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INSPIRED: The bridges of the City of Naga

THERE may be eight quaint bridges in the quintessential City of Naga. He is not quite certain as he is not a specialist on the geographical map and it may, actually, be a total of nine, if we would include the train bridge, but, to be truthful, let us leave it as a rough estimate as there could be more… In times of war or peace, a bridge is essential leading to development or detrimental leading to destruction. On the one hand—in times of peace—commerce and industries rely, heavily, on its practicality as transport of products, goods, materials and myriad resources are easily facilitated. Logistically speaking, a bridge leads to prosperity and progress. On the other hand—consequently, in times of war—bomber planes are the main culprits of their devastation as they are vital primary targets. Paralysis and immobilization of the defensive forces are the aftermaths of such ancient military intelligence on tactics and strategies. The collapse of one bridge during the annual September celebration claimed many lives. A poignant reminder that structural engineering of infrastructures should be of the highest standard. So that, history shall not repeat itself. The damage of the main bridge of the Maharlika Highway during one of the worst typhoons in the 1990s is another example of the prevalence of substandard construction of public roads and bridges. The economic canopy was shattered and the livelihood of Bicolanos were placed in a precarious situation. It is elementary, if you build it, they will come. It seemed that the builders, metaphorically, built it on sands instead of on a rock. Subsequently; locals; more relevantly, tourists and expatriates; most relevantly, merchants and traders, have had difficulties getting from point A to point B. The business financial faux pas is obvious, however, it becomes a passing of the buck and it has been ricocheting since time immemorial. Not a single person, has been honest enough to take full responsibility and accountability. It is a continuing saga that this writer will no longer further discuss. They know it, of course, but had only fallen on deaf ears. People who have been blessed with eyesight, but, always turned the blind eye. The Naga and Bikol rivers run through our picturesque urban cityscape. There is a charming spot where one could see three bridges simultaneously. A touristic trifecta. He would halt his bicycle in the middle of the bridge then, be captivated by the postcard-perfect view. It is all the more beguiling at evening time. With the city lights on the ground, headlights of all sorts of vehicles, the reflections on the river waters, and the moon and the stars in clear cloudless skies. Along the avenue that is beside two old but renovated historic churches—Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine and San Francisco Church—one could have a glimpse of the Naga river. Recently, the avenue had been widened and some establishments had built al fresco restaurants and with wide glass windows that face the waters. It is interesting to note that, the original blueprint of the city as planned by Bishop Francisco Gainza was to have an esplanade by the river. It is sheer delight and fascination that—slowly, but providentially—it has come into fruition. The riverbanks had been spruced up, cemented, painted, and a pathway with rails are now constructed. White birds along with the brown sparrows hover over the winding and cool waters that are now teeming with fishes. City folks standing on the bridge could be seen fishing for sustenance. Rush hours are the opportune times when bridges are, virtually, parking areas as traffic has come to a standstill. Naga’s own version of an urban traffic jam. He likes astonishing bridges. Hollywood even made a film regarding, “The Bridges of Madison County”. A rural place where it is the setting of a love story. Madison County has 6 covered bridges and is located in Iowa. The male lead is a photographer of National Geographic Magazine on assignment for a photographic essay of the idyllic covered bridges. In Singapore, the Alkaff bridge of modern architectural design was painted by a Filipino artist, Pacita Abad. It has become a popular tourist destination. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, United States of America is another world landmark that rings a bell to the ears of the cosmopolitan. Others worth mentioning are; the Tower Bridge: London, England; Brooklyn Bridge: New York City, United States; and Sydney Harbour Bridge: Sydney, Australia. On the national home front, we are all too familiar with the San Juanico Bridge that is the longest bridge in the country. What makes the bridges of The City of Naga unique is the close proximity of each to the other. It is just a stone’s throw away. Then—every September, people flock to the city—and they become observation platforms of the much awaited and much anticipated concluding part of the Peñafrancia Celebration, the fluvial procession. A bridge always has a special part in any culture and to any people. Clichés like; I will cross the bridge when I get there and it is water under the bridge, make them symbolic and meaningful. Millennials may not be aware of the iconic song, “Like a bridge over troubled waters”. Let us digress to the original topic, the discovery is recent, when he decided to explore the city using his bicycle, he saw all those bridges firsthand. And, being a “new discovery”, he surmised that, maybe, many do not know about that interesting fact about The City of Naga. Hence, it could be given the title, “The City of Bridges”. Now that it is written, perhaps, artists could paint all of them much like the Alkaff Bridge. And photographers and tourists alike may want to capture its potential magnificence. The rarity of this unknown fact could be the start of something big. No one knows that Naga far outnumbers the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa, United States of America. Ultimately, those bridges—covering a very short distance—could be installed with lamp posts and other lights, which in a financial perspective may not be costly. Thus, eventually, becoming an added tourism focal point. In conclusion, these are, extremely, viable points to ponder upon. Don’t you think so?

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