MANILA'S HISTORICAL BRIDGES: 1630-1945
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1. INTRODUCTION

Manila is the seed city of what used to be called till recently Metropolitan Manila Area (Metro Manila), today’s National Capital Region (NCR). NCR is a vast conurbation made of 16 cities, Manila one of them, plus one municipality with no city rank.

Maynilad, today’s Manila, was an important settlement before the arrival of the Spanish. Sitting on the southern bank of Pasig River near its exit to Manila Bay, she was an important center of commerce with China with a sphere of influence over outlaying lesser settlements. Manila was protected by a cane palisade on an earth berm set with local bronze cannons for its defense. After a reconnoitering expedition by Goiti and Salcedo in 1570, Legazpi set camp in Manila the following year and very quickly Soliman’s Maynilad morfed into the nucleus of the modern Manila we know today.

From the beginning of the Spanish rule until well into the 19th century, Manila was a city within walls (Intramuros) with an extension north of Pasig River toward the Chinese Parian in Binondo. In the 19th Century, the city expanded to the northeast towards Santa Cruz, Quiapo, Sampaloc and San Miguel along the right bank of Pasig River. The 20th Century saw the city’s explosive growth, geographically swallowing into its urban center towns and cities north, south and west of the small Intramuros nucleus to conform the great conurbation of Metro Manila.

In Soliman’s Maynilad, the only way to cross the Pasig River was by boat. The level of development of the local pre-hispanic society and economy allowed for a defensinve infrastructure with berms and palisades arount the settlement. Whether existing technology and resources were or were not enough to build a bridge over the river, the fact is that more developed civil infrastructures like bridges needed for a more efficient movement of people, animals and merchandise were not considered. At the beginning of the 21st Century, 15 bridges crossed Pasig River from its origin in Laguna de Bay to its exit into Manila Bay. A 16th bridge is about to be built between Pineda in Pasig City and Lawton in Makati.

As Manila grew beyond its boundaries so did the need to open bridges over the river that bisects it. This article tells the story of the bridges build over the Pasig River and their disappeared precursors from mid  17th through mid 20th Centuries.

In writing the article, several sources from the Internet were used, particularly Wikipedia, Flikr and Yahoo photos. Special credits for the information borrowed to Jon Tewel (chapter on Puente Colgante) and Lou Gopal's Manila Nostalgia (Puentes de Piedra, de Espaņa y Jones.)