MANILA HISTORIC BRIDGES: 1630-1945
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2. GRANDE BRIDGE - STONE BRIDGE
 
Puente de Piedra was the first bridge spanning Pasig River. Work on the foundations commenced in 1626 and its construction was completed in 1630. The bridge connected Pueblo del Parián in the area where today is the Metropolitan Theater with Pueblo de Binondo through Calle Nueva, today Yuchengco Street.

Built in the first half of the 17th Century, for more than 200 years, till Puente Colgante was built, it was the only bridge over Pasig River. It had ten spans over nine Guadalupe adobe stone piers, the stone so called because it was quarried in Guadalupe, upriver not too far from Manila. The deck and roadbed were all made of wood.

Several military defense features were incorporated into the bridge design. There was a “fortin y mira,” a small fort and lookout, a gated stone structure whose purpose was to watch over the bridge traffic and defend the city against attackers. The wooden superstructure served also a military purpose for during an attack it could be destroyed easily, keeping the bridge engineering intact, and  was cheap and easy to replace. It was done in 1638 during a revolt by the Chinese population.

The bridge work was improved in 1814 when the wooden deck was replaced by masonry arches, hence the alternate name of Puente de Piedra, and the piers were reinforced. The pier tops at road level were capped with “rich jasper from Mariveles and San Mateo,” and ten glass street lamps were installed on bronze posts. The bridge withstood gales and tremors till 1863 when the center of the bridge crumbled during an earthquake.

The city decided to build a new bridge that was named Puente de España when it opened in 1875. Traffic over the river was diverted through a provisional Puente de Barcas, a pontoon bridge supported by barges laid one block down the river leading to Calle Rosario (today’s Quintin Paredes.)

Both bridges, Grande and Barcas, are featured in old city maps; two of which are partially reproduced below.
 

Left, one of oldest street maps of Manila drawn by the Dominican Friar Ignacio Muñoz in 1661 ninety years after the foundation of the city. It is an excellent map featuring innumerable details listed in an accompanying descriptive table, which includes lists of churches, educational institutions, government buildings, hospitals, outlaying towns, and city wall structures like bastions, moats, ravelins, gates, etc.

Puente Grande, the only one then across the river, appears on the table noted only as ‘Puente’ and is drawn with the small fort and lookout tower at the Intramuros end.

It is interesting to note that when the map was drafted the Parian de Chinos (a district restricted to Chinese) had not yet moved to Binondo, the map shows it on the river’s south bank northeast of Intramuros. Friar Ignacio lists it on the table as ‘Pueblo del Parian.’

The partial reproduction on the right is from a city map drawn in 1870 when both bridges, Puente de Piedra with reference no. 22 "in construction", and Puente de Barcas currently in use, number 21.

The map is also accompanied by a descriptive table with details an the status of buildings and other city structures as of 1870, including a list of ten ‘buildings in ruins’ awaiting reconstruction since the 1863 earthquake, among which are the buildings framing Plaza Mayor (Main Square): the Cathedral, the Governor’s Palace, and the Ayuntamiento or city hall.

 

José R. Perdigón
Web master
Octubre del 2014