Tacloban City – The San Juanico Bridge connecting the provinces of Samar and Leyte is one of the monumental projects under Former President Ferdinand Marcos’ administration. It is known to be the longest bridge in the Philippines spanning a body of seawater with the length of 2.162 kilometers (1.34 mi) and width of 10.620 meters supported by 43 spans.
Since its completion in December 1972, the bridge has greatly helped the economy not only of both provinces connected but of the entire country.
It also attracted tourists because of the picturesque view it offers. I can still remember the feeling of my first visit there with my classmates in college. We went there to celebrate one of our classmates’ birthday. It was so exciting and scary at the same time. The view was so beautiful especially with the effects that the setting sun gave to the place but some of us can’t help but scream every time a bus or big trucks would pass because the bridge would shake a little. We also tried to count the whirlpools under the bridge but we gave up because height made us dizzy.
A visit to Region VIII would truly never be complete if you won’t get to be on this bridge which looks like a dragon from afar. But even if people have been on it a few times, there are still so many things they don’t notice or know about it. Out of curiosity I did some research about San Juanico Bridge and here are some facts I think you would love to know about it:
1. It was once called Marcos Bridge because it was built under his administration. During the mid 1960’s President Ferdinand Marcos made the decision to erect the San Juanico Bridge (aka “Marcos Bridge”) over San Juanico Strait from Brgy. Cabalawan, Tacloban City, Leyte, 10 KM away from the city proper (then Leyte Capital) to the Municipality of Sta. Rita, Western Samar, 96 KM from Catbalogan City (Samar Capital).
The said project was awarded to the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines in 1968. It was in that very year too that they started to conduct a detailed survey, study and analysis with the help of some Japanese engineers. In August 1969, the actual construction began and the Bridge was completed in December 1972.
2. It was also dubbed “The Bridge of Love”. As the late Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos dedicated it to his wife, Imelda who was known as the “Rose of Tacloban“. It served as a birthday gift and testimonial of his love for her. The groundbreaking ceremony was done during the then first lady and now Ilocos Norte’s Representative Imelda Marcos’ birthday. Pres. Marcos even called it as his most important gift to his wife.
3. It’s part of the Maharlika Highway. San Juanico Bridge was constructed as part of the Pan-Philippine Highway (commonly known as the Maharlika Highway), a network of roads, bridges, and sea routes that connect the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao in the country. The highway was proposed in 1965, and constructed under the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos to serve as the country’s backbone of transportation.
The Pan-Philippine Highway was also designated as Asian Highway (AH-26) under the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network, a treaty took effect on July 4, 2005 to provide a framework for coordinated development of the international highways in Asia. Have you seen the sign AH-26 along our highway lately? Now you know what it means.
4. It shows my initials (L&S). If you look at the bridge from aerial or bird’s eye view, you can make out a shape of the letter “L” on the part near Leyte and “S” on the part going to Samar Province.
5. The $21.9 million worth of bridge was completed within four years of construction. This length of construction of this mega structure is way shorter compared to still unfinished roads in Samar.
6. It crosses the narrowest strait in the Philippines. San Juanico strait, which connects the islands of Samar and Leyte, is the narrowest strait in the Philippines with only two kilometers (2,000 meters) wide at its narrowest point. It is also said to be the narrowest in the world. However, Bosphorus strait, a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia, is less than 800 meters wide at its narrowest point.
7. It is still considered the longest bridge in the Philippines. Although the Candaba Via duct in the province of Pampanga is longer, it’s not generally accepted because the latter is a land bridge crossing only a few streams and ponds.
8. A brave action star jumped off San Juanico Bridge in 1981. Directed by Carlo J. Caparas, Hari ng Stunt, shoot the most daring stunt done by Dante Varona to prove that he was the king of stunts in the Philippines.
9. The bridge remains strong and operational even after the rampage of Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Despite of the damages it incurred during the plight of super typhoon Yolanda, it still served as the primary means of the people from Samar who wanted to check on their relatives in Tacloban City.
10. P30, 000 to P35, 000 worth of bronze electrical wiring of the bridge were stolen from the bridge and reported missing in February 17, 2014. The bridge remained dark for a few nights after the incident, now the lights are back but the case remains unsolved (source: Manila Bulletin).
Up to this day, the bridge remains to be the main gateway of Eastern Visayas. It has attracted a lot of tourists from all over the world because of the magnificent view it offers. And it remains strong despite of its age and countless typhoons that have visited the country specially Region VIII. Some say that it was because of the rituals done during the construction of the bridge.
So have you been in Leyte and Samar? If not, make sure to put San Juanico Bridge at the top of your bucket list. Don’t miss the chance of setting foot on the historic and longest bridge in the Philippines. And I dare you to walk from end to end. Feel the sea breeze, experience the bridge shake, enjoy Samar and Leyte!
Editor’s Note: Previously, we have included as fact #3 the claim that San Juanico Bridge was designed by two Taclobanon architects, namely Juanito Isko Balunbalunan and Rodolfo Tokneneng, Jr. However, further research shows that there are no accurate and reliable sources proving this claim. We have updated the article to replace it with the fact that the bridge is part of the Maharlika Highway. We have also updated fact #6 to correct that San Juanico Strait is the narrowest strait in the Philippines, rather than in the world.