This bridge took 36 years and six presidents to finishBy Leoncio Balbin |Inquirer Northern Luzon
CERVANTES, Ilocos Sur – Norma Asiw-ang said she was 5 years old when the construction of the Aluling Bridge here was started in the 1970s. Now 41, Asiw-ang finally saw Ilocos’ “longest bridge” open on Thursday, following 36 years of work under the watch of six Philippine presidents.
Officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways and the province of Ilocos Sur led by Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson graced the opening of the 180-meter bridge, which connects the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Mountain Province and Benguet as it is located in the very spot where the three province’s borders meet.
The bridge will shorten travel time by 30 minutes from Ilocos Sur to the tourist towns of Sagada in Mountain Province and Banaue in Ifugao.
“We have had doubts the bridge would ever be completed. We are really very glad that it is finally done,” Asiw-ang said.
The Cervantes town website (http://cervantes.gov.ph) acknowledged the absurdity of its lengthy roadwork.
“Ever heard of the longest bridge? It can be found only here in Cervantes. The world-famous resiliency and indomitable spirit of the Filipino people [helped residents cope with] this problem [by turning] this jinx into a joke,” said an article posted on the website’s section called “The Paradox of Aluling Bridge.”
“Aluling Bridge was a pre-war edifice, which was bombed by the Allied Forces to impede the advance of the Japanese Imperial Forces,” it said.
Cervantes town, which is 260 km north of Manila, was the last stronghold of retreating Japanese forces after the Americans landed in Lingayen in in Pangasinan during the closing stage of World War II.
“Several efforts were made since then to restore [it], in the sixties, seventies, eighties and up to the present,” the website said.
Records show that the administration of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos began repairs on the bridge in the early 1970s.
Work on the bridge was relaunched in 1998, the website said, and that the cost of reconstruction amounting to P87 million was sourced from former Ilocos Sur Representative Eric Singson, the late Mountain Province Rep. Victor Dominguez, and former President Fidel Ramos.
The Commission on Audit reviewed the project a decade since its official groundbreaking ceremonies in 1999, and reported that the bridge was never improved despite an expenditure of P114.14 million. The agency concluded that the project would need a fresh outlay of P120 million to complete it.
The Department of Public Works and Highways has not explained why it took this long to complete the bridge. On March 20, weeks before its formal inauguration, the bridge was inspected by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson as work crews prepared to wind up the project.