Mon. May 23rd, 2022

The iconic Binondo-Intramuros Bridge is ready to open anytime between April 5 to 9, 2022, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) recently announced.

Public Works Secretary Roger Mercado said “Construction crews will continue to work this week on the bridge for the final finishing touches on the carriageway, ramps, and other components but it could open to traffic sooner before the 2022 Holy Week begins on April 10,” he said in a news release.

When opened to motorists, Mercado said they expect that around 30,000 vehicles daily to use the new two-way four-lane Binondo Intramuros Bridge which also has a sidewalk for pedestrians and joggers separated by safety railings and a marked lane for bikers to encourage the use of the non-motorized mode of transport.

Among the things left to be done, he added, is the access ramp at Plaza del Conde Street to San Fernando Street but an access ramp is already available at Rentas Street to Juan Luna Street.

Not yet complete by presstime, the bridge is already gleaming over at night because of the glow of lights, thermoplastic pavement markings, and painted steel arch main bridge, and metal railings.

The basket handle-tied design of the steel arch main bridge is touted to be the new symbol of time-honored friendship between the Government of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China. No less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is expected to inaugurate the project.

Deep history at play

But there definitely is a mouthful when it comes to the historical as well as present importance of this infrastructure.

Two foreign cultures the Chinese and the Spanish, enhancing our rich heritage, find themselves bridged in a location that birthed a melting pot for indios, a general term applied to of pure Austronesia descent as a legal classification, specifically for Christianized natives who lived in proximity to the Spanish settlements in Las Islas Filipinas.

To appreciate the strategic value of the spot chosen by the government of the People’s Republic of China that donated the bridge to the Filipino people, one must mark the relevance of the Parián to our heritage.

Parián or Pantin, also Parián de Arroceros was an area adjacent to Intramuros built to house Chinese (Sangley) merchants in Manila in the 16th and 17th centuries during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines

The name was derived from the Tagalog verb “pariyán” or a favorite place to go to, a meeting place for local rice (arroz) farmers around Manila, before soon becoming a commercial center with Chinese merchants.

On the other hand, “Pantin” may have been derived from Hokkien Chinese: 板頂; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: pán-tíng; lit. ‘upstairs’, possibly referring to the living quarters upstairs in the structure of the shophouses where the Sangleys traditionally lived in.

The new bridge in a matter of speaking, is the bigger rebirth of  Puerta del Parián, the gate connecting it to Intramuros where most Spanish colonial and administrative government offices were housed.

The Parián rapidly became the commercial centre of Manila. The community had more than a hundred shops comprising the Chinese silk market, small shops of tailors, cobblers, painters, bakers, confectioners, candle makers, silversmiths, apothecaries and other tradesmen.

But its location moved from time to time and persisted until 1790, when it was torn down to make room for new fortifications on the northern side of Intramuros.

Manila (1734) as depicted in the Velarde Map. Illustrating the movement of the Parián.

The first Parián stood at the current site of the Arroceros Forest Park along the banks of the Pasig River. The second Parián was built in 1583 after the first Parián burned down. The original location is now called Liwasang Bonifacio (formerly Plaza Lawton).

The Chinese community later moved to other districts of Manila north of the river including Binondo, Santa Cruz, and Tondo. The second-to-last Parián was octagonal in shape, and also located beside the Pasig River.

But finally, it moved to Binondo and became known as Manila’s Chinatown district.

Intramuros

From the southern perspective is Intramuros (Latin for “inside the walls”) is the 0.67-square-kilometer (0.26 sq mi) historic walled area, serving as the seat of government of the Captaincy General of the Philippines, a component realm of the Spanish Empire, housing the colony’s governor-general from its founding in 1571 until 1865, and the Real Audiencia of Manila until the end of Spanish rule during the Philippine Revolution of 1898.

The walled city was also where the Spaniards lived and put up the religious and educational center of the Spanish East Indies. The original campuses of the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in Asia, the Ateneo de Manila, the Colegio de San Juan de Letran and the Colegio de Santa Rosa.

Intramuros was also an economic center – its port in what is now Plaza Mexico was the Asian hub of the Manila galleon trade, carrying goods to and from Acapulco in what is now Mexico.

Today, Intramuros is a key tourism destination.

Despite being heavily influenced by Spanish architecture (think grandiose baroque church designs), renovations made also revealed its Chinese influences. Some structures, however, were not restored after the destruction of multiple wars and remained today as ruins.

Nestled in the middle of Intramuros, right on Plaza de Roma, is the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, or more popularly called Manila Cathedral. The structure belongs to the oldest and most frequently visited cathedral in the country. Considered as the oldest stone church in the Philippines, having been built back in 1607. the San Agustin Church, is another Roman Catholic church found within the walled city of Intramuros.

Manila Cathedral                                              San Agustin

Aside from Fort Santiago being well-known as the prison of Dr. Jose Rizal before his execution, the area has also witnessed gruesome Japanese massacres during their occupation. A lot of stories underline the walls including its dungeons, watch towers, and old artillery installations.

Casa Manila museum is a replica of a San Nicolas House that once stood at Calle Jaboneros or one of the few grand houses found in Barrio San Luis, which is included in the four initial villages in the walled city. It resembles the Spanish colonial lifestyle and the grandeur of the architecture and home interiors that were common during the late Spanish period.

Another spot is Aduana, that is almost at the southern foot of the new China bridge, that housed the Bank of Philippine Islands, used in the Spanish times to play the role of the colony’s central banking.

Casa Manila                                                                   Aduana

Binondo Chinatown

The other side of Pasig River is equally exciting as to historical and present relevance.

Binondo, an old district in Manila that is reputed to be the world’s oldest Chinatown, offers a powerful, captivating image: a community that remains deeply entrenched in centuries-old Chinese traditions, but one that has also started to welcome in its midst towering, modern skyscrapers that are reshaping the cityscape by the day.

One of the entrances to Binondo, enhanced the China-way!

In days leading up to the Chinese New Year, expect multitudes to crowd the streets of Binondo, all seeking to consult feng shui experts and purchase cures and other elements meant to usher in luck, prosperity and happiness to their homes and lives.

On any other day, groups would stroll along the old streets of Chinatown, part of the walking tours and food tours that have gained popularity over the last several years. These tours have allowed tourists to immerse themselves in various Chinese ways and culture.

Lining up the streets of Binondo are decades-old restaurants offering authentic Chinese cuisine; traditional apothecaries and herb stores as well as jewelry shops; and traditional Chinese institutions such as temples and monasteries.

Cathedrals built in the Spanish period, meanwhile, continue to host devout Catholics to this day. These are the Binondo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz (1596), and Santa Cruz Church (1608) which occupy each end of Ongpin St. in Binondo.

Significantly, one of the streets of Binondo, Escolta, earned that distinction of being the “Wall Street of the Philippines” before World War II broke out.

Modern high rise luxury residential condominiums and new shopping areas now lends a unique, modern character to Binondo.

National developers, such as Megaworld Corp., Anchor Land Holdings Inc. and Federal Land, along with a number of smaller players in the industry, are now reshaping Manila’s Chinatown with their projects and respective efforts to revitalize this historical and cultural district.

Even nearby areas have benefited from this revitalization with firms like Double Dragon Properties setting up a modern shopping center, Dragon8 Mall, in nearby Divisoria.

Megaworld, established Lucky Chinatown Mall, which offers a unique blend of history, tradition and modern shopping and world-class leisure experience. It also features a promenade known as the Chinatown Walk, which has Chinese cuisine outlets.

Apart from the Lucky Chinatown, Megaworld also has within Binondo the Cityplace Twin Tower Residence, a ready-for-occupancy (RFO) luxury residential condominium; the 47-storey Noble Place luxury condominium that as well as a planned 93-room hotel.

Along Ongpin St. is the 56-storey Anchor Land Skysuites, the world’s tallest Chinatown structure to date. A few blocks away is the 39-storey Mandarin Square, also along Ongpin St., and the 33-storey Lee Tower, a low-density condo along Sabino Padilla Street.

Anchor Land has also pioneered high-end residences within Binondo’s Chinese School Belt with Wharton Parksuites on Masangkay Street and Oxford Parksuites on Benavidez Street as well as the39-storey Princeview Parksuites along Quintin Paredes Road.

And of course, it doesn’t stop there, for you to personally discover with the brand-new Binondo-Intramuros Bridge!

Photo courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
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