Discovering Philippines

The River and the Sea: Bridges, Ports and Lighthouses

Manila has always looked out over the sea, and this is its raison d'être. Its livelihood depended on the ships that came and went. It is a maritime city. Its river has both limited and united it.

It was always difficult for large ships to tie up near the city, and for this reason Cavite was used for centuries as the port of the Philippine capital. Sandbanks built up at the river mouth, making navigation dangerous; channelling dikes were built in the mid 18th century. Much later, in 1881, the first project for a port in Manila was drawn up. The latest advances in methods and techniques for port construction were used in it.

The Pasig River and its creek channels are the great communication routes for Manila. The islands they form also give definition to the different districts that are growing up, while the river separates the Intramuros precinct from its northern banks. Bridges connect all parts of the city. At the end of the 19th century, the Port Works Board draws up a general plan for channelling the waterways in order to improve fluvial communications.

Until well into the 19th century, the "Puente Grande" was the first and only bridge to be built. After the 1863 earthquake, a new bridge replaced it in 1875. This had eight arches - the two middle ones were built of iron - and was named the "Puente de España". The second to be built was called the Clavería bridge.

This was a suspension bridge and was a landmark on the urban landscape of Manila; it linked Quiapo with the Arroceros district and was opened to the public in 1852. A third construction, the Ayala bridge was built in two separate sections; it crossed the river at Convalecencia island and was opened in 1880.

Marine traffic in the bay increased heavily during the second half of the 19th century. It was at this time that the construction of lighthouses began. Examples of this are the San Nicolás lighthouse and those built on Corregidor Island, all of which were constructed in accordance with the latest advances in European technology.

The "Puente de España" over the Pasig River in Manila. Casto Olano in Colección de planos... 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid After the destruction of the "Puente Grande" , a project was drawn up for an eight-arch combined construction: the two central arches had wider spans, were low, and were built from iron, the remaining six arches being built from quarried stone. Bridge

Bridge The "Concepción" portion of the Convalecencia bridge in Manila. Eduardo López Navarro in Colección de planos correspondientes a varias de las construcciones realizadas o proyectadas por la Inspección General de Obras Públicas de las Islas Filipinas. 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid The Ayala bridge, as it was also known, crossed the river in two independent sections that converged on Convalecencia Island. Each of these sections was formed by three low arches and a lower platform, all of which were timber-built.

View of the "Puente de España", built after the 1863 earthquake. Álbum fotográfico... End of the 19th century. BN The metallic parts of the "Puente de España" - the central arches, the balustrades and the candelabra - were imported from France, this being organized by José Echeverría, the Spanish engineer posted there. Bridge

Puente View of the suspension bridge in the city of Manila. Álbum fotográfico... Late 19th century. BN The suspension bridge was constructed by private enterprise which operated it on a toll basis. The project was drawn up by the French engineer M. Gabaud.

The Ayala bridge between Convalecencia island and the Concepción district collapsed in this year. La Ilustración Española y Americana, 1890. BN Although scarcely ten years had passed since it was opened, by 1889 the Ayala bridge was in a dangerous condition. That year, the section between the island and the San Miguel district collapsed, and only a few months later the Concepción section followed suit.


Plano Situation plan of the port and arsenal of Cavite. 1832 MN During the 18th century, the port of Cavite, close to Manila, was preferred as an anchorage for ships reaching the city, since it had a greater depth of water.

Project for the port of Manila. José García Morón. Revista de Obras Públicas, 1889-1890 During the 1880's, a greater number of efforts were made to provide Manila with an exterior port that would match its trading, economic and political importance. Puerto

Puerto New project for an artificial port for the city of Manila. José García Morón. 1890. AHN Generally speaking, the proposal consisted of creating a sheltered area for ships to anchor in. In addition, large areas would be set aside for the construction of sheds and warehouses to store produce and merchandise awaiting shipment to Europe and America.

Project for a battery on the south wall. Mariano de Goicoechea. 1834. SHM Throughout its history, the defence of Manila was a constant cause of concern which gave rise to continual fortifications works on the seaboard front. Muralla

Río Section of the Pasig River close to the Manila city walls. 19th century. SHM During the 19th century, a great deal of effort was devoted to the channelling and straightening of the Pasig river estuary and the defence of its banks.

Channelling dikes to counter the sediments that silted up the Pasig mouth. 1757. SGE During the 18th century, dredging works and campaigns were carried out to clear the accumulation of sand at the river mouth, which was a hindrance to navigation and entry into the river port. Diques

Río View of the Pasig River and the stone-built "Puente Grande", before the 1863 earthquake. Fernando Brambila. Collection of drawings and engravings made on the Malaspina Expedition. 1789-1794. MN Built in the first half of the 17th century, and until the suspension bridge was opened, the "Puente Grande" was the only bridge crossing the Pasig River. In 1814, the wooden roadway was replaced with masonry arches.

The "Punta Santiago" lighthouse (Batangas) which provided signalling in the strait between Luzon and the island of Mindanao. Magin Pers y Pers and Guillermo Brockmann. La Ilustración Española y Americana. José Fernández. 1891. BN In 1890, the new catadioptric lighthouse was opened to assist navigators by illuminating this unavoidable route leading from the south and the Pacific towards the China Sea. Faro

Faro Project for a metallic lighthouse on the sandy promontory of San Nicolás at Manila Bay. José Echeverría in Colección de planos... 1876. BETSICCP, Madrid The majority of the lighthouses built in the Philippines were of traditional construction, although some were also built with a metallic structure in consonance with the latest trends in European engineering.

Watchtower on Corregidor Island at the entrance to Manila Bay. Ildefonso de Aragón. First half of the 19th century. SHM Although the lighthouses constructed in the Philippines were of varied types, they were all provided with living quarters for the tower keepers and deposits for supplies of drinking water, which were essential in isolated places with difficult access. Torre

Faro Project drawn up for a lighthouse on Corregidor Island. Mariano de Goicoechea. 1830. SHM Corregidor Island occupied a position of importance at the entrance to Manila Bay, and for this reason it was equipped with signalling lights from very early on.

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