Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Nino, the provinceâ€™s patron, comes to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.
To any visitor either of the two bridges connecting the small and flat Mactan Is. with the main island of Cebu, provides a breathtaking look of the metropolis from an elevated position and thus a bird’s eye view of this booming and beautiful city in the south. The structures might not be as extensive and as tall as in Metro Manila, but this province can well hold its own.
Mactan is where the export processing zone, the international airport and many world class resorts are located, and is the main gateway to this island province. Cebu on the other hand is where the food bowl is, the seat of political power and commerce and where the bulk of current infrastructure developments are in full swing.
These two important hubs are connected by the Old Cebu-Mactan Bridge and the newer one, Marcelo Fernan Bridge, named after the late senator and son of the province, are the vital links that connects these important hubs together.
The old bridge has been there since 1972. Prior to its building, a ferry used to ply the short channel. During the Marcos years, vehicles crossing used to pay toll but was abolished, I think, during the Cory years. I remember as a child passing below it’s steel trusses at the center was the highlight of any crossing.
For any old timer of Cebu, two things come to mind on this old structure: a) it was where Filipino action star Dante Varona was said to have jumped in one of his movies, and b) during the 80s, at the height of a typhoon, the aptly named Korean sea vessel Sangko Elegance’s (sangko in Cebuano means to hit the upper part or roof because of an object’s or person’s height) tall mast hit the bridge.
The Fernan Bridge was built in 1999 and Cebuanos heaved a sigh of relief once it became operational as it greatly decongested the old structure. Just imagine the two hubs powering the provincial economy connected by an aging bridge that is no longer as relevant as before because of its narrow lanes.
The newer one is multilane and an architecturally beautiful suspension bridge. Its massive and imposing but at the same time, graceful and elegant and hasn’t been rivaled anywhere else in the country.
The bridges are not only for vehicles. The two are beautiful and accessible tourist spots that are only frequented by the locals. These are places that afford one to have a stunning and closer view of both sides of the channel, a perfect alternative to the often out of the way and inconvenient Tops at the hinterlands of Cebu. Here, you just hop on a taxi or jeepney to reach the bridges than taking a private car, 4×4 recommended, in order to reach the latter and pay a high entrance fee. Here, it’s free.
The best times to be in these areas are early in the morning, just before sunrise and during evenings. The old bridge provides a stunning sunrise scene as the sun awakens from it’s slumber and slowly climbing from the horizon with the Fernan Bridge providing a perfect backdrop with coming passenger ships from the different provinces. As the sun starts to shine more and more, turn 180 degrees and see the city’s mist and fog starting to lift. Alternatively, the viewing deck high at the Fernan Bridge unfurls visual surprises but you have to leave your vehicle below.
As evening comes, head on below the Fernan Bridge. The base at the Mactan Island side is more accessible and developed into a park that visitors come here to just enjoy the spectacular city lights. It’s clean and the sight of massive pillars is just breathtaking. It’s also a popular venue for many local photo enthusiasts who converge here as well as staging area for many nuptial portraits with the well lighted bridges and city as their backdrop.