Manila’s first flyover

It is said that during the late 1930’s, at a time when Manuel Quezon served as President of the self-governing Philippine Commonwealth, he was keeping a mistress who lived in what was then the affluent district of Santa Mesa. So he would pay her a visit from time to time on a strict timeframe, something which was of convenience as well since he also maintained a residence in the area. (as well as some other prominent Filipinos during the prewar period)

One day however, in one of those visits, Quezon and his entourage was stopped by a passing train along the railroad tracks that intersected Santa Mesa Boulevard. Being in a hurry and his strict timeframe cut short, Quezon was fuming mad at that incident that he ordered the Public Works office to have an overhead bridge constructed along the boulevard, built over the railroad tracks, for the benefit of the passing vehicles.

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Now keep in mind that this is just a rumor that has been lingering on for quite sometime. I myself have doubts about this version of the story. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Quezon does have a temper so mean that his temper tantrums are a stuff of legend themselves. So somehow, I can imagine Quezon getting so irked of having a train getting in his way if he has a schedule to keep and little time to waste.

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Regardless of the story’s veracity, the result was the construction of what would be Manila’s (and the metropolis to emerge as a whole) first “flyover” in the late 1930’s. It’s remarkable to see such structure to survive a war, probably one of the few prewar infrastructures in the city that managed to stay largely intact. It has also bore witness to a number of changes, including a name change of the thoroughfare it lies on to the name we know it today: Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard.

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Unfortunately, there is not much documentation available at least to verify the year it was finished. The Urban Roamer only managed to find oral narratives and recollections posted in Facebook groups to attest that this structure is at least 60-70+ years old.

And as with some other bridges in the metropolis, the flyover serves as a home to a busy open-air market or “talipapa” underneath it which sometimes causes a bit of chaos and traffic jam in this part of the road. Then again, chaos is a way of life in this metropolis that its citizens are already used to.

On another note, this particular landmark is featured in the upcoming film “Bourne Legacy” which shot a number of scenes in Manila as well.

© The Urban Roamer

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