The Light Station in Bancao-Bancao

"Light Station" LIghthouse Bancao-Bancao

The Light Station in Bancao-Bancao

The Philippine Coast Guard maintains 12 operational Light Stations in Palawan. I visited the one in Bancao-Bancao and chatted with Mr. James M., its caretaker for the past 36 years. Two things were apparent. One was the bad condition of the light station. Two was the dedication of this man to his responsibility.

Mr. James who took over in 1974 has outlived both the Equipment Shed and Staff Barracks.

"Equipment Shed" "Light Station" Bancao-Bancao

The Equipment Shed of the Light Station in Bancao-Bancao

Lighthouse "Staff Barracks" "Light Station" Bancao-Bancao "Retired No Way"

The Staff Barracks of the Light Station in Bancao-Bancao

Mr. James is a feisty character. I suppose you have to be if your employer treated your job so disdainfully.

What I’m trying to say is rooted in my frustration and outrage. Ships of all kind–like the SuperFerry I rode into Puerto last weekend–depend on this Light Station for safe passage. GPS may be the primary navigational system today but the light of a Light Station provides instinctual feedback that no GPS can match.

I am upset at how corruption and malfeasance make life unnecessarily risky for everyone who lives and comes to visit Palawan.

Take the communication system…

The Purpose of a Lighthouse

How do ships find their way at night?

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was a lighthouse–the famous Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt. It was built three centuries before Christ and is the tallest one ever built–450 feet (comparable to a 45-storey skyscraper). It used an open fire at the top as a source of light.

Pharos survived for 1,500 years until an earthquake in the 14th Century destroyed it. It was a three-part tower with a square base, a second-storey with eight sides and a narrow, taller round third-story.

Pharos "7 Wonders" "Retired No Way" Lighthouse

The Pharos Lighthouse of Antiquity (credit:

At night they believe its fire could be seen for thirty miles (50 kilometers). By day it produced a column of smoke to serve as a landmark. People who study lighthouses are called “pharologists.” The name comes from that famous lighthouse.

What’s a lighthouse? It’s a tower with a bright light at the top that’s located at an important or dangerous place for navigation. The two main purposes of a lighthouse are to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas. It’s a traffic sign for the sea.

Where are lighthouses located? They can be found in a variety of places, on rocky cliffs or sandy shoals on land, on a wave-swept reef in the sea, and at entrances to harbors and bays. They serve to warn the sailor of dangerous reefs beneath the sea or perilous rocky coasts on land, and to guide ships into a safe harbor or back out to sea. So the message of the lighthouse might be – STAY AWAY, DANGER, BEWARE, or COME THIS WAY. Every lighthouse tells the mariner, “This is exactly where you are.”

Courtesy: U.S. Lighthouse Society

(A Light Station is comprised of the Light Tower and supporting structures.)

A Cool Communication System if it only worked

Light Stations are typically built in isolated areas. Since they provide a constant (24 by 7) service, the Coast Guard must be alerted if any station goes down (i.e., becomes non-operational).

Mr. James told me that the British government donated a meteor-burst communication system to the Coast Guard years ago.

Meteor-Burst Communication (MBC) bounces radio signals off the trails of meteors. It is an effective way to propagate radio signals for extended distances (2,000 kilometers).

MBC excels at data transfer, particularly when transferring data from remote unmanned sites to a base using a radio communications link.

MBC is a dependable and inexpensive long-distance communication technology.

"Meteor-Burst Communication" Antenna "Retired No Way" Lighthouse "Light Station" Bancao-Bancao

The non-operational Meteor-Burst Communication Antenna. At least it looks good. Hi-tech!

This was an entire system. It monitored each station and in the event of an outage, it automatically transmitted its status to someone. Nowadays, Mr. James uses his cellphone.

The View

"Light Station" LIghthouse Bancao-Bancao "Retired No Way"

The view facing east from the Light Station in Bancao-Bancao

I wasn’t exaggerating about the dilapidated condition of the facilities. The white container below was a stop-gap measure. It was used to store equipment after the equipment shed rusted away.

"Solar Panels" "Equipment Shed" "Light Station" Bancao-Bancao "Retired No Way"

Solar Panels and Equipment Shed of the Light Station in Bancao-Bancao

According to Mr. James, all of the tower’s electricity used to be powered by the solar panels. I found that hard to believe until he explained that the brilliant light (which consisted of three flashes of white light every 15 seconds) was generated using a single 15-watt bulb. How? Through the magic of Fresnel Lens. Apparently Fresnels are all around us in the shape of the turn signals of cars, traffic lights, projection TVs, etcetera.

Lighthouse "Light Station" Bancao-Bancao "Retired No Way"

Mr James & Cooper

You’re a good man Mr. James.

How to Enlarge these Images

"How to enlarge these images" "Retired No Way"

How to enlarge these images: click on the image and then click on the image's final resolution.


11 responses to “The Light Station in Bancao-Bancao

  1. Think you have a purpose for settling there, Cooper! Go meet Gov Mitra. Think you can do a lot for improving the necessary facilities by making representation with him. And for all you know, he will need a smart and able man like you to push those necessary projects and do good for the province! ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Shirley R. Cruz

    hello bro Alex, ang ganda naman ng view ng lighthouse…
    hope to see you Sunday. God bless!


  3. Pingback: Puerto Princesa in 1921 | Retired? No way!

  4. I’ve always been fascinated with lighthouses. Maybe when the time comes that I retire I’d take the job of taking care of one. I probably won’t get tired of looking and looking after it. ๐Ÿ™‚


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  6. Nicholas Cornish

    I remember installing the radio station back in 1994 (MISP1) This station is a relay for luzon


  7. Hi Mr Alex.. im Grean.
    I’ve seen the place like the way you saw it more than a year ago.. However, the place has seen some developments in the past few months. would you like to see the light station again? I’ll be your tour guide. E-mail me so I can arrange the site visit.


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