Roa: Remembering Gov. Juan Zanon – The Bridge Builder (Conclusion)-A A +A
Sunday, August 19, 2012
THE military governor, Major Juan Zanon, distinguished himself as having built many bridges over rivers and even creeks around Misamis Province during his administration.
His biggest and most ambitious project was constructing the first bridge in Cagayan de Misamis (now Cagayan de Oro) that was to connect the poblacion to the barrio of Carmen and beyond. It was touted as the longest suspension bridge in the country and was named the Puente del General Blanco in honor of then incumbent Governor General Ramon Blanco.
The approach of the bridge on the poblacion side was several meters away from the Casa Real, the office and residence of all the Spanish military governors of the province. This is the present site of the City Hall complex.
Don Vicente Elio y Sanchez, a prominent resident of Camiguin, a writer and once served as one of the Justices of Peace during the Spanish colonial regime, wrote about the Puente del General Blanco for the magazine La Ilustracion Filipina in its October 21, 1894 issue. The article was translated into English by Fr. Francisco R. Demetrio S.J.
Elio described this bridge that was planned and constructed by Don Juan Zanon y Valdiviese, the military governor of the Misamis Province, as: “The structure is 128 m. long that is to say, 18 m. longer than Manila and 78 m. longer than the bridge of Iligan. It is 5.12 m. in width and approximately as wide as the bridge over the Agus River. In appearance, it is elegant but simple. The pavings of the ramps, braces and hooking shafts, which serve to fasten the supports, are works of polished stone and bricks manufactured in the same town (meaning in Cagayan de Misamis).
For this end, an oven was built which produced 16,000 bricks for the said project. The materials of the bridge that supported the columns weighed about 500 kg. And in the tryout, it was loaded with 1,100 kgs., a weight much heavier than what it will ordinarily sustain. It cost approximately 5,000 in gold coins. This was spent in purchasing the materials and in feeding 9,000 laborers. This amount was secured on a personal loan obtained by the governor who also freely contributed 180 molave logs, which were cut in the neighboring mountains, the cutting of which he personally supervised. The eight wires which serve as suspenders are of galvanized iron and made to order, costing 1,200 pesos.
The columns are all of strong and huge molave, all of one single piece without joint, well covered over with plaster and cement. This is perhaps the most admirable and solid aspect of the structure. The money collected was realized by the citizens of Cagayan as voluntary contributions during a general meeting presided by the well-known, honorable businessman and proprietor, Jose Roa y Casas. The work was directed by Gov. Zanon and Timoteo Baz and all without exception lent a helping hand, particularly Leopoldo Ferrer, Cipriano Vamenta, Gaspar de la Cruz and Luis Madrid. And previous to the inauguration, it was thoroughly examined on superior order by a military engineer."
Historian Filomeno M. Bautista wrote about the tragic inauguration of the Puente del General Blanco in his book, The Bautista Manuscript on the Philippine Revolution in Misamis Province, 1900 – 1901, and excerpts of this incident are reproduced below:
"Gov. Zanon constructed a suspension bridge over the Cagayan river by forced labor under the direction of Don Timoteo Baz, on the same place where now stands the present steel bridge (the Ysalina bridge). It was the first and the best of its kind in Mindanao. Huge posts and flooring of molave, cut from the forest of Suawan, were brought to Cagayan for this bridge. It was as high as the present steel bridge but only narrower. This bridge was destroyed on the afternoon of its completion.
According to a story related by an eye witness, when the bridge was about to be finished, a big celebration for the christening of the bridge was prepared. Food, drink, music and hundreds of people were present waiting for the last board to be nailed. People on both ends of the bridge were held and were not allowed to pass until the ceremony was over. Luxurious tables of food and drinks were arranged beautifully on the bridge ready for the guests and high officials of the government after the ceremony was over. While they were waiting for the completion of the bridge, Fr. Angel, Vicar of the church of Cagayan, told them that it would be impossible to complete the work that afternoon. Gov. Zanon replied that it would be completed. The vicar answered, ‘No.’ The governor said, ‘Unless you pray that it will not be completed, then, it will not.’
Workers were urged fast to complete the bridge and they did. After the ceremony for the christening of the bridge, the people were allowed on both ends to pass. When they met in the middle of the bridge, the weight was so great that the bridge collapsed. The governor and his family, all the high officials, distinguished guests, luxurious preparations for the party and everything fell into the water. Nobody died except one, Don Hebrard del Castillbe, one of the Spanish high officials. He died when he was hit by a falling joist. The bridge was immediately reconstructed. It was so improved in its plan of reconstruction that it was not destroyed until the big flood of 1902 when the foundation gave way to the terrific current of the flood. Thus, we remember Governor Zanon as the bridge builder (1995 p.250-251)."
In 1967, when my late brother Zosimo Pio "Imok" Roa was a grade school student at Xavier University, he had a brief vacation in Camiguin where we have many relatives. He came home bringing a big album that was given to him by our spinster aunt, Tia Pacing Reyes. This album contained photos of Cagayan de Misamis in the 1890s. This was subsequently given to Fr. Francisco r. Demetrio S.J. of the Museo de Oro in Xavier University.
It is now known as the Maria Paz Reyes photo collection and what a great contribution this has given to our local history through the decades!
Anyway, prior to the turnover of this album to Museo de Oro, it stayed in our house for several days where we had a great time looking at the pictures and listening to the stories told to us by my father Pio and his elder sister, Caridad Roa de Valdehuesa. They pointed to this particular photo that is shown in this column and told us the story about the ill-fated Gen. Blanco bridge.
They also identified some of the persons in the photo as the following: seated second from left is Gov. Juan Zanon. He is shown holding the baston del mando or the cane of authority that symbolized his office as military governor of the Second District of Mindanao. Next to him is the bemedalled Gov. Gen. Ramon Blanco and beside him is Fray Angel Contreras de Belaza, vicar of the San Agustin Church. Standing extreme left is the handsome Don Luis Hebrard de Castellvi (this is the full and correct spelling of his name), the lone fatality of the accident. My father and aunt said he died instantly when a falling joist hit the bridge (no pun intended) of his nose. The wife of Gov. Zanon had a deep cut on her head but she survived the accident.
They told me that the wife of Don Luis was the former Modesta Reyes from the illustrious family of Mambajao, Camiguin. She was pregnant with their only child when the accident happened and that her husband was buried at the private Reyes cemetery in Mambajao. She never recovered from the sudden death of her husband that she died shortly after giving birth to her daughter whom she named Luisita.
Inside the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church in Mambajao, near the main door, I saw a marker dedicated to the memory of this young couple. I took a picture of it and noted that Don Luis died on June 9, 1894. That was the date of the inauguration and collapse of the first bridge in Cagayan de Misamis.
At the Museo de Oro, there is a painting about this tragic event that is rendered in oil by well-known artist Nonoy Estarte.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 20, 2012.