Baluarte: The Leaning Tower of Luna, La UnionLuna, a municipality in the province of La Union, is known as the Pebble Capital of the North. Its coast facing the West Philippine Sea seems to be a bottomless repository of pebbles of various sizes and colors that are washed in from the ocean. Along this strip stands a 5.6-meter tall structure that has survived pirate attacks, a war among countries, and even a devastating typhoon.

Locally called as "Baluarte," the watchtower in Barangay Victoria 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. The fortress was used by the Spaniards to warn its residents against the looters. During World War II, it functioned as the communication tower post for a temporary airfield for the USAFIPNL forces.  

Like most century-old Spanish structures, the baluarte is made of adobe and coral blocks held together by lime and egg whites. This is why it wasn't surprising that the tower was eventually split into two.

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 on the structure's base and tilting of the split portions inwards.

Unfortunately, neither were done and the advocates behind its preservation lost in the race against time and tide. Lando, a strong typhoon in 2015, caused the centuries-old baluarte to collapse, as if being split in half wasn't enough.

I was able to visit the spot twice—in 2009 and just recently—and saw how badly the structure was ravaged.

LEFT: Concrete columns were used to prop up the tilting watchtower. | RIGHT: Only half of the structure remained after the devastation of Typhoon Lando.


The side that faces the water was completely destroyed and collapsed by the strong typhoon.(Photo from Vic Alhambra Jr. | The Philippine Star | October 25, 2015)

At present, the local government of council is counting on the National Historical Commission to declare the baluarte as a national historical landmark. Should this push through, government agencies can easily channel funds for the preservation and restoration of the watchtower. The structure was already recognized by the National Historical Institute as one of the national treasures prior to the calamity.

What's next for the watchtower? It's up to us, ambassadors of the country, to push for the restoration of a piece of our history.


How to Get There

Buses to La Union depart the terminals in Manila every hour. Travel time is between six to seven hours by commute.