American Bridges in the Philippines

(June 01, 2009 to July 31, 2009)

With the arrival of the Americans in 1899 a new dawn in Philippine infrastructure development commenced. During the 333 years of Spanish Colonial Rule, roads and bridges(Camino y Puentes) were built by Friar Builders, Military Engineers, and later Civil Engineers. Though linking towns and communities, the Spanish American Bridges were inadequately underdeveloped and ill maintained. The Spanish American War and the succeeding Philippine-American War brought about concerns by the victorious American Military for the immediate development and improvement of the islands road infrastructure. With the setting up of an American Civilian Government through the Philippine Commission headed by Governor General William Howard Taft, the road to Philippine development, progress and assimilation began to proceed.

During the governorship of William Cameron Forbes from 1909 to 1913 the development of the country through roads, bridges, ports and railways commenced. Known as el Caminero the Governor General was regarded as the father of road building in the country. He indulged in massive road projects, battling for the revolutionary effect of transportation to fuel industrial progress.

“Transportation should make a great revolution in the industrial development of the islands, as it will put a market within reach of the tiller of the soil” William Cameron Forbes.

In 1907 there were only a total of 3,280 bridges and culverts in the archipelago. But by 1913 this has increased by 5,660. in 1911 $US 6,100,000.00 was allocated for Public Works with $US 1,0000,000.00 appropriated for Road and Bridge construction. In 1907 there were only 303 miles of first class roads all throughout the country. This increased a significant margin by 1913 to 1,187 miles of first class roads.

Road building continued during the term of Governor General Francis Burton Harrison from 1913 to 1920. During his term more bridges, known as Harisson Bridges were built to link communities with one another.

In all, the American period nor only brought about a revolution in Philippine Society through politics, education, religion, and culture but also developed significantly a change in the landscape of the Philippines through the opening up of the countryside to travel and commerce. For during the American Period, form 1899 to 1946 the Philippines was thrust into the 20th century where progress through mobility became the hallmark of economic prosperity and growth. The bridges that the American colonizers built and left are indelible links to our past. Yet looking towards the future, one cannot forget and dismiss that the county’s development has its hands tied and linked to those of foreign hands whose goals and reasons not withstanding polities is one of communication, understanding, benevolence, prosperity and ultimately peace.

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