Friday, May 8, 2009

Discovering Linapacan Fortress -- Cheyenne Morrison

lifted from

My Discovery of the Lost Spanish Fortress

"It was the fulfillment of a childhood dream, finding a historical ruin in the middle of a rainforest", says Cheyenne Morrison.
Lost 17th century fortress found
Seair Inflight Magazine Article
Impressions, February to March 2005

Ever since I was a small child I have been fascinated with archeology and lost cities in the jungle found by explorers. I had read the stories of Hiram Bingham’s discovery of the lost Inca citadel of Machu Puchu, Raffles’ discovery of the lost Temple of Borobadur in Java, and Frederick Catherwood’s discovery of the lost Mayan temples of central America, but I thought that in this day and age I would never be able to emulate the exploits of these intrepid explorers. But I too found a perfectly preserved ancient fortress, hidden amongst the jungle on the remote Linapacan islands of the Philippines.

When I first arrived in Palawan, the “Last Frontier” of the Philippines, my second day in the country I stopped at the town of Taytay, where the town is dominated by a massive 17th century Spanish fortress. I had read a great deal about the history of the province and found a small and enigmatic description of a Fortress in the remote islands of Linapacan.

I asked several people about this and nobody could give me any information whatsoever. Whenever I asked everybody just shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders and said they had no idea.

This intrigued me even more.Linapacan is completely off the tourist track in Palawan, all the tourist visit the islands of Honda Bay, Taytay’s fortress, the islands and hot lakes of Coron and of course the magnificent islands of El Nido’s Bacuit Bay where I lived on Pinagbuyatan island. The island featured on the cover of the Lonely Planet Guide to the Philippines.

To reach Linapacan required booking a very large ocean going Bangka, and few boat captains in Palawan as the seas of the Linapacan Straits are some of the most dangerous waters in the Philippines. They are the only gap between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea and the changes in tides and weather can produce very fast currents and mountainous waves. I well remember my first trip there on a local ferry with 20-30 feet waves and a trip that usually took 2 hours took 6.

I used to sell private islands in Palawan, and every time I took clients to inspect islands for sale in Linapacan I tried to track down the location with no success. Every time I asked people the location al I received was vague wave of the arm and would be told it was ‘somewhere on the other side of the island’.

But I was determined to track down the fortress as the fact no one knew where it was just made my fascination stronger. On a brief trip to Manila I took the opportunity of researching in the National Library of the Philippines, and after 4 hours of wading through ancient accounts I came across the following description.“

On the island of Linacupan, beside the town and on the edge of the sea, rose a rock whose ascent was difficult with only one access to the top. A plain extended over it and there a parapet of masonry had been constructed, surrounded and guarded by artillery. It dominated the town and defended its entrance so well that it couldn’t be attacked without the attacker being attacked in return. Within was a church, quarters for the troops, some houses of refuge for the inhabitants and a natural spring that provided sweet and potable water.

The inhabitants and the priests, without any aid from the central government, supported the fort. It was only during the administration of Gov. Fernando Valdes-Tamon (1739) that four cannons, the battery and gunpowder were sent for its defense.” Vicente Barrantes (1878)At last I had proof not only the fortress existed, but also an accurate description which meant it was a major fortress, not a smaller one as everybody tried to persuade me it would be even if I managed to find it.

So like my heroes I set up an expedition to the remote Linapacan Islands in the Calamianes group of Palawan, and I became the first person to document and photograph the Lost Spanish Fortress of Caseledan.On the morning of Monday the 8th of November, 2005 after a 3 hour bangca (local boat) trip we arrived in San Miguel, the main town of the municipality of Linapacan. We stayed overnight with one of the local councilors and asked many people where the fort was located, as usual nobody could tell us exactly.

I knew that it was supposed to be located in Caseledan and when I asked where this was people knew that it was located on the other side of the island. The next day we proceeded over to the other side of the island, the western side of the island has two large bays, each of these bays is then divided into a further 5 smaller bays.

Entering one of the larger bays we stopped a local fisherman for directions to the village of Caseldan, he pointed in a rough area, but as we proceeded closer we couldn’t see anything. Coming closer into the end of the bay we asked another fisherman who gave us a better direction. Finally we could see a small bay with a beach dominated by a large hill, a deep anchorage extended into the bay and there were 3 houses on the beach.

I pointed to the hill covered in very old trees and said to my friends “That’s the Fort, I’m sure of it because it’s in the right place and those trees are very old”.

Sure enough when we asked the people on the beach they said yes the fort was on the hill. We went just behind the beach where we came upon a small stream which fed into a well. Just past this a small trail turned left and steeply up the hill.

After a few minutes of pushing our way through the undergrowth I spotted the first stone wall which was only 2 foot high, this was the edge of the outer rampart which surrounds the fortress proper. After about 5 meters we came to a corner of the fortress and we followed the walls along to the front of the fort which is dominated by two Baluartes or bastions. These are heavily overgrown by Balete trees, a kind of strangler fig which has grown up through the fortress walls giving it the appearance of the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

As we progressed our way around the wall we passed the other Baluarte and as we rounded a short wall we came to the entrance to the fortress. As we entered a very large gate a stairway was immediately to our left, we took this up to the upper ramparts of the fortress and with difficulty made our way all the way around.

From the SW Baluarte we could see the beach 250 feet below us, and if the trees were cleared we would have a fantastic view of the surrounding area. In the middle of the fortress it is overgrown with trees some of them with huge roots.

As we stood on the upper parapet of the SW Baluarte and gazed down into the bay I could almost feel what it must have felt like being a Spanish soldier in one of the most remote outposts in the world.

How To Get There:

The fortress is located 13.5 kilometers west of Linapacan’s main town of San Miguel, in Sitio Caseledan, Pangaraycan, in North Bay located in Barangay Maroyrogrog.

To get to Linapacan you must hire a large bangca (local boat) in either Coron or El Nido. Trip will take 2 days and you should overnight in San Miguel, or camp on one of the beautiful islands in Linapacan.

Cost of bangca hire for a two day trip will cost approximately 8-10,000 Philippine pesos ($140-180) and you must bring along all you own supplies. Best time of the year to go is the months of April, May, June.

1 comment:

Stirrings of the Heart said...

hi, are you fr.lando? i am marvie misolas, from ubb. long time no see. i am well, now a maryknoll sister working in taichung, taiwan. pls. reply when you have chance. blessings to you and your work.