Looking at an old photograph of Sabang Bridge, one can emphatically say it is hands-down an engineering feat and unique for a host of reasons.
The bridge connecting Ibaan and Batangas City in the province of Batangas south of Manila was completed in 1914 for a total cost of ₱58,500.
The district engineer of Batangas at the time, John H. Caton III, hailed this project’s accomplishment in a report he wrote in the Quarterly Bulletin in April 1914, citing Sabang Bridge’s unique structure, manner of construction and combination of structural materials used.
What was even more exceptional about this project: it was all “man-made”.
“No equipment outside of picks, shovels, old petroleum cans, rope and wooden blocks was used on construction,” Caton said.
During the planning for the bridge’s construction, it had been established that the technology and materials used during the Spanish colonial period would need to be reinforced.
Caton, rather than doing away with adobe, combined this relic of the Spanish colonial architecture with steel and cement.
He recognized its limitations that adobe would crack in the event of a powerful earthquake. Given that the project needed to build a bridge on a river, adobe would not be a suitable material for the base that would be submerged in water. “No adobe masonry was laid where it would be under water for long periods. In such cases, concrete is used,” according to Caton.
However, the inclusion of adobe into the bridge’s design along with concrete and steel allowed the Bureau of Public Works to work within a reasonable budget.
Caton said that Sabang Bridge used 2,300 cubic meters of adobe masonry and the district spent ₱12 per cubic meter of adobe by contract.
Decades later, what took them a little over a year to construct the bridge took one typhoon overnight to render an aged structure impassable.
Sadly, like all other structures, the original Sabang Bridge would subsequently surrender to the forces of nature and wear and tear over the years.
It had undergone another reconstruction undertaken by San Miguel Holdings Corp. following the onslaught of a powerful typhoon according to the Manila Times in 2017.