The 1,098 meters Buntun Bridge still stands proud and mighty today, 48 years after, then, First Lady Imelda R. Marcos opened it to vehicular traffic on June 1, 1969, more than a month before the country snatched its first Miss Universe title through Gloria Diaz.
In fact, according to the First Highway Engineering Division in its 1972 yearbook, it took three Presidents to finish the country’s , then, longest bridge which successfully spanned and conquered the mighty and at times turbulent Cagayan River.
As the first District Engineer of the newly established 2nd Cagayan Engineering District in n1963, the general supervision of the bridge construction fell upon the shoulder of Engineer Angeleo Alonzo. Unlike the saga of roads and bridges in the country, the colorful story of Buntun Bridge started when President Carlos Garcia released Ph200,00 in 1959 to start the construction of the bridge.
Alonzo reported in that Yearbook that the said meager amount was augmented in several appropriations embodied in different Republic Acts through the initiative of 2nd District Congressman Benjamin Ligot.
The ground-breaking ceremonies on December 11, 1960 was attended by President Garcia with the mass officiated by Monsignor Teodulfo Domingo.
“I was then already the district Engineer. Cagayan’s prominent sons like Senators Eulogio Balao and Garduque were likewise in attendance,” Alonzo said.
The construction was based from the original plan of ten 240-feet steel through truss spans and one 50 feet I-beam approach on each end. With the initial Ph200,000, Alonzo completed Abutment A. Pier I, footing and pedestal of Pier II.
‘The distance between Pier I and Pier II established by triangulation proved to be almost perfect because the trusses were easily fitted on all the piers,” he said.
In 1962, however, President Diosdado Macapagal took over as President and no one knew whether or not he would continue the project. Again, it was Congressman Ligot who convinced the President to continue the project under one AGUID Construction Company.
The frequent floods have widened the river channel and caused the change of plan for the bridge to 14 240-feet Japanese steel through truss spans, one 50 feet I –beam approach on the Solana side.
When President Ferdinand Marcos came to power, the Cagayanos never doubted his concern on them and knew that finally, the bridge will be completed. Immediately, Marcos ordered Highways Secretary Antonio Raquiza to assign the bureau’s construction team led by Engineer Rogelio Talastas to Buntun Bridge. The team, under the general supervision of Alonzo, went to work in full swing in May of 1968.
By May 10 the following year, the bridge was practically completed. But the construction team was transferred to another project leaving Alonzo to complete the painting of the landmark structure and the construction of the grouted riprap and the road approaches.
With Vice-President Fernando Lopez and acting Governor David Puzon, Buntun Bridge successfully traversed the Cagayan River and linked Cagayan to the rest of the country.
According to grandson Emilio Calica, his lolo Engineer Angeleo Alonzo must have been proud of a structure he once helped built. Though the bridge outlived the Engineer, he must have been smiling up there and thought of the ingenuity of the Cagayan builders which he belonged. Benjie De Yro/TNF