by Manuel Maximo Lopez del Castillo-Noche
In the Philippines, the construction of bridges occurred with the colonization of the islands by the Spaniards. Prior to their arrival, tribal communities lived beside bodies of water and travelled from one place to another via small boats. The Spaniards on the other hand in their desire to colonize and Christianize the natives established fixed communities under a system of governance and town planning known as Leyes de las Indias, or the Laws of the Indies. This dictated that communities should be permanent and safe, and accessible by land or sea to other towns. With the necessity of accessibility, especially by land, the need to establish road links and subsequently bridges became a priority of the Spanish Colonial authorities.
The building of roads and bridges, Caminos y Puentes, in the country was initially conducted by the Spanish Friars assigned to a particular mission. These friars were neither trained engineers nor builders but with a basic understanding of Renaissance building techniques as well as most likely a pattern book brought in from Mexico or Europe, the construction of lasting bridges commenced. Though subsequently replaced by trained Engineers from Spain, the Inspección General de Obras Publicas or the General Board of Public Works was created by Royal Decree in 1866, the construction of these bridges, some still standing has proven that ancient building principles and techniques can never be replaced by modern technology.
Though during the latter part of Spanish colonization, and with the arrival of the Americans in 1898, technology did come in with the construction of four significant bridges in the country.
On The Bridge of Spain, Manila, Philippine Islands.
The Puente de España, the precursor to the Jones Bridge was a bridge of major proportions to be built across the mighty Rio del Pasig. Erected in 1875 to replace the earlier Puente Grande, the Puente de España had six spans of masonry and two central arches of iron. Capable of accommodating pedestrian and vehicular traffic, at that time consisting of horse or carabao drawn carts and carriages as well as a modern trolley system, the tranvia, the Puente de España lasted until its subsequent replacement during the 1930’s with Juan Arellano’s Neo-Classical masterpiece, Jones Bridge.