Text and Photos By Euden Valdez
FOR over a century, Cape Engaño has been a reminder of a lost time atop its hill of solace in Palaui Island. Built from 1888 to 1892, the lighthouse and its architecture is a testament to the Spanish colonization in the Philippines.
Now in ruins, Cape Engaño has surpassed its original purpose by becoming an iconic tourist destination in Cagayan province, Luzon. It invites visitors and travelers from around the Philippines to take that arduous trip to Palaui Island in Sta. Ana municipality.
To get to Cape Engaño, travel by land to the northern most part of Luzon for 12 hours or more, or by air for over just an hour. Arrive or land at Tuguegarao City and take bus ride for another two to three hours to Sta. Ana. Make your way to the port of San Vicente via a quick tricycle ride, and then catch a boat to Palaui Island.
And it will all be worth it because the island is home to: hospitable locals, a mix of Agta tribe, the original inhabitants and rightful owners, and Ilocanos, the migrants; as well as beaches and coves with clearest waters, untouched forests with scenic, rolling hills and grasslands — the highlight of which is no other than Cape Engaño.
Let’s take a closer look at this towering beauty in this virtual tour:
Because of bad weather, a boat trip to Cape Engaño may not be possible at times, as advised and regulated by the Philippine Coast Guard. No worries because there are two trails which Palaui Island visitors may choose from.
Nevertheless, there is no shortage of views here, especially during low tide, which is during the afternoon. All the little sea critters, shells and dead corals appear. Beyond, the Pacific Ocean seems subdued and quiet.
The first is Leonardo Trail, which is forested, steep and hard. My group would have preferred this but due to time constraint, we took the Lagunzad trail, which is easier for majority of it is along the beach.
After the stretch on the seashore, enter the mouth of the trail showcasing the endemic species of flora covering the island. The trail is at part slippery and muddy due to rains on previous days.
Leave the forested trail and a valley with carabaos set on green backdrops—reminiscent of textbook photos—will greet everyone.
Continue with a slight ascent and be rewarded with our first view of the Dos Hermanas Islands (Two Sisters). Soon, the hill where Cape Engaño stood will be visible.
Walk some more to the foot of the hill, and then make the 200 steps to the top. Somewhere in between, take in the view of the rugged island with crashing waves on the left, the valley in the middle, and a quaint, blue cove in the right.
Once enough photos are taken, continue the ascent until finally, arrive at the lighthouse grounds. A wishing well is an apt welcome sight. And then of course, the tower with the historical marker.
Enter the ruined Cape Engaño and feel its walls still breathing as veins crawl unto and leaves cover it. The tall and big windows are perfect spots for taking pictures and basking in the views of the waters down below.
Surrounding the lighthouse are unkempt bushes and tiny but thick trees, which somehow made it to the foundations of the missing roof.
Behind, one can go down to a grass covered cliff opening to the Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters) islands distinctive of Palaui Island’s terrain.
(TJPh went to Palaui Island with RAK Ph Mountaineers. Additional photos from Joms Guevarra, Frederick Laping and Alex delos Santos)