boac, puente de boac, laylay boac, baluarte boac, lantawan boac
Church and people fighting together to fend off Moro plunderers is a story familiar to history students. The Moros had made it their occupation to rob, kidnap and ransack Christian communities (18th and 19th century) that quietly lived along the coasts.
But something good came out of these vicious incursions — it brought Church and people closer together.
The church and her missionaries had been deeply involved in the defense of our towns. Some of the defensive structures they had built can still be found along our coasts. In Cebu for example, the great builder, Fray Bermejo constructed a series of Bantay (watchtower old folks call bantay sa hari) to help secure the coasts against the Moros. Most of these citadels are still there, clinging to dear life, around the coasts of Cebu.
When I heard that such a tower exist in Boac I decided to see it. I knew beforehand that the baluarte or Lantawan (Tagalog for watchtower) between Barrio Laylay and Tabigue is already considered a ruin but I was still surprised by its present condition. A local guide, Nante, told me that the ruins are hard to find during the wet season because copious shrubbery grows around it. And we did encounter this first hand. We went in circles for a time before finding it.
The ruins is located in the Boac river delta, not far from the old port of Boac in Laylay (the new port has been moved to Kawit). Local historian Dindo Asuncion describes it having a, “a vantage location… an open 180 degree view of Marinduque’s western coast and its two-storey stone and mortar structure were visible from the Boac Church belfry.”
“The baluarte easily afforded Boakeños several hours lead time toprepare against any approaching troublemakers coming in from the sea about three kilometers west of the town. The residents maintained a system of messahe relays, consisting of the tambuli (lip blown warning device fashioned from the horns of a carabao) and flags by day, tambuli and torches by night particularly during the summer months where the calm seas were conducive for marauders prowling Tablas strait.”
There’s also a quadrangular small fence, made of quarried corals, which the locals refer to as asinan. While it may have been utilized for salt making long after the raids had stopped, I suspect that it was originally part of the fortification complex that included the baluarte.
While there were cleanup operations in the past (headed by teachers and students) the ruins is not maintained nor protected. In fact, there are noticeable small excavations around the ruins. Possibly by amateur treasure hunters. The main entrance appears to had been recently ploughed making it broader. I plead for the local government to secure the ruins as it is an important historical structure.
The existence of this ruin is widely known especially among the locals. I spoke with the tourism department in the provincial capitol and I was told that they had been including the ruins in their literatures as an added attraction to see. But the trouble is that not only is the ruins not easily accessible, there are no markers and it is not maintained. Without a guide, anyone trying to get to it could get lost during this time of the year.
It is puzzling why such an important historical landmark hasn’t been conferred with the recognition it deserves. I understand that it’s in a secluded area and that our heritage agency could not put historical markers in all historic structures but the consequence of inaction is costly.
The question boils down to: are we going to save this? Or do we just leave it until nature and treasure hunters bring it down.
Just imagine how many lives were saved by this massive watchtower through the years of its service.
I used to work in a building owned by Insular Life, the insurance company founded in Manila. At the ground floor, near the rear exit, there’s a historic marker that was unveiled by then VP Teofisto Guingona.
All I’m saying is that if we could put up historical markers for companies, then what’s stopping us from doing the same for historic places and structures?
The ruins is located in Laylay. The small chapel of Laylay is a good place to start. I would recommend to pay for a guide this time of the year.
Special thanks to Nante Garnier, an honest tricycle driver who offered his services as a guide. He was surprised that I was willing to go for it alone but he insisted. “Kahit magkano lang iabot mo, baka kasi maligaw ka ser,” he said. And I’m glad I went with him. I was curious about his French sounding name and asked him if he was — of course, he’s not.
lantáwan is the same as tanáwan. These are words that refers to an elevated platform for viewing.