Reminiscing: The Windmills of Bangui

Last year during my trip to Laoag, we stumbled upon the windmill farm in Bangui as we were on our way to the Cape Bojeador lighthouse.

We drove up to a man standing by on the highway, and asked him how to get to those windmills in the distance. He told us to take a little dirt road and take several turns so we would emerge on the coastline. After a few dead ends driving through the dense thicket of bushes and trees the dirt road took us past, we broke through the foliage onto a desolate spit of beach sand. To either side of us, towering monoliths of steel with blades perched atop each of them stood like silent guardians.

the windmills of Bangui

Standing in the midst of these, I felt really small. It was as if I’d gotten warped into an alien world where the inhabitants were giants, and we were Lilliputians. And the fact that we were on a beach with gigantic propeller blades spinning overhead gave me a very strong Lost vibe. Any minute I expected maybe a plane to crash, or some disheveled survivors emerging to greet us.

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The wind came strongly in from the sea, but it staggered me that it was blowing strong enough to cause tons of steel to move. The windmill blades were squealing and groaning, straining against the wind to catch every last gust of power. A small knot formed in my stomach as the thought entered my head, “Could these things possibly fall off? And could we avoid being crushed?”

fascinated and scared

Watching the windmills was both mesmerizing and terrifying. My intellect knew that these were harmless, simply harnessing wind power to light half the province of Ilocos Norte. But the animal part of me was awestruck — probably akin to the experience of isolated tribes encountering the modern city.

The windmill farm of Bangui is so picturesque that it’s been featured on local album covers, magazines, and the occasional ad campaign by a clothing company. It’s surreal, this juxtaposition of manmade and natural. There’s really nothing quite like this place anywhere else in the Philippines, and I’m glad we took the side trip to see it.

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