The highly endangered heritage watchtower of Leyte, Leyte

Worm's eyeview of the watchtower

Worm’s eyeview of the watchtower

I was shocked when I first saw the condition of the heritage watchtower at the edge of a land overlooking the sea in the municipality of Leyte in Leyte province. Much of its upper part have been overgrown with trees and the roots have started to cover up the surface of the walls both exterior and interior with a few big roots penetrating between blocks.

Leyte was one of the islands badly hit by the wave of muslim slave raiders especially between the middle of the 18th to the middle of the 19th centuries. When the amihan or the northeast monsoon starts, these raiders, aboard their prahus, start the southern voyage from their pillaging in Luzon and Bicol, passing Samar, Biliran, Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor and Negros then trace the northern coast of Mindanao till they arrive at the slave markets in sulu.

READ MORE: Tea, trade and tears: the Muslim slave raids of the 18th-19th centuries, Part 1 of 3

The location of the said quadrilateral watchtower is strategic. It overlooks a narrow bay and stands guard, alarming the residents of the poblacion (town center), about less than a kilometer away, of an impending raid.

But seeing the condition of the heritage structure is quite disheartening. While it has survived for more than a century, it might not survive a few more years of neglect as slowly, nature is reclaiming it. As of now, huge roots have started to loosen the blocks as these have penetrated deeper. Huge cracks are also showing.

I was told that there used to be three of these lining the coastline. Now, only one is existing and in great danger. How can we save this one? Will town officials be cognizant of its heritage and tourism value to take steps to do something about this vegetal infestation?

The scene that greeted me when I went down the car. This is such a highly endangered situation with the vegetation eventually destroying the watchtower.

The scene that greeted me when I went down the car. This is such a highly endangered situation with the vegetation eventually destroying the watchtower.

Tree roots covering the walls

Tree roots covering the walls

A tree root slowly easing out a block of coral stone

A tree root slowly easing out a block of coral stone

View from the back

View from the back

A large crack on one side caused by penetrating tree roots

A large crack on one side caused by penetrating tree roots

While ill informed people may find this 'romantic,' with the roots almost covering the walls, the roots will only destroy the structure

While ill informed people may find this ‘romantic,’ with the roots almost covering the walls, the roots will only destroy the structure

A gaping hole has been made on one side

A gaping hole has been made on one side

View of the sea as seen from the watchtower

View of the sea as seen from the watchtower

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2 Comments

  1. i am coming to the Philippines to live in the next 12 to 18 months ( retiring ) and one of the things on my to do list is to help in the preservation of such buidlings …. i have a buidling qualification but i fear by the time i get there many such structures will be too far gone ,…. initially in the short term the protruding/offending branches/weeds etc should be removed from the area and at least 50 metres right round ( if nothing is built near ) and fenced off to at least keep vandilism at bay a little

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