Saturday, July 7, 2007

Faro de Isla Capul

The Lighthouse in San Luis is a historical landmark that signifies Capul’s rich history. The pavilion and tower were built in 1896 by the Spaniards. It was constructed to complement the lighthouses of Isla de San Bernardino and the proposed lighthouse in Isla de Viri. Faro de Punta Capul however was not completed during the Spanish colonial period. It was only finished during the American period by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The pavilion designed in the Victorian Renaissance Revival was slightly modified in orientation and specifications from the original plans designed by Guillermo Brockman. It was made to conform to the narrow and deep topography of the site where it was built. Like most lighthouses in the Philippines, it was situated on an elevated area overlooking an important body of water, the San Bernardino Strait. The lighthouse is 143 feet above sea level and commands a marvelous view. On a clear day one can even see Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon and the Naranjos Islands of Masbate.

It was meant to send beacons that warn ships entering the narrow treacherous waters between the Port of Matnog and Capul. Although it is still operational, the pavilion is badly in need of rehabilitation. Manuel Noche, the author of the book “Spanish Lighthouses of the Philippines” describes its condition to be deplorable. Only the tower has been maintained over the years. The white-washed paint and the orange color of the door frame sadly do not harmonize at all to the “ruined look” of the service building. Being a priority site for tourism development, its rehabilitation is one of the major undertakings in the Tourism Plan.

The “story” of the lighthouse complex goes beyond it’s Spanish and American history. A few meters further down the slope from the main building are three circular Japanese World War II gun emplacements. Big guns used to be mounted there and were intended to be used against the Americans by the Japanese Imperial Navy. Guard railings were installed along the periphery of the 7-hectare complex and along the foot trails as a way to make the area safer to tourists.

Over the edge, one can be amazed by the swift rush of the current washing over the San Bernardino Strait. The rocky shore is often battered by waves that scrape, shape and re-shape the geologic formations. Perhaps this is the reason why “Bigfoot” was formed. This deep indentation on the rocks resembles a giant foot.

Capuleños plan for tourism

Last April 22-24, 2007 the people of Capul Island gathered to craft a sustainable tourism plan for their municipality. The planning process utilized a participatory approach and was facilitated by Louie and Chen Mencias of Bluewater Consultancy, Training and Services, a consultantcy outfit that specializes in tourism planning. The seminar/workshop was attended by Barangay Captains and their officers, resort owners, teachers, LGU staff, youth and representatives from other sectoral groups. The three-day workshop was an overwhelming success. The output was a document that outlines the development framework for Capul Island. The plan includes the Vision, Mission, Objectives and Goals articulated by the participants. It also includes strategies and specific activities that form part of the recommendatons of the consultants.

The workshop also provided an opportunity for the participants to learn contemporary concepts and strategies on tourism development for small islands. Throughout the entire process facilitators introduced planning tools that made them work together in assessing tourism resources, discussing issues and concerns, and assessing their strengths, weaknessess, opportunities and threats (SWOT). They also conducted a stakeholder analysis that made them realize that an understanding of the roles of each sector in the industry is the key towards establishing a strong Partnership.

Based on the evaluation of the participants, Capul seem to be a generally safe place to be. History is the most compelling or distinct feature of the island. Any tourism product development initiative should capitalize on this unique attribute. The lighthouse, the church and other historical landmarks show the greatest drawing power. Although the lighthouse has the potential to motivate travelers to come to the island, the road needs to be improved. The quality and quantity of amenities and facilities that will address the needs of tourists will have to be increased and standards elevated. The culture and language will enhance visitor experience and should be integrated in the overall theme of the tour packages for Capul. The Capul Island Sustainable Tourism Plan highlights three major components - product development, social preparation and promotions and marketing. Participants agree that a balanced approach to tourism development is the best way to preserve history, culture and the natural environemtent of the island while optimizing economic benefit.