The original "Lumang Tulay"
From the Desk
The moment you approach C5, a 35.5 kilometer stretch of a highway that separates the old Pasig from the new, you are given a choice of two bridges, one that is called Vargas (Lumang Tulay) and the other called Sta. Rosa (Bagong Tulay). Both bridges would lead you to the heart of Pasig, the city center where the Church, the City Hall and the Plaza holds court. They are portals to an old world where Pasig remains a provincial community sitting near the peripherals of the mountains of Antipolo and the rest of the Sierra Madre. However, both Vargas and Sta. Rosa bridges are relatively new and not antiquated like that of Manila's Puente de Claveria (Quezon Bridge) and the other puentes scattered in Cavite and the Tagalog Regions. In short, the moniker of being Pasig's Luma and Bagong Tulay are just separated for a measly half a century! So the question is, where is the Lumang Tulay?
Unlike the great and ever royal old Manila, Pasig does not have any gorgeous bridges. We don't have a Jones Bridge or any of the major bridges that cross the great river that we share the same name. We are just but a simple and sleepy town whose claim to fame is the river, our livelihood, the people and our faith. The last, is our finest jewel. Our history is intertwined with our adherence to the Catholic Faith which up to now dictates major decisions and social movements. With this, the Church and our beliefs became our barometer and a way by which we can measure the things to be done.
Before entering the main heart of the city, a small intertwining tributary presents itself unassumingly. Though simple and small this river known as Bitukang Manok hosted the arrival and the many visitations of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, the Virgin of Antipolo, the Lady of the Galleons. This small river is so precious to Pasiguenos for the waters are blessed by the boats that carry this Virgin on her way to the galleons. It was a pristine tributary river used by our ancient and Hispanic fisherfolks and a means of transport for it connects itself to the Marikina and Pasig Rivers as well as the Sapang Baho River in Rizal Province. Based on old pictures and paintings depicting the old Pasig, Bitukang Manok is a picturesque river for it is surrounded by the Bahay na Bato Houses and the Pasig Church that towers everyone.
As Pasig grew, commerce followed and with the arrival of business comes the influx of people rushing in. As a result, a bridge must be built for ferryboats to say the least can no more cater the rise of visitors. Even today, people flock downtown Pasig for two reasons and both are necessities, faith and food. The Pasig Cathedral, the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception of Pasig draws thousands of devotees every year especially during December 8. The Pasig Palengke, less than a kilometer away from the Church is known to be a bagsakan of fresh produce which makes it the market's market. People from neighboring towns of Makati, Mandaluyong, Pateros, Taguig and San Juan and even in Rizal visit Pasig for its agora.
Business was all good, the town was growing and so it became a melting pot for merchants and visiting business people. By 1741 a Tribunal was established by the Chinese Mestizos. They called it the Gremio de Mestizos de Sangleys. These Sangleys as they were enterprising and all is part of the Pasig Community. They quickly lent their hands in anything that could make the town prosper. Which is why by 1742, Fray Domingo Diez constructed a stone bridge with the help of the Chinese Mestizos. This bridge is the Pariancillo - a stone bridge with an oriental flare as the main structure has a Chinese Pagoda-like roof echoing the lasting friendship and support of the Chinese people of Pasig town. Pariancillo was also know as Puente de Trillo in honor of Fr. Felix de Trillo, the former Parish Priest of Pasing and founder of the Beaterio de Sta. Rita de Pasig.
Perhaps the last hurrah of the Pariancillo was in August 1896 when the sons of Pasig gathered together at the other side of the bridge to reclaim the town from the Spaniards. This even is now known as the Nagsabado sa Pasig. With the years, the Pagoda structure went old and out of fashion and what was left was a utilitarian stone bridge where kalesas "fly" day by day followed by the arrival of cars early 20th Century. The old stone bridge suddenly became a flat bridge with a separate one reserved for the Tramvia. By that time, no remnants of the old bridge remained. Everything was new and simpler, far from the Trillo Bridge the old Pasiguenos knew. As the years go by, the bridge became a shadow and just treated as a normal bridge with no history and just old stories of what it used to be. Finally by mid-20th century, a portion of the Bitukang Manok was buried and suddenly the proud tributary river became a creek - the Parian Creek.
The burying of Bitukang Manok paved the way for the construction of the famed Pasig Fountain. Pasiguenos have many vagued memories of that Fountain and then came the old McDonald's and the Starlight Stage behind it where theater presentations were produced by the local community. During the declining years of Starlight, it became a place for beggars far from the vision of being a place of artistic endeavors. Finally, by the early 2010s the McDonald's, the Starlight and the Police Station were all removed and were replaced by a larger Bonifacio Monument and a grand staircase that leads to nowhere. In a way, this renovation cum beautification helped in the revival of a forgotten landmark but still falls short on the resurrection of the Bitukang Manok as the Pariancillo sadly became synonymous not of a bridge but for terminals of tricycles and jeepneys and nowadays for strings of eateries and peddlers of streetfood.
The old bridge is still there, for as long as we can cross the roads that lead to the heart of Pasig, the Pariancillo remains relevant. What are you stories of the lumang Tulay?