(This originally was part of another blog I was making, but it began to have a life of its own and I thought it best to put it in a separate entry.)
When one says “Mahatao Lighthouse”, this is probably what most of those who have gone to Batanes have in mind:
…which makes sense because it is a lighthouse and it is in Mahatao.
And if you tinker with Google and make different search combinations on “Mahatao Lighthouse”, not only will you get a lot of image search results showing that particular lighthouse, but a lot of bloggers and travel guides say that this same lighthouse dates back to the 1700s and that it is the only octagonal lighthouse in Batanes.
There are 2 things to be said about this:
1. It’s clearly not octagonal. It’s hexagonal.
2. That’s a picture of the Tayid Lighthouse built in 2000, and not the original Mahatao Lighthouses built in the 1700s.
There are actually 2 structures originally referred to as the Mahatao Lighthouses and these are much smaller structures about 30 feet apart located at the town proper, in the vicinity of the San Carlos Borromeo Church. They have long since fallen into disuse because structures have been built which obstruct their view of the sea.
Because of the absence of historical markers, most tourists pass them by with nothing more than a curious look and without any clue as to their nature or significance, probably mistaking them for extra-tall lampposts.
I have yet to verify this, but it’s said that the two lighthouses worked in tandem when guiding boats, devising a system where their lights would combine to signal the right path, and where it would separate when the boat is going in the wrong direction. Like most of Batan’s coastline, the shore near Mahatao is rocky with a lot of shallow coral reefs. The use of the lighthouse is vital for boats to avoid running aground or crashing into rocks.
The Tayid Lighthouse on the other hand is a modern 21st century structure built on the opposite side of Batan Island facing the Pacific Ocean. It’s still officially referred to as “Tayid Lighthouse” in the provincial government’s website.
By virtue of the fact that it’s currently more prominent than the two older structures and following popular usage, it’s not far-fetched to believe that the Tayid Lighthouse will someday be officially renamed “Mahatao Lighthouse”. Right now, there are scattered efforts that officially refer to the two older structures as the “Spanish Lighthouses”, but this hasn’t gained ground.
However, for the sake of historical accuracy, it’s important to correct the widely held misconception propagated in a lot of blogs and travel guides. Other than the fact that they are both built in the same municipality, the Mahatao Lighthouses that were built in 1700s have nothing to do with the modern “Mahatao Lighthouse” which most tourists have in mind.
And there’s no octagonal lighthouse anywhere in Batanes.
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This entry is part of the Batanes II series dated September 10-14, 2011:
1. Return to Batanes (a prologue)
2. Hiking in Northern Batan
3. Preview: Mt. Iraya
4. The Back-breaking Mt. Iraya Climb
5. Mahatao’s Lighthouses: Setting the Facts Straight
6. Stuck in Batan: New Sites & Sentimental Favorites
7. In search of Batanes’ prehispanic past
8. The 2-lie system of SEAir’s Manila-Basco flights (a warning)
9. Everyone’s kinder in Batanes (even the tourists.)