A BICOLANO CHARM THAT WON’T LET ME JUST PASS IT BY

They don’t sell SMB Pale in this sleepy Sabang town of San Jose, in Camarines Sur. The next available is by a 15-minute drive to the poblacion.

Where—something along the way—sparks interest: an antiquated watchtower, or what remains of it, rising above someone’s bakuran.

About 20 feet tall, camouflaged in moss and ferns (and a clothesline!), the structure appears to have kept its original solid stone blocks.

A well-preserved Spanish era fortification they don’t teach in history class.

Edilberto Pervera, lot-owner where the structure stands, says stories passed down to them dates back the watchtower to the 1700s.

Rightly so.

Watchtowers were important features of coastal villages in 18th century Philippines.

Coastal settlements at the time fortify themselves with defences such as castillo and baluartes for protection from the raiding moros or piratas.

Life in the beach is not safe.

Edilberto’s son, Jobert, first acquired the lot some years ago. No plans have come up yet as to the towering freebie.

“Mahirap naman tibagin ito.” Jobert’s old man admits.

Today, the watchtower serves as chicken coop.

This is one of a few strange times the watchtower gained attention, I was told.

Edilberto says it hasn’t drawn much interest from visitors even during Sabang’s heyday.

Heyday is when Sabang was sole gateway to the “Caramoan experience.” (Via its twin port, Sabang and Talisay)

All roads lead to the port.

Until people opted for another route: the mountainous journey through the Fuentebella Highway.

I’m thinking of sending a note.

Dear NHCP. This watchtower should be preserved and recognized as a landmark of important historic and of cultural value.

It tells of Sabang’s past. And culture. Woven in the fabric of Bicolandia’s future.

Back on the road again.

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