The ruins of a 19th-century Spanish garrison lie at Old Mangarin in the town of San Jose in the province of Occidental Mindoro on Mindoro island.
The ruins are exceptional because of their location. The garrison stood on the coast of Mindoro island when it was erected 170 years ago. Today, the closest coastline is 1.3 kilometers (or 0.8 miles) away. The garrison which used to guard the coastline now guards fishponds and rice fields.
Rivers carry silt and mud downstream and where the river eventually ends up, the silt and mud builds up. Over time that build-up forms a landmass (called a “river delta,” or delta for short) that is rich in nutrients and conducive to all kinds of plant and animal life.
I found a fine example of this in San Jose. The river Mangarin flows down from the mountains and into the sea.
An overview of the area shows Mangarin river in relation to the town of San Jose.
The river delta is encircled but over the past 170 years, most everything south of Old Mangarin (enclosed in the oval) was deposited by the current of Mangarin river.
A local resident poses in front of a town marker that reads: “In this place, Filipinos bartered with Chinese traders in the 17th century. This place also became the seat of a parish established by Spanish friars of the Order of St. Agustin in 1683.”
Last May, with a friend, I checked it out.
This marker commemorates the construction of a small fort or garrison on what was then the shoreline of Mindoro 170 years ago. The garrison was armed with four cannons and was established to fight Muslim pirates (Moros) who ventured from the southern island of Mindanao.
A close-up of Old Mangarin, where the remains of a 19th-century garrison can be found. Called a “kuta,” the fort or garrison actually stood on the banks of the former shoreline. I was astonished. In 170+ years, the shoreline receded by 1.3+ kilometers. Wow! (Apologies for the incorrect label: the garrison dates back to the 19th-century, not the 17th.)
Taken inside the garrison, the distance from the far wall to me (I’m standing with my back to the opposite wall) is eight meters.
This is the other set of walls. Note the holes in the wall through which muskets could be fired. I did some research and learned that those are called “loopholes.”
This cannon port has been nearly plugged in by the roots of the Balete tree.
Posing in front of the most impressive balete tree we’ve ever seen. The tree has overgrown most of the ruins.
Look at the thickness of this wall (shown in cross-section). Presumably, the Spaniards’ adversary, the Muslim (Moro) pirates didn’t possess anything that could penetrate this.
The garrison’s walls were made of coral and mortar.
Some 170 years ago, all visible land in this photo was the sea.
Fishponds (although obviously they were drained when this image was taken) and rice fields occupy what used to be the sea. Over the past 170 years, Mangarin river deposited enough soil and gravel to transform the sea into everything visible here. The land grew and pushed the coastline back by 1.3 kilometers. In the background is Ilin island.
The sitio (or site is smaller than a barrio which is smaller than a barangay which is smaller than a town) is populated by about 750 souls, consisting of about 150 households.
Card Bank is a microfinance-oriented rural savings bank in the Philippines. I’m glad to see that they’ve penetrated Old Mangarin.
The Hanging Bridge
Mangarin river separates Old Mangarin from the mainland. A hanging bridge spans the river.
This is the view looking north. Our vehicle is parked on the other side of the river. Some 40 meters long, the hanging bridge is a tricky thing to navigate. There are missing planks, loose planks, and incomplete handholds. In addition the hanging bridge sways with every step you make and the swaying can get crazy when several people are walking on it simultaneously!
This the hanging bridge that leads to Old Mangarin. View facing south. The woman on the bridge is a local inhabitant and was our contact. Behind her, on the water, are her family’s crab pens where they raise mud crabs (alimango).
This man, a resident, is transporting crab traps on his canoe (bangka). Mud crabs, also known as mangrove crabs and referred to as “alimango” in Tagalog, abound in the estuarine waters and nutrient-rich environment.