay. The original lighthouse tower was extended with another level to house the more modern solar-powered lamps.

facade of the lighthouse

Plants have grown all over the place, some are even growing through and eating the walls of the lighthouse, which gives us a visual aide of the age of the structure.

geometric tile patterns on the floor

The thick foliage somewhat tells us that the forest that once covered this island is slowly taking back this space. The sight of this magnificent work of architecture being eaten by the forest is hearth-breaking.

wooden windows are gone

Years of neglect is really evident and it was saddening that nothing is being done to preserve this piece of Philippine heritage. People don't make such majestic structures anymore these days.

From the ground floor, we climbed the rusty spiral iron stairs leading to the lighthouse tower. It was shaking every time someone would take a step. With its age and years of rust, it's definitely unsafe for visitors to climb the tower. But there was no one manning the lighthouse and the door to the tower wasn't even locked, or perhaps someone destroyed the locks. We really don't know, there was no one to ask.

rusty spiral stairwell

spiral stairwell

We were thankful that we all reach the top of the lighthouse tower safe. We enjoyed the fresh sea breeze and the view of the vast sea surrounding the island.

Back on the ground floor, we explored the halls and the rooms of the lighthouse. Everywhere you look, there's damage on the structure and many are a result of vandalism.

damaged wooden door

yard at the back of the lighthouse
Looking at century-old Spanish lighthouses is always a treat to the eyes, especially for those who appreciate architecture and heritage. You can see the amount of effort and passion in executing such construction projects in the past. The quality of the design of the structure really amazed us. Come to think of it, why build such beautiful structures on remote islands where there is no one to admire its beauty other than the lighthouse man?

Obviously, very little funding (or none at all) is provided by the government for the maintenance and protection of these heritage places. Perhaps our government can imitate a tourism movement currently happening in Spain where old lighthouses are being converted to boutique hotels and restaurants. This ensures that the structures are kept for future generations to enjoy.

The choice between preserving such lighthouses to serve their original purpose, or converting them into new tourism products as boutique hotels is highly debatable. A debate in which we don't want to engage in. But letting these pieces of national heritage just rot, or formulating an argument to protest again development will not solve the problem. Something really has to be done.

For now, we can only appeal to tourists to be responsible. Let's not add to the further destruction of our lighthouses. We can start by not leaving trash in the area, or collecting trash we see along the way and inside the lighthouse. Most of all, please stop vandalizing the structure. Take selfies and post them online, but please don't post anything on the lighthouse's walls.

view from the lighthouse

This concludes our short visit to Capones Island. It was 8:30am when we left Capones to continue our island hopping tour to Anawangin Cove.

Capones Vista Resort at noontime

We were back at Capones Vista Resort at noontime. We still had enough time take a shower and rest before checking out for lunch.


riqui kuizon said...

It's nice seeing the islands again. My friends and I had our Anawangin Cove [March 2013] and Nagsasa Cove [February 2014] experience and still look forward to visiting the islands again. Our tour also included island-hopping to the Capones Island and it is as awesome as the images on your blog depict. <3

Pinoy Adventurista said...

ganda ng lighthouse! <3