Friday, August 25, 2006

The Sentinel On The Bay

Sometimes it appears ephemeral and insubstantial, a ghostly mirage rising from the sea not far from the Lianga seashore. At other times, particularly when seen up close, it appears massive, solid and imbued with an indefinable aura of mystery and power, like massive fist of rock thrust out of the sea by some unknown force of nature.

Locals refer to it as just the "purô" which can be loosely translated as a islet or small island. Yet no landmark in Lianga is more closely identified with the town and its people. And none more less appreciated and protected.

Many years ago a group of us was able to climb its nearly vertical sides and reach the summit. Amidst the tangled vines and moss, the old light tower with its hollow shaft and circular staircase winding around it like some monstrous snake still stood strong even after decades of neglect.

We climbed to the top of the tower and from the dizzying heights gazed with wonder at the sea and the town beyond and below us. It was a sight few have been privileged to see but one I wished everyone here would be given a chance to.

The tower has stood there for decades and a light beacon from its top guided ships passing through the shoals and reefs of town's coastal sea. Fishermen and intrepid mariners in their motorized boats have set and adjusted their course day and night by it.

Of course, the purô with its tower still stands to day but it's future, like the future of Lianga is uncertain. There is now a pathetic quality to its grandeur and time like the relentlessly pounding waves have wrought havoc upon this old sentinel of the sea.

But the damage has not been limited to human neglect or the ravages of of time and nature. Some years ago, a group of deluded souls dreaming of hidden gold treasure blew up portions of the islet. They never found anything but that wanton destructive act is again proof of one simple fact - that man always finds it easy to disregard, abandon and even destroy the heritage of his past. He is more concerned with the present and fixated on his future but forgets that he is a product and a child of the past. He is what he is because of what he once was.

Inevitably the tower with its beacon of light and base of stone will one day stand no more. When that happens, that will be a sad day for Lianga and the townspeople will losing something priceless and of inestimable value

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