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WATCH: Longest Spanish colonial bridge made of 100k adobe blocks still stands in Tayabas |

Travel and Tourism

WATCH: Longest Spanish colonial bridge made of 100k adobe blocks still stands in Tayabas

Kathleen A. Llemit -

MANILA, Philippines — Just four to five hours away from the capital Manila, Tayabas in Quezon is a destination for those who want to see reminders of the Spanish colonial period, including the longest Spanish colonial bridge in the country that measures 445 feet or 136 meters long. 

Puente de Malagonlong is imposingly beautiful. As one alights from the tricycle from Tayabas city proper or passes by the adjacent parallel concrete bridge, the stone arch bridge easily commands any onlooker's attention with its weathered solid mass above the Dumacaa River. 

Connecting barangays Mateuna and Lakawan, Puente de Malagonlong used to be the passageway for cargo plying from Bicol to Manila through Tayabas. 

Like other Spanish structures and bridges, the stone arched bridge was made with the sweat and tears of Filipinos through Polo y Servicio or forced labor imposed by the Spanish government. Made with 100,000 adobe blocks bound together by a mixture of lime and egg white, it was built under the supervision of Spanish Franciscan priest Fray Antonio Mattheos from 1840 to 1850. 

In fact, one theory goes that the carved letters or symbols on the blocks on one of the arches represent a Filipino who worked on the construction of the bridge, said the group of tour guides from the Tayabas Tourism Office and the Oplan Sagip Tulay (OST) of Tayabas, a heritage group that champions the preservation and protection of the 35 old bridges in the city. Another theory is that the symbols were protective prayers to ward off evil spirits. 

The people of Tayabas or the Tayabasin still find the imposing bridge as a structure that serves many purposes. It might no longer serve as a bridge where carriages or transport pass by, but it serves as a beautiful backdrop to photos taken by the boulders of Dumacaa River while swimming, fishing or even having a picnic. 

Last May 15 during this year's Mayohan Festival or Tayabas' commemoration of the feast of San Isidro Labrador, many were seen swimming or having their picnic by the river. With waters that flow down from Mount Banahaw, it is no wonder there are people who are encouraged to take a dip or swim in it.

"Most resorts in Tayabas would require P100 for entrance. Dito po walang entrance," said one of the tour guides. 

Ideally, it should be clean as they go to preserve the river's cleanliness, but the group still makes sure to clean the river every Monday. 

"Come here by 12 midnight. Take a picture. Somebody will join you, which is basically quite normal for all the structures like this," quipped one of the guides. 

'City of Colonial Bridges'

Puente de Malagonlong is said to be named after the sounds created during heavy rains. 

"Magtataka po tayo sapagkat ang ilog na ito ay Dumacaa ang pangalan subalit Malagonlong ang pangalan ng tulay. May mga teorya na lumabas. Unang teorya, kapag daw po lumalakas ang ulan or malakas 'yung pressure ng tubig, umuugong daw po 'yung mga bato at dumadagundong. Kaya daw po tinawag na Puende de Malagonlong," explained Warren, who belongs to the preservation group OST. 

Most of the bridges in Tayabas were named after the Spanish queen, Isabella II, and her husband, Francisco de Asis, Duke of Cadiz, or the body of water underneath them. 

Apart from Puente de Malagonlong, there are 10 more Spanish colonial bridges which are declared as Historical Bridges of Tayabas by the city government. These are the bridges of Alitao, Isabel II, Urbiztondo, Don Francisco de Asis, Bai, Despedidas, Ese, Princesa, Lakawan and Mate. Those that are declared national cultural treasures by the National Museum are the bridges of Alitao, Isabel II, Don Francisco de Asis, Gibanga, Malagonlong, Lakawan, Mate, Ese, Despedida, Tumuloy and Princesa.

With these bridges of national cultural importance and more smaller bridges scattered around Tayabas, a day going around the city is enough. OST said that on average, it will take two to three days to visit each of these historic bridges. 

"As a heritage advocate, pangalagaan at bigyang respeto 'yung mga kinonstrak noong unang panahon ng ating mga ninuno nang sa gayon ay ma-preserve at makita pa ng mga susunod na henerasyon. I encourage them to attend the youth fora that we organize so they will be aware on the proper way of taking care of heritage structures," said Keissy Palma Rayel, Vice Chair of OST Tayabas Heritage Group. 

RELATED:  Nayong Pilipino Foundation brings 150 'artifacts' to Quezon traveling museum

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