IMAGE Vince M. Puerto

La Union's centuries-old watchtower is finally restored

But it looks rather odd.


The restored Baluarte of Luna, La Union

 

(SPOT.ph) The 400-year-old watchtower in Barangay Victoria, Luna, La Union finally got the long overdue restoration it needed, especially after it was heavily damaged by Typhoon Lando in 2015. Inquirer released an article on April 24 describing the reconstruction as a "rehab fusion." The restored Baluarte, as it is locally called, now looks like an odd combination of old adobe and coral blocks with new light-colored red bricks. It stands on an embankment that restores the former level of Luna's famous Pebble Beach.

 


 


 

After the inspection by National Museum Director Jeremy Barns, an April 24 Facebook statement from the National Committee on Monuments and Sites said that the restoration carried out by La Union's local goverment was "highly satisfying" despite the fact that the "work wasn't closely supervised by the National Museum due to agency constraints and priorities elsewhere."

 

NCMS' earlier statement (April 24, 9:30 a.m.)

 

However, the cultural agency earlier announced (April 24, 9:30 a.m.) that "the repair of the Luna Watchtower in La Union was undertaken without the supervision of the National Museum" but the post has since been taken down. In a later statement (April 24, 5:15 p.m.), it was clarified that "the local government unit took the initiative and followed suggestions and guidelines that had been prescribed by the National Museum at the outset."

 

NCMS' new statement (April 24, 5:15 p.m.)

 

However, they still pointed out that they "encourage local government units to coordinate with government cultural agencies before undertaking work on heritage properties." The National Committee on Monuments and Sites (NCMS), under the Subcommission for Cultural Heritage, is one of the departments of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It is composed of architects, archaeologists, town planners, engineers, art historians, and other experts mandated to protect the country's historic structures and landscapes.

 

"Local governments and parishes should not undertake repairs or restoration work on heritage structures without coordinating with government cultural agencies such as the National Museum and National Historical Commission of the Philippines. As well-meaning as these repairs are, they could do more damage than good in the long-run if proper materials and restoration methods are not adhered to. We need to make sure that any intervention made on a heritage property is indeed the best option," NCMS Head Ivan Anthony Henares told SPOT.ph.

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Baluarte was classified as a national treasure in 2014, which enabled the National Museum of the Philippines to allocate funds for its restoration, said Tito Gorospe, Luna's tourism officer, in the Inquirer report. A total of P10 million was used for the restoration, which included the construction of a stable foundation and a breakwater. 

 

The 5.6-meter watchtower was built during the Spanish period as a solution to the frequent ransacking of Japanese, Chinese, and Moro pirates in the coastal towns of La Union. It was used by the Spaniards to warn its residents against the looters. During World War II, the fortress functioned as the communication tower post for a temporary airfield for the USAFIPNL forces. 

 


Baluarte in 2009 (L) and 2016 (R)

 


Baluarte in 2015 after Typhoon Lando

 

In 2007, the provincial engineering office propped the ruins with concrete columns used in building bridges. They also prohibited the picking of stones 50 meters around the Baluarte to minimize erosion of the coast and save the walls from tilting some more. In 2013, studies were made to preserve the structure built on the scenic beach. More permanent solutions were recommended such as the injection of cement slurry (a mixture of cement, sand, and water) on the structure's base and tilting of the split portions inwards. Unfortunately, neither was done and the advocates behind its preservation lost in the race against time and tide. Lando, a strong typhoon in 2015, caused the fortress to collapse, as if being split in half wasn't enough.

 

Restoration was started in October 2016 through the collaboration of the Department of Public Works and Highways and La Union’s local government. It was completed in April 2017.

 

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