Bridge opens after 36 years of work

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CERVANTES, Ilocos Sur —Norma Asiw-ang said she was 5 years old when the construction of Aluling Bridge here 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.

Public works  and Ilocos Sur officials led by Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson watched the opening of the 180-meter bridge, which connects the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Mt. Province and Benguet.

The bridge will shorten travel time by 30 minutes from Ilocos Sur to the tourist towns of Sagada in Mt. 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 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,” the town said in a website section called “The Paradox of Aluling Bridge.”

“Aluling Bridge was a prewar edifice, which was bombed by the Allied Forces to impede the advance of the Japanese Imperial Forces,” it said.

Cervantes town, which is 260 kilometers north of Manila, was the last stronghold of retreating Japanese forces after the Americans landed in Lingayen town in Pangasinan during World War II.

“Several efforts were made since then to restore [it], in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and up to the present,” the website said.

Records show that the administration of the dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos began repairs on the bridge in the early 1970s.

Work on the bridge was re-launched in 1998, the town said, and the cost of reconstruction amounting to P87 million came from several government sources.

The Commission on Audit reviewed the project a decade since its official groundbreaking ceremonies in 1999, and had reported that the bridge was never improved despite an expenditure of P114.14 million.

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