In Cagayan town, a bridge you can’t crossBy Vaughn Alviar
Inquirer Northern Luzon
LALLO, Cagayan—You cannot cross the bridge when you get there.
This is an idea many travelers struggle to get over with almost a month since the Magapit suspension bridge here was closed to traffic on June 8.
The 34-year-old bridge connects west Cagayan, Apayao and Ilocos to the rest of Cagayan, including the provincial and regional capital of Tuguegarao.
Vehicles are temporarily redirected to a docking facility where travelers ride on what both the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the town government provided: Two barges and two ferryboats, and five private passenger ferries.
The private ferries may load 12 to 15 passengers, who are all required to wear life vests. These operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and load up to 40 times their capacities on regular days and 55 times on peak days. The ferries charge P10 per head, said Primitivo Beltran III, a boat supervisor. The barges, on the other hand, can take 18 and 15 tons of load.
However, vehicles may still build up because loading and unloading may both take 20-30 minutes.
Pablo Guizzagan, a traffic enforcer, said heavy traffic often occurs between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and may stretch to hundreds of kilometers.
“Travelers will find traveling hard,” said Luz Culasis, 57, a vegetable vendor from Ballesteros town, who transports about 1,000 kilos of vegetables from Nueva Vizcaya twice a week.
Culasis is already worried that the fare from Magapit to Ballesteros, just two towns away, may cost the same from Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, to Magapit and that her produce might not cross over at all.
Cesar Balagan, 46, a rice mill manufacturer, travels once a month from hometown Mallig, Isabela, to Luna, Apayao. He said that he would probably deliver a rice mill unit to Apayao via Ilocos, worrying that it might take him days if he travels through Magapit.
“It is better [to rehabilitate the bridge] now to prevent endangering people. It will be harder if they wait for it to crash,” said Rey Ronquillo, 31, from Logac, one of the Lallo villages isolated from the town proper.
The P100-million rehabilitation project, originally scheduled for May 16, was moved to June 8 because palay and corn traders had to transport produce through the bridge in May, said Provincial Board Member Jessie Usita.
The project will reinforce the already deteriorating concrete and replace some steel trusses on the approaches of the hanging bridge.
Ronquillo, a driver of a motorcycle modified to accommodate passengers, is one of the many who are profiting from the temporary setup. The docks on both sides of the river are already teeming with restaurants, sari-sari stores and stalls selling agricultural produce.
On the other hand, van drivers are suffering. On June 8, vans from the western bank resumed their trips to Tuguegarao but were stalled in the docks for 10 hours, said George Carunan, an officer of a van association in Sta. Praxedes town.
Domingo Dayag, a van driver on the Magapit-Tuguegarao route, said his earnings dipped from P1,200 to a few hundred pesos. He also had to pay P120 for booking, parking and baggage carriers at the eastern dock. Drivers on the other dock also paid fees for those services.