LA UNION | Luna's Baluarte Watchtower and Pebble Beach



Not far from Namacpacan Church stands another cultural gem, apparently Luna's most visited site. I see this watchtower on social media more often ever since La Union became a hype. It was a mere 15-minute drive from the town center where we had a hearty breakfast on that gloomy Saturday morning.

READ ALSO: Namacpacan Church, Luna's Cultural Treasure

Baluarte is a 400-year old watchtower along Luna's pebble-covered seashore that faces the West Philippine Sea. The Spanish colonizers built the tower to keep watch of the olden times' impending pirate attacks, other foreign invaders, and any other dangers from the sea. Originally made of adobe and coral blocks, the restored Baluarte of today is a fusion of the old and new—half of the original adobe structure, which is darker, is wedded to a new section made of lighter red bricks. While this odd-yet-charming difference in shade cannot be seen at first glimpse, entering Baluarte makes it evident.
Me and my daughter between the original and restored walls of Baluarte
Daddy moments between the original and restored walls inside Baluarte.

Long before it became an Insta-worthy site as it is now, the Baluarte has failed the test of time. Coastal erosion, brought about by human activities like pebble picking, and a storm in 1996 wreaked havoc on the structure, splitting the tower vertically from the middle; the other half was tilting toward the shore as if with just one more hit, it would collapse right away.

To prevent further destruction, the provincial engineers strengthen the leaning portion using piles (concrete columns driven into the ground to support a structure) and covered its perimeter with gabions (wire mesh cages filled with rocks). The local government also prohibited picking of stones within 50 meters around Baluarte. But in 2015, a year after the Philippine government declared Baluarte a National Cultural Treasure, typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) ravaged most of Northern Luzon and completely destroyed the tender half of Baluarte.

National Cultural Treasure marker plastered at the walls of Baluarte

The historical site's restoration took place in late 2016. Today, Luna's popular watchtower stands upon an elevated embankment that restores the former level of the town's famous Pebble Beach. The fallen half was reconstructed and the surrounding area were paved and topped with adobe tiles, giving its visitors a platform for Instagram-able selfies. The portal to the watchtower is open to tourists. Baluarte was hollow inside, unroofed, and pebbles cover its floor.

Family picture at Baluarte
Love locks at Baluarte's gate
The sky inside the watchtower

While the heritage site and the Pebble Beach are worth a visit, there's not much to do there apart from taking souvenir photos. Upon arriving, local kids flocked our van and offered to take our photos in exchange of some penny. Those kids could take decent photos, I must say. It's clear that they have been doing it already for some time.

Pebble Beach
Waves crashing against the pebbles

We left after some quiet moment at the Pebble Beach and when other tourists started to crowd the site. It's a good thing we arrive earlier that morning when Baluarte is still free of photo bombers.


How to Get to Baluarte and Pebble Beach

From San Fernando or San Juan, take a jeepney and alight at Luna's town center. Fare is around PHP 30, less than an hour of travel time. From Luna town proper, take a tricycle for Baluarte and Pebble Beach.


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