I have passed by this iconic bridge in Eastern Visayas several times already. I realized I have not written about it yet as this megastructure deserves its own entry. The San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge over a body of water in the Philippines. Connecting the city of Tacloban, Leyte to the town of Sta Rita in Samar. The bridge spans 2,164 meters (7,100 ft) crossing over San Juanico Strait. This meandering steel bridge is a man-made wonder worthy a stop when in Tacloban to marvel at this architectural feat. Travel on foot along its side pedestrian lane to enjoy the picturesque views at the strait.
The San Juanico Bridge
The San Juanico Bridge is part of the Maharlika Highway (Pan-Philippine Highway), a network or roads, bridges and ferry service that connects Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. It was a project started by late Ferdinand Marcos in 1969 and completed four years after in 1973. Cost of construction was US$ 22 million, funded by a foreign loan of up to US$ 25 million from the Japanese organization today known as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It was also part of the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway bundle.
Symbol of Love
Late former President Marcos also dedicated this bridge to his first lady, Imelda Marcos. In fact, the ground breaking was done on her birthday 2nd of July, 1969. Likewise the inaugural opening was held on the same day in 1973. Imelda Marcos loved her fellow Waraynons and wanted to build this bridge to ease travel of her people even if it was ahead of the area development.
Similar to some of Imelda Marcos’ projects (like CCP), there are intriguing back stories talked in hushed whispers. Beginning construction of the bridge, a woman involved on the project consulted a fortune teller who then advised them to mix blood of children with the foundation. Or else the bridge would never be finished. During the years of construction several children would go missing. Believed their throats where slit and their blood offered and splattered to strengthen the bridge.
Standing the Test of Time and Typhoons
Whether there’s truth to this back story, the San Juanico Bridge stood firmly through typhoons. It was only Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that slightly damaged the bridge. It took only a month to repair and re-open the bridge. Recently, Spark Samar, through its Governor Sharee Ann Tan will light up the bridge through the San Juanico Bridge Lighting Project with captivating LED lights with effects to boost up this tourism attraction for both provinces of Leyte and Samar. The P80 million lighting project is expected to be complete by 2019.
Going to San Juanico Bridge
It’s fairly easy to visit San Juanico Bridge from Tacloban. Here are your options:
- From Tacloban Public Market, ride a jeep to San Juanico Bridge. Fare is P20 and travel time is 15-20 minutes. Going back, just ride a jeep to Tacloban.
- Hire a tricycle to take you back and forth Tacloban to the bridge. This is better and convenient to explore the bridge at your own pace. Hire cost can be from P150 to P300 depending on your haggling skills.
Be sure to walk the 2.2km length and enjoy the sights. There are islets below and near the bridge. It may be possible to visit them to get a different view of the bridge as Travel Trilogy did by hiring your own boat. Otherwise, enjoy a hearty lunch at Bahay Kubo restaurant near San Juanico Junction. You have to try their native chicken dish. And in the middle of the rotunda, a statue of Mary and Jesus the child on the palm of a hand stands to symbolize vigilance and ever watchful to any signs of typhoons after Yolanda.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.