Of all the bridges that can be seen today in the city of Manila, and of the metropolis as a whole, the Jones Bridge is considered to be one of the most storied and iconic, if not the one taking the top prize so to speak.
It is also one of the city’s oldest from what the Urban Roamer can tell, first built in 1916 to replace the heavily damaged Puente de España that stood nearby. It was named after William A. Jones, the US Congressman behind the Philippine Autonomy Act, AKA the Jones Act of 1916, an important piece of legislation that would help secure future Philippine independence from the United States.
The job of designing the bridge fell into a rising Filipino architect Juan Arellano, who would also design the nearby structures Manila Post Office Building and the Metropolitan Theater, which together with Jones Bridge would form an area called the Arellano Triangle. Arellano made use of neoclassical elements for the bridge’s design, which included elaborate sculptures at the piers, ornately-designed balustrades, finials, and moldings. But perhaps the most notable feature of the bridge is a set of 4 sculptures, one at each end of the bridge, designed by a certain Ramon Martinez. These sculptures depict various facets of the Filipina as a mother, thus they became known collectively as La Madre Filipina.
Unfortunately, Jones Bridge was heavily damaged during the Battle of Manila, with one of the La Madre Filipina sculptures destroyed in the process. The bridge was rebuilt but in the process, it lost its prewar neoclassical grandeur and the monuments were relocated to different places, one to Rizal Park and two to the Court of Appeals.
Since then, Jones Bridge underwent a number of changes, especially during the last 20 years. During the time of former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, the bridge was lighted up with lights underneath that gave it a glow and installation of lamp posts which were….unique. Unique lamp posts are an Atienza thing that drew mixed reactions, to say the least. Around his term, 2 fu dogs were also added at the base of the bridge’s south side, which gave the bridge a bit more Chinese character owing to its proximity to Binondo as opposed to the neoclassical vibe it was originally designed.
Interestingly, his successors Fred Lim and Joseph Estrada continued with the practice as they installed their own unique lamp posts. While personally, this Urban Roamer had no problem with the design, they admittedly did not add much to the character of the bridge itself. Then Isko Moreno (Domagoso) assumed the post in 2019 with an intent to bring back Manila’s lost glory. What better way to show this intent early on with a plan to bring back (in some way) the glory of Jones Bridge.
For this endeavor, Moreno counted on the support of the Filipino-Chinese community who provided the funding and Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar whose workshop helped design the Spanish period-influenced lamp posts to replace those weird lamp posts that have been installed. Personally, the Urban Roamer thinks the lamp posts installed were too many; they could have at least placed some gaps and it would still be adequately lighted. The balusters were also given a new paint job, giving them a faux marble look that has understandably made some heads scratch though not really that much of a bother in the bigger scheme of things.
While the dolphin sculptures at the piers have not been brought back, at least not yet…who knows, the redeveloped Jones Bridge managed to bring back the La Madre Filipina. 2 of them at least at this time of writing. Particularly, the one at Rizal Park was successfully brought back from its old Rizal Park location and the other one was actually a replica of the one destroyed during World War II, courtesy of the Las Casas artisans. They also added a fence in the middle filled with plants to discourage jaywalkers.
Work remains to be done on the base pillars of the bridge’s north side, pending the study being conducted by a team from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on whether the remaining 2 original La Madre Filipina at the Court of Appeals are sound enough to be transferred to the bridge. Otherwise, the probable decision is to design replicas that will be placed on the bridge to complete the makeover.
So much has changed with this storied bridge in the course of over 100 years. But it is good to see it not only remain as an important landmark but also gone back full circle and, in a way, has managed to recapture some of its old glory again.