TACLOBAN CITY – Eastern Visayas has a new attraction for locals and foreign tourists.
It is the newly improved more than two kilometer San Juanico Bridge which connects this city with Sta. Rita town.
Built during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the bridge has been painted and enhanced with aesthetics light and sound show.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. switched on the colorful lights and sound of the improved bridge, saying the new colors and sound is “an excuse to come home.”
The President expressed confidence that the new attraction, part of Spark Samar campaign, would boost economic activities and tourism in Eastern Visayas region and nearby areas.
In a speech in Santa Rita town, Samar province after personally witnessing the 21-minute light and sound show, Marcos said he did not want to pass up the chance to attend the event because the San Juanico bridge holds a “special place” in his heart.
The 2.16-kilometer San Juanico Bridge, which connects Leyte and Samar islands, is part of the Pan Philippine Highway supported by the Japanese government.
“With the recent completion of the San Juanico Aesthetic Lighting Project, I look forward to seeing the bridge turn into a true sight to behold not just during the day but now even in the dark at night. I look forward to the economic opportunities that will be stimulated by this as well as other Spark Samar initiatives in the near future,” Marcos said, referring to the branding campaign of the local government that was launched in 2015.
“I eagerly anticipate the assistance it will bring for the complete recovery of the tourism industry in the Eastern Visayas and nearby areas,” he added.
Marcos congratulated officials from both the provinces of Leyte and Samar, the Department of Tourism (DOT), Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), and others involved in the completion of the project.
He said joint efforts of government and non-government entities were “commendable”, noting that such partnerships were needed to “transform” the country’s post-pandemic economy.
“It is fundamental in our pursuit of programs, this kind of cooperation you have done, and programs and projects that will boost the tourism and economic development of Samar and Leyte. After all these years, after overcoming postponements and restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the result of your dedication and perseverance will now be shown in its full glory,” he said.
Marcos also expressed hope that the project encourages other local government units (LGUs) to pursue programs that will translate to significant enhancements to infrastructure and pave the way for long-lasting impacts in the lives of Filipinos.
“Every day henceforth, this bridge will stand, as it has stood since the beginning, as a staunch reminder of the rewards awaiting our collaborative endeavor and come night time as people are mesmerized by the wonderful display put up at this scenic spot, let it exemplify how we hold the power to add value, purpose, and grace onto our nation,” he said.
The President said the lights in the San Juanico bridge signal the Filipino resolve to make islands even more connected by “filling its gaps with displays of ingenuity, creativity, and openness so that progress may move freely among us.”
He also assured other LGUs that his administration will provide the support needed to enhance, preserve, and showcase the best tourism projects and other initiatives they have to offer.
‘Built for Samar, not Leyte’
Marcos took time to explain to Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan that the San Juanico Bridge was built not just because his mother, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, hails from Leyte.
“I would also like to point out to our good governor, San Juanico bridge was not built for Leyte, San Juanico bridge was built for Samar,” Marcos said.
He said his mother was crucial in making sure that the bridge provided economic and tourism activities for Warays in Samar.
“…It was very very important that this bridge be built to give Samar some of the advantages that Tacloban has, that the province of Leyte has. And to respond to your cry na ‘Samar naman (Samar next)’, I would like to say dati pa naman Samar na (it has always been Samar),” he added.
Built in August 1969 and completed in 1972, with a span of 2.162 kilometers, the bridge stood many challenges like the Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that ravaged Eastern Visayas on Nov. 8, 2013.
The San Juanico Bridge aesthetic lighting project was proposed to TIEZA in 2015 by Tan and the DOT in Eastern Visayas (Region 8).
TIEZA is the funding source of the P80 million aesthetic light and the sound project carried out by Amigo Entertainment Technologies Inc.
The San Juanico Bridge Aesthetic Lighting Project is the first of its kind in the country.
“I could not pass up the chance to be here as this bridge holds special place of my heart since this was one of the flagship projects completed during the administration of my late father. You can only imagine genuinely delighted I am to be present to witness the lighting as your president,” Marcos said during the program after the ceremony in Santa Rita town, Samar.
For Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan, the event will raise people’s awareness about the province’s culture, history, and beauty.
“Since its completion in 1973, the bridge connects the two scenic island as shown in textbooks. Beyond the bridge, however, many Filipinos know little about us,” Tan said.
“Tonight, we wish to change all of this. To begin, we are going to rewrite the bridge in history books as the first bridge in the country to have a computer-controlled aesthetic lighting with static and dynamic lights,” Tan added.
The governor thanked the President’s mother, former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, for being instrumental in building the bridge that connects the two islands.
The provincial government conceptualized the project in 2017 as part of its Spark Samar tourism campaign.
Tourism Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) Chief Operating Officer Mark Lapid said the bridge is a symbol of hope and rising after disasters and pandemic restrictions.
“We are witnessing a new history unfolding that is aligned with the Philippine modern society,” Lapid said. (with Jeanne Michael Penaranda)