Lighthouse rehab seen to ignite tourism boom
SAN FERNANDO CITY—While going up the steps of the Poro Point lighthouse, former Mayor Mary Jane Ortega of San Fernando City in La Union was loudly saying, “Oro. Plata. Mata.” (Gold. Silver. Death.). It is an old Spanish superstition that if one’s last step falls on either gold, silver or death, it will mean the fate of the house or its occupants.
Having negotiated 96 steps, Ortega was aghast that it ended at “mata.”
“So the first step of the rehabilitation is to put an extra step,” she said while atop the 76-foot lighthouse built in 1970.
Poro Point Management Corp. (PPMC) signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Coast Guard to repair and rehabilitate the lighthouse as well as the much older Spanish lighthouse a few meters away.
Ortega said the older lighthouse, built on Nov. 28, 1885, and enshrined by the National Historical Institute as a historical structure, would be rebuilt using old drawings.
PPMC, a subsidiary of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), promised to finish the rehabilitation by next year.
Florante Gerdan, PPMC president and chief executive officer, said preserving the lighthouse would be the first step in promoting tourism in the area.
“Preserving our heritage sites would contribute to the increase in tourist arrivals and eventually in the rise in investments as well as business opportunities for local entrepreneurs,” Gerdan said.
Vice Admiral Edmund Castor Tan, Philippine Coast Guard commandant, said the Poro Point lighthouse is one of 10 lighthouses in the country that are being scheduled for repair and rehabilitation under the public-private partnership (PPP) program.
For a lighthouse to be included in the PPP, it should be historically and strategically important, Tan said. He said the 120-foot Spanish lighthouse, which is lit by a huge kerosene lamp, is one of the oldest in the country.
Arnel Paciano Casanova, BCDA president, said they intend to improve the six-hectare area around the lighthouse and build curio and sport shops there.
Initial designs showed that PPMC would create rings around the lighthouse but these would not interfere in the real duty of the lighthouse which is to guide boats and ships in the area.
Benjamin Fajardo, who has been supervising the Poro Point lighthouse in the past 12 years, said the structure is lit by an array of solar-powered cells at its apex. Its beacon can be seen as far as 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) away. The light, he said, automatically turns on at 6:45 p.m.
Casanova said the rehabilitation of the area would center on the lighthouses. “Lighthouses are part of our character as a nation, being an archipelago where the sea and its shores are a daily part of the Filipino life,” he said.
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