July 2, 1973, San Juanico Bridge was Inaugurated.
On July 2, 1973, President Ferdinand Marcos inaugurated the 2.16-kilometer San Juanico Bridge linking Samar and Leyte which he called a symbol of the Filipinos’ vision and firm resolve to unite themselves under the New Society. In inaugurating the longest bridge in Southeast Asia, the Chief Executive said the engineering marvel which constitutes the central segment of the Pan Philippine Highway is a clear proof of the people’s determination to obliterate obstacles to unity and progress. The opening of the S-shaped bridge marked a giant stride toward the realization of the plan to link the archipelago’s three main regions—Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao—through the Pan Philippine Highway.
It was a symbol of love, so goes the song which Waraynons sang during its inauguration in time for Imelda Marcos’ birthday. Talks have it that the bridge was constructed as President Marcos’ gift to Imelda, it is named San Juanico because it is erected in the San Juanico Strait, some Marcos loyalists also call it Marcos Bridge.
Madame Imelda hails from Leyte and all the grand infrastructure then favored Leyte. Imelda wanted to show her people how Pres. Marcos (whom she fondly calls Ferdie) loved her.
The San Juanico Bridge is part of the Pan-Philippine Highway (also known as the Maharlika Highway). Its longest length is a steel girder viaduct built on reinforced concrete piers, and its main span is of an arch-shaped truss design. The bridge has 43 spans and medium size boats can pass beneath its large main arch, the top of which rises 41 meters above the sea.
A project of the Marcos administration, the construction of the 21.9 million-dollar bridge was contracted to the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines (now the Philippine National Construction Corporation), which together with Japanese engineers conducted studies and designed the actual project.
Construction began in 1969 over San Juanico Strait from Cabalawan, Tacloban City in Leyte to the municipality of Santa Rita, Samar.
The bridge said to be the longest in the country, spans some 2.2 kilometers and connects the twin islands of Leyte and Samar. When sea travel was then the fad in travelling to other islands, ships bound for Cebu and Manila would pass by under the bridge and the passengers would usually crowd at the starboard area to take pictures as they pass by the famous bridge.