I am very much fascinated with old places and structures that has historical or cultural significance, from heritage towns, old churches, colonial houses, to lighthouses. You’ll surely be captivated by their old world charm. Upon watching Kara David’s i-Witness documentary tracing some of the bridges built during the Spanish occupation period, I instantly fell in love with these structures and felt the urge to visit them. I already visited Puente del Capricho or Tulay Pigue found in Majayjay, Laguna few years ago, which has a very interesting story. But what I considered the climax of this Spanish bridge journey is my visit to the longest and one of the oldest bridges built in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era – the Puente de Malagonlong found in Tayabas, Quezon Province.
The construction of this 145 ft. bridge started in 1840 with Fray Antonio Mateos, the Ministro del Publo of Tayabas, as its architect. This five-spanned bridge was built by the people of Tayabas by forced labor. Materials like adobe stone, limestone and molasses were used. And in 1850, it was inaugurated under the term of Gobernadorcillo Don Julian S. Francisco.
Crossing the Dumaca River and connecting Tayabas to the towns of Mauban and Pagbilao, the bridge has played a vital role in commerce during the Spanish times. This was part of the Bicol – Manila trade route and one of the stopovers of merchants on their way to Manila. Similar to Majayjay in Laguna, both towns have notably huge churches and have stone bridges built during that period.
In 2011, it was declared a National Cultural Treasure as part of the Historical Bridges of Tayabas with ten other bridges. This will not just give a special marker on the historical significance of these structures but would also protect them from further damage and destruction. There was also an initiative for the Malagonlong Bridge to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But unfortunately, this did not materialize due to the construction of a new bridge beside Malagonlong. Apparently, the vicinity must also be preserved as it was before with no obstructions or new constructions.
Aside from its architecture, one very interesting mystery of the bridge that is catching the curious minds of its sightseers are the markings found on the upper portion of the bridge’s arc, believed to be symbols of the Freemasonry, etched by our forefathers who built the bridge. The Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that started in Europe which defines itself as “a regular system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”. Historically, these groups were considered as secret societies by the church and the government.
Bridges are usually associated with how things are being transferred from a point to another, usually moving forward. But bridges can also help us recall and reconnect with our past to better understand our roots. As Kara David said at the end of her documentary, “Ang mga tulay hindi lang daanan upang makarating sa kinabukasan, pero ito’y daan din upang balikan ang pinanggalingan”.
- Via Lucena, Quezon, you may take a bus from Cubao or Buendia to reach Lucena Grand Terminal. Hop on a Lucban-bound jeepney to reach Tayabas. You may also alight at Sariaya and take a jeepney to Tayabas. From the town proper, take a tricycle for Php 25 to reach Malagonlong Bridge.
- If you are opting to go via Sta. Cruz, Laguna, hop on a Sta. Cruz-bound bus in Cubao or Buendia and hop off in Sta. Cruz. Take a jeepney going to Lucban and transfer to another jeepney going to Lucena. Take a tricycle in the town proper of Tayabas to reach Malagonlong Bridge. Fare is at Php 25.
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By Eugene Alvin Villar (seav) – English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=770322