Concerted efforts by heritage advocates and the Isinay ethnic group have put a stop—at least temporarily—to the controversial retrofitting and widening of the Spanish-era Dampol Bridge in Dupax town, Nueva Vizcaya.
A team from the National Museum assessed the extent of damage on the Dampol Bridge immediately after Inquirer ran the report last Aug. 25 about the protest by concerned citizens of Nueva Vizcaya against the plan of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to demolish the bridge.
The bridge which spans Abanatan River was first built in 1773 by the Dominican friar Fr. Manuel Corripio, who was also the builder of the town’s present church.
Dampol Bridge collapsed in 1812 and was rebuilt in 1819. It suffered minor damage during the earthquakes of 1880 and 1881.
The early Isinay and other ethnic groups in the area built the bridge, according to University of the Philippines professor and anthropologist Analyn Salvador-Amores. Amores made an earlier petition against the destruction of the bridge.
“The DPWH temporarily stopped the construction on Dampol Bridge upon the verbal request of Congressman Carlos Padilla and Gov. Ruth Padilla. This, after they heard of the petition from concerned citizens, Isinay and non-Isinay,” said Alvin Felix of the Isinay Advocates.
“However, since there were heavy rains in the past days, water has already seeped in the deep crevices of the bridge’s foundation,” he added.
Felix said the stoppage was issued to give way to studies to determine the correct approach to undertake the bridge project.
“Primarily it was the Isinay Advocates that immediately initiated the effort to stop any activities taking place at Dampol Bridge,” said Felix. “And accordingly the stoppage of the construction activities was reinforced by the verbal request from Congressman Padilla which paved the way for proper assessment, and planning and to ensure that restoration/repairs are conducted in accordance with appropriate standards by relevant authorities.”
The most pressing issue is how to conserve and preserve the bridge and prevent its destruction, he added.
“Certainly, individuals and concerned groups from the local, national and even abroad, have united in their efforts for the preservation of Dampol Bridge,” he said.
“Isinay and non-Isinay communities” made their outrage known about the DPWH action “through social networking and physically signing the petition.”
Felix, himself an Isinay, lamented that the DPWH did not consult local residents or national cultural agencies. He said the Nueva Vizcaya groups only learned about it when a portion of the bridge had already been dug up and demolished.
He said the Isinay community would oppose any move to damage further the bridge.
Felix said the Isinay Advocates group would like Dampol Arch Bridge to be declared a National Cultural Heritage Site.
He said the group would demand that the bridge be now restored and re-enforced in accordance with the proper guidelines and under the supervision of the National Museum, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and National Historical Commission of the Philippines, in consultation with the community.
The group is also for the preservation and conservation of the bridge itself as mandated by the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, also known as Republic Act 10066, and other statutes.
“Development and conservation can go together if only due process is observed,” said Felix.
He explained there should be “respect for the remnants of the Isinay past—one of which is the Dampol Arch Bridge! Ultimately we seek to conserve and revitalize the Isinay heritage.”