Bridges and Barges of Abra
River Crossings of Abra
Bridges, Barges, Rafts, and Hanging Bridges of Abra
Introduction to the Abra River
The Abra River is the biggest and most important river in the province. The Abra river winds its way for about 178 kilometers from Mt. Data in Benguet, enters Abra south of Luba then flows in a northwesterly curve at Langangilang, where the Malanas and Tineg rivers join, and then opens up into a wide plain passing La Paz, Bangued, Pidigan, Langiden and San Quintin where it cuts through the Vigan Gap and under the Banaoang and old Quirino Bridges and finally empties into the South China Sea in Ilocos Sur.
Until the 1920s there was no road that connected the town of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur with that of Bangued. It was the Abra River that provided the communications with the main means of transportation being by bamboo raft (balsa) from Banaoang, Ilocos Sur upriver through the Vigan Gap to San Quintin or Pidigan.
In the Province’s narrow valleys are a network of minor rivers such as the Binongan, Ikmin, Malanas, Utip, Sinaglang, and Tineg Rivers which join the Abra River making it into the sixth largest river system in the Philippines. They serve as a source of irrigation and hinder transport into the interior municipalities during the rainy season.
When rivers swell during the rainy season, some of Abra’s twenty seven municipalities are cut off from the capital of Bangued due to absence of bridges and/or some other means of crossing fast flowing rivers. Many bridges have been built to counter this annual problem and many more are still needed to connect all municipalities and make life easier for the various communities during the rainy season.
On the other hand, during the dry season, the rivers and its tributaries dry up or are very shallow and where there are no bridges can usually be walked across.
Rainfall in Abra is highest during the months of May to October, with an average 2,300mm a year.
An abra (Arabic: عبرة abra) is a traditional boat made of wood.
Abras are used to ferry people across the Dubai Creek in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
They travel between the water station at Shindagha/Al Ghubaiba on the Bur Dubai side, and the water station at Al Sabkha on the Deira side. The Abras depart every few minutes. The fare is 1 dirham (14 pesos) which is paid to the ferry driver.
Bridges of Abra
Bridges of Abra — The Sto. Tomas Bridge or as more commonly called Manabo Bridge in Manabo, is the third longest bridge in the Cordillera Region. It was formally inaugurated in August 2013 after 27 years of construction and a cost of P423 million pesos.
Locals used to call it the “longest” bridge in the world, not so much because of the length of the bridge, which is 690 metres, but because the contractors only constructed the middle part of the structure, leaving it without a beginning or an end, and a lack of funds for completion.
Thus, its nickname “the longest bridge in the world.” and what the locals called their very own personal diving board when the river was deep enough for swimming and jumping.
In the year 2000, only a quarter of the bridge was constructed due to a lack of government funding. Former President Ramos sent additional funding, but it was only enough for the next phase of the bridge’s development. Thirteen years later it was eventually completed and brought to an end the Balsa ferry service on that part of the Abra River.
Manabo Bridge in Barangay Sto.Tomas is roughly 33 km away from Bangued. The bridge connects the Municipalities of Bucay and Manabo, as well as the Municipalities of Boliney, Luba, Tubo and Sallapadan.
Manabo Bridge image from 2010 Courtesy of Ferddie’s Blue Jeans
Manabo Bridge construction in 2010
Last Boatmen of Manabo River 2012
Don Mariano Marcos Bridge
Bridges of Abra — Don Mariano Marcos Bridge located along the Abra Kalinga National Road. Completed in 1974, It is one of the longest bridges in the country, with a total length of 889 metres. The bridge is spans the Abra River connecting Barrio Bumagcat, Tayum and Barrio Mudiit, Dolores. Located on the boundaries of Tayum, Lagangilang and Dolores, DMM Bridge gives visitors a scenic view of the Abra River and the surrounding mountains.
The bridge was named after the father of President Ferdinand Marcos, Don Mariano Marcos, at a meeting of The Provincial Board and the Mayor’s League of Abra held on February 8, 1974. You can read the PRESIDENTIAL DECREE No. 422 March 27, 1974 ..
Trivia :- Did you know that You can sing the entire Philippine National Anthem whilst passing over the bridge at 60 kph. Try it next time you head that way.
Top loading Jeepney across Don Mariano Marcos Bridge
Reflections on Don Mariano Marcos Bridge
Bridges of Abra — Calaba Bridge is the longest Modular Bridge ever constructed by Waagner-Biro. It measures 906m and spans the River Abra along the Abra – Ilocos Norte Road. Before the bridge was constructed a balsa ferry was used to transport travellers across the river. The Balsa service temporarily suspended its service during high waters for safety reasons, which caused many people to become stranded, sometimes for days.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and DPWH Secretary Victor Domingo opened Calaba Bridge project in Abra on the 3rd of May 2010.
There were once 30 boatmen working along the banks of the Abra river in Barangay Calaba, ferrying vehicles and people to and from the banks of Bangued and La Paz towns in the makeshift boats called a balsa. Now anyone can cross the river by using the bridge safely, although it can become scary when crossing in high winds, especially on a motorbike.
The balsas, which were 5 x 4 metres in size, could carry four jeepneys, six motorbikes and six tricycles including passengers when fully loaded. You can still see the stump remains of the old dry season footbridge which was rebuilt each year when the river water subsided too much so that the balsas could not operate. The footbridge was maintained by the boatmen.
Today the bridge is a favourite hangout place for the school kids of Mudeng during their lunch break and after school, early morning joggers, and photographers capturing the sunrise and sunsets each day. A fantastic view of Mt. Bullagao (Sleeping Beauty), Tayum Church and the Abra River can also be had from anywhere on the bridge.
Calaba Bridge image from 2010 Courtesy of Ferddie’s Blue Jeans
Driving across Calaba Bridge, Bangued, Abra in 2017
Last Boatmen of Calaba 2010
San Juan Overflow Bridge
Bridges of Abra — San Juan Overflow Bridge connects Brgy Guimba and Brgy Lam-Ag across the Malanas River in San Juan.
The bridge is a single lane bridge with a couple of passing bays along the way.
San Juan Overflow Bridge
San Juan Overflow Bridge from the Malanas River
Bridges of Abra — Sinalang Bridge
If you visit Barangay Lipcan in Bangued today, you will notice that there are two bridges spanning the Sinalang River. The bridge in use now was constructed in 2001 and is 98 metres long.
In the 1890’s, twenty years before the Americans designed and built their metal construction the Spanish had already laid a wooden bridge over the river allowing traffic of horse and carts to pass along the road from Bangued to Pidigan. It’s interesting to note the widening of the river that occurred with every new bridge, either from natural erosion or cutting for new foundations.
Beside this bridge, along the Abra – Ilocos Sur Road and close to the Pennarubia / Bucay Junction is the old Sinalang Bridge which was completed in 1929 during the American Colonial Period in the Philippines, with a length of 96 metres.
At the Bangued end of the bridge a police check point has been set up and the old bridge which is now blocked to both motor and pedestrian traffic, is used as their backyard for drying clothes, hanging hammocks etc.
The old bridge’s nickname is the garden bridge since flowers and herbs have been planted in pots at the other end.
There was once a plan to have the 90 year old American Sinalang Bridge retained as a historical landmark of the province, but this seems to have been forgotten.
After seeing the two bridges side by side and the dangers that school children from the nearby Sinalang Pilot Elementary School who cross the busy bridge everyday on the narrow one person wide pavement, i thought that it would be much safer for the students to use the old bridge, make it pedestrian only, to cross the river. But the police checkpoint building blocks the way of this historical bridge. Just my thoughts on road safety.
Sinalang Bridge Corruption Scandal –
After the old bridge was closed, a detour bridge was meant to be constructed in 1996.
The year 1996 was one of the pivotal years for Concern Citizens of Abra of Good Government (CCAGG)
when it found itself extremely challenged by a struggle against a government agency which had played a
major role in fanning the flames of graft and corruption that involved an P8.2 million bridge.
It was called the Sinalang Detour Bridge, or the bridge that never was.
But the Abrenos have branded it “sinayang” (Filipino language for wasted).
Quoted from the Ombudsmans report which you can read below
Coordinates – 17°38′18.18″N 120°37′41.13″E | Km Post 414+397
Bridges of Abra — On May 8, 2003 , the Soot Bridge with a length of 364 metres was opened by La Paz Mayor Israel Bernos, Governor Vicsyd Valera and Congressman Luis “Chito” Bersamin.
Soot Bridge connects the towns of La Paz, Danglas and Lagayan to the capital town of Bangued. The single lane/narrow bridge cost PHP130 million to complete.
Before the bridge was completed, jeepneys and motorbikes used to cross the river by driving down one bank, entering the water and then driving up the other bank. I also heard that there used to be a balsa from here to and from Calaba.
Other Bridges in Abra
These bridges were listed by DPWH in 2011
Abas Bridge, Sallapadan, 150 metres on the Abra – Cervantes Road
Alinaya Bridge, Pidigan, 38 metres on the Abra – Ilocos Sur Road
Baay Bridge, 85 metres on the Abra – Cervantes Road
Balais Bridge, Lagangilang, 46 metres on the Abra – Kalinga Road
Balingasa Bridge, 21 metres on the Abra – Kalinga Road
Bancag Bridge, 46 metres on the Abra – Ilocos Sur Road
Lublubnak Bridge, Bucay, 21 metres on the Abra – Cervantes Road
Manicbel Bridge, Sallapadan, 37 metres on the Abra – Cervantes Road
Naguilian Bridge, Sallapadan, 31 metres on the Abra – Cervantes Road
Palaquio Bridge, Bucay, 35 metres on the Abra – Cervantes Road
Tuday Bridge, Danglas, 16 metres on the Abra – Ilocos Sur Road
Sabnangan Suspension Foot Bridge
Linking Barangay Poblacion with Barangay Sabnangan, the 560 metre long hanging bridge spanning the Abra River is the longest in the Philippines and SE Asia.
Started in 1998 and finished four years later in 2002 the Sen.Flavier Suspension Footbridge makes life alot easier for the local community who need to cross the Abra River daily.
Tourism Tip and Local Beauty Spot – Cross the Sabnangan Bridge and hike following the trail going to Banaaw Lake, a hidden beauty spot of Luba.
There are many hanging bridges scattered over rivers connecting settlements or making it easier for kids to go to school, or farmers to reach their fields. Too many to list here.
Take a ride along the road to Daguioman from Sallapadan, or hike from Lacub to Lablabinag, and you will see and cross a few. Abra has many hidden picturesque spots where you may find your own favourite hanging bridge.
Barges and Bamboo Rafts
Many Abra River crossings, where there are no bridges, now use a pontoon barge instead of bamboo rafts, which means that cars, jeepneys, and small trucks are able to cross the river during the rainy season when water levels rise. These are also called Balsa.
These balsa rides are what makes traveling Abra rather a unique experience and tourists to the Province love the attraction. Where there are no bridges, motorbikes, tricycles, trucks, jeepneys, people and animals can ride a motorised or manually rowed bamboo raft to cross a river. The balsa leaves a dock, goes downstream a few meters than goes back upstream to the landing docks on the other side.
Thick wooden planks are placed from the dock to the balsa to guide the wheels safely aboard.
The main crossings on the Abra River are listed below.
Suyo, Pidigan – Langiden
San Quintin – Poblacion to Brgy Palang
Dugong – Bucay to Sallapadan, Bucloc and Daguioman. Locally, A Right turn before Dugong will take you to Patoc and a Left turn after Dugong will take you to Quimloong and Abang.
The Quimloong to Abang road is not passable during the rainy season so it’s better take the Balsa from Banglolao or Pakiling to Abang.
Tabiog – From Bucay Poblacion crossing to Tabiog you will hit the Abra -Cervantes road.Turn left for – Taniog, Palaquio, Bangbangcag, Calao and Lagangilang. Turn right for – Sallapadan
To reach Tubo and Kili you need to cross the Abra River twice. First at the Tumbal crossing and second at the Botik crossing after passing through Luba.
Tumbal – Manabo to Luba, and for the Botik crossing to Tubo, Tiempo, and Kili
Botik – Luba to Tubo, Tiempo, and Kili
Ferries at Calaba
Tumbal River Crossing to Luba
Some Abra River and its tributaries still have bamboo rafts operating on some river crossings . The rafts are of varying size and width depending on the traffic they will be carrying. They are worked manually using a tekkan (a bamboo pole) which is thrust into the water until it reaches the river bed and used to propel the raft forward.
Some river crossings that still use a bamboo raft are :-
- Udangan River in Brgy. Mudeng, La Paz. Near Calaba Bridge going across the flood plains to Brgys Sagap and San Antonio, and along the north bank of the Abra River to Langiden.
- The Soot River from San Gregorio to Liguis, La Paz
- Crossing the Abra River a little upstream from Sabnangan Bridge, Luba.
Udangan River, Mudeng, La Paz
The bamboo raft across the Udangan River, where it meets the Abra River is only in use during the rainy season when the Abra River swells and the Udangan River, which is dry for most of the year, cut off the flood plain road/trail to Brgy Sagap, San Antonio and other settlements along the north bank of the Abra River.
A team of men on each bank pull the raft across the water while others wade and guide it safely across.
Essential Travel Guides
Bridges and Barges
Open and Find Out How to travel to Abra
How to travel to Abra from Manila
- From Metro Manila, there are three bus companies operating along the Manila to Bangued route.
Partas Bus Company, Viron Transit and Dominion Bus Lines.
- Journey time is around 10 hours
- Fare at time of writing is P600
Bus Companies that link Bangued with other destinations are
Bangued to Manila, Baguio – Partas Bus Company
Bangued to Manila, Baguio – Dominion Bus Lines
Bangued to Manila, Baguio – Philippine Rabbit
Bangued to Baguio – Sambrano Bus Lines
Bangued to Manila – Viron Transit
Bangued to Vigan, Tuguegarao – Esonice Bus Lines
Bangued to Baguio, Vigan, Laoag – BBL Transit
There are no airports in Abra. The closest airport is Laoag, three hours away by car.
- Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights to Laoag.
- From Laoag take a bus to Vigan and change there for a bus to Bangued
- Or take any bus that is heading south and alight at Narvacan for bus and jeepney connections to Bangued
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