Folklore has romanticized the name of Capul Island as derived from the seaside city in Mexico which was part of one of the world’s historic maritime journeys, the tornaviaje that linked the Philippines with Spain via Mexico. But there might have been basis as Capul Island off Allen in Northern Samar was the last stop of the Spanish galleons before going out into the perilous Pacific Ocean to its destination, Acapulco. Here, they docked south of the present poblacion where they stock on food and potable water from the Bañadero, a natural fresh water spring by the sea.
Capul Island’s history goes way back. Its original name is Abak with its own language distinct from Bicolano and Waray and has affinity with the language of the Sama Badjao off the Zamboanga Peninsula. Oral tradition is said to have mentioned that the ancestors of the Abaknons came from the southern Philippines or even beyond. Of a Datu, refusing Islam, left with his people eventually reaching and settling in the island. Thus, Inabaknon, with its few thousand speakers is one of the Philippines minority languages and might be in danger. The Spanish Jesuits arrived in 1610 and converted the natives to Christianity. Today, it’s a fifth-class municipality with fishing and agriculture the main industries.
Heritage structures in Capul Island
Walking around the narrow roads of the poblacion always leads you to the historic Fuerza de Capul that incorporates the San Ignacio Church. Built in 1781 by Fray Mariano Valero, this fortress-church complex was the island’s only defense from Moro slave raiders that ravaged these parts since the 17th century. Back then, sentinels were stationed at a distant watchtower by the sea. At the sight of these marauders, the budyong or conch shell is sounded to alert the people who then flee to the church where they lock themselves until the raiders have left.
The old lighthouse and WWII
Located at the highest part of the island, at 143m above sea level, the Faro de Isla Capul with its 40m tower was constructed in 1891 and finished during the American period. The pavilion was designed by Guillermo Brockman in the Victorian Renaissance Revival style. The view is sweeping. It’s an unhindered panorama of the San Bernardino Strait. On a clear day, one can see Sorsogon and Mt Bulusan and even a faint trace of Mt. Mayon. It is also an important naval landmark. During World War II, Capul Island was a strategic area with Japanese gun emplacements located below the lighthouse still seen today. At present, these two heritage structures are undergoing restoration works by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
With Capul Island’s historic backdrop, daily life just goes on. Fishermen going out to sea is a common sight. With its abundant coconut trees, copra making is an industry with several ‘smoking huts’ by the roadside. It’s a place where one can swim at the white sand beach with nary a distracting soul in sight or feast on cheap seafood for dinner or lunch. Or just gaze out into the sea at the wind-swept hill overlooking the San Bernardino Strait and imagine galleons coming in to dock.
Capul Island is reached by outrigger boats from Allen docked beside the port usually leaving around 12 noon or 1 PM. Average trip is around an hour but can go beyond depending on the sea condition.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are a few lodging houses in the poblacion or you can just ask around for a homestay.
WHERE TO EAT:
There are few carinderias in the town where you can arrange for meals. If at a homestay, arrange with your host. Seafood is cheap.