Roa: Remembering Gov. Juan Zanon, the bridge builder-A A +A
Sunday, August 12, 2012
THE City of Cagayan de Oro has many creeks and is blessed with seven major rivers, foremost of which is the Cagayan River that serves as the natural division of the two political districts of the city, as well as being known as the site of the widely popular white water rafting.
Over a century ago, during the Spanish colonial era, this river was described as wide, deep and forbidding -- and infested with crocodiles.
Residents on the other side who lived in Carmen or in Opol, Molugan, and El Salvador, which were then a part of Cagayan de Misamis (and were politically separated in 1948), had to contend themselves in crossing this river to reach the poblacion in makeshift rafts or boats. It was dangerous to cross the river especially during the rainy season when it was swollen and fraught by vicious currents.
In Mindanao, the Spaniards did not build a good network of roads and bridges to help facilitate travel around the island. They were known to build mostly churches and forts. This is so different from Luzon and in some parts of Visayas where we see today, remnants of the Spanish colonial infrastructure like the 18th century stone bridges, some of which were designed by priests.
But our venerable Kagay-anon historian, Filomeno M. Bautista, wrote about a Major Juan Zanon, military governor of the Misamis Province from 1888 to 1890 whom he considered to be a bridge builder.
Of Zanon and his extraordinary achievement as the bridge builder, Bautista wrote:
"Inspite of the lack of cooperation by the Central Government for any public works project, Governor Zanon succeeded in extending the road towards Tagoloan on the east and Opol on the west, building permanent bridges over rivers to facilitate travelling. Some of these bridges were still in existence up to 1905. They were made of strong materials of which the posts were of huge molave and the joints and floor of the same kind of wood, sawed and brought from the forest by forced labor. The bridges were built about twelve feet high from the surface of the water and with nipa roof. These bridges were as wide as the road, usually from 10 to 15 feet wide.
Zanon also constructed small bridges over creeks but still they were of strong materials and roofed with nipa.
During the American regime, these bridges were demolished only to be replaced by collapsible bridges, poorly made and were only good for one or two years. During heavy rain, the bridges were usually washed away (Bautista, F.M. 1995)."
So when Governor Zanon announced that he was going to build a suspension bridge over Cagayan River, I could imagine the people rejoicing when they heard the news.
The construction cost was pegged at P5,000 in gold coins. A big portion of that amount was donated by the town's leading citizens headed by Jose Roa y Casas, who was later elected as the first governor of the Misamis Province under the Aguinaldo revolutionary government.
The bridge was designed to be the longest suspension bridge in the country and was named “Puente del General Blanco” in honor of the then incumbent Governor General Ramon Blanco.
An illustration of the bridge was printed in La Ilustracion Filipina on October 21, 1894 and was described as “a structure longer than the Claveria hanging bridge in Manila, its width was 5.18 meters (1.88 meters narrower than Claveria bridge) and the load limit was 1,100 kilograms.” (To be continued)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 13, 2012.