Puentes de España en las Filipinas

(February 08, 2008 to April 12, 2008)

Colonial Bridges of the Philippines.

The travel of peoples and goods form one point to another has always played a significant part in the development of communities since time immemorial. Commerce and trade developed where access is available and where there are provisions of good roads. Travel is further made more comfortable and convenient with roads that go direct as opposed to following a circuitous route. And with early roads using technology that is simple and basic, the creation of a straight link can be difficult if not impossible. One such method of connecting communities together in a direct manner is by building bridges that span gaps in the earth’s contour. These gaps which otherwise would have been left behind for a safer pass would be bridged over thereby providing a more convenient and quicker access of reaching ones destination. In time, gaps, such as rivers and ravines would be crossed over enabling people a direct route to their destinations.

The evolution of bridges in history is a natural process, from a fallen tree to passable rock outcrops in a river bed, crossing gaps through any natural means allow the building of mutual relationships between communities. As history progressed and civilizations developed and prospered, bridge design and engineering evolved. Beginning with wooden planks supported by heavy logs mimicking those of a fallen tree, to the development of the voussoir enabling arched masonry to accommodate heavier loads and increasing traffic, bridge design throughout the centuries has assisted the development and prosperity of communities.

Aside from undeniably bridges made by Mother Natures as well as those of primitive construction such as stilt bridges made of bamboo or those made of intertwined vines and rope, the development of sturdier spans in the Philippines can be attributed to the beginning of Spanish colonial rule. The development of communities under the Leyes de las Indias or Laws of the Indies resulted in the establishment of compact towns whose planning is based on a nuclear grid. These towns, whose center was the plaza and the Church, required its citizens to partake in the daily ritual the colonizers imposed upon its subjects. To enable the citizens to participate in this ritual, the town erected good roads as well as bridges.

The early history of bridge building in the country is attributed to both the Spanish missionaries and conquistadors, who along with their task of converting, pacifying and subjugating souls were also responsible for building communities. The conquistador’s knowledge particularly in construction especially in ship building assisted in the translation of construction techniques and principles into early civic works. In time, and with the development of the colony, specialized engineers would contribute in the building of infrastructure. The creation in the middle part of the 19th century of the Inspeccion General de Obras Publicas, Spanish engineers were tasked with building spans that would facilitate the smooth flow of peoples and goods not only within major centers such as Manila but throughout the whole archipelago.

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