Then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Julio Cardinal Rosales and Mrs. Cristina Ford were among the guests during that historic inauguration.
Talks have it that the bridge was constructed as President Marcos' gift to Imelda, it is named San Juanico because it is erected in the San Juanico Strait, some Marcos loyalists also call it Marcos Bridge.
Madame Imelda hails from Leyte and all the grand infrastructure then favored Leyte. Imelda wanted to show her people how Pres. Marcos (whom she fondly calls Ferdie) loved her.
San Juanico Bridge started construction in 1969 and finished in 1973, it costs some $22 M (Php 154 M in the '70s).
The bridge said to be the longest in the country, spans some 2.2 kilometers and connects the twin islands of Leyte and Samar. When sea travel was then the fad in travelling to other islands, ships bound for Cebu and Manila would pass by under the bridge and the passengers would usually crowd at the starboard area to take pictures as they pass by the famous bridge.
If one comes from Luzon, San Juanico originates from Barangay San Juan, Sta. Rita Samar to Barangay Cabalawan in Tacloban City.
Guests and visitors who are new to Tacloban would always want to have their picture taken with the majestic bridge in the background.
The bridge, located some 12 kilometers north of Tacloban City provides easy transport of goods from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. It has withstood the passage of all types of vehicles from the SUVs, cargo trucks, passenger buses to the lowly tricycle driven by Samarnons in pursuing their business in the busy Tacloban downtown.
From up the sky, plane passengers landing in Tacloban City can easily spot the seeming dragon- shaped bridge where observers tout bear the letter S in its Samar side and the letter L on its Leyte side.
Safe and easy transport
With San Juanico Bridge in place, travelers from Samar to the bustling regional capital need not risk lives when they travel on sea than before. They can easily go to and from Tacloban City anytime of the day to deliver products and also to purchase some goods.
Travellers too from Mindanao and Luzon can easily take passenger air conditioned buses or not, to reach varied destinations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindano.
Cargo trucks also deliver varied good and exchange items of value passing by San Juanico.
Spark Samar lighting the bridge
Recently, much uproar and excitement have been going on with the talks that Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan and her Spark Samar tourism campaign is about to do.
One of its grand projects is to illuminate San Juanico Bridge to draw more tourists. In her facebook page, the winsome governor stated that Samar, with the support of DOT, has been investing time and resources towards the goal of making Samar one of the go-to tourist destinations in the Philippines.
"One particular project that we have been envisioning is to light -up not just our side, but the entire San Juanico Bridge, to revitalize this local treasure that we share with our neighbor, Leyte. The bridge is our connection not only to our waray-waray brothers and sisters in Leyte, but also to the rest of the Visayas," Tan said.
"This project will be a crowning addition to our tourism efforts in the province and will surely boost visitors in nearby towns," the governor added.
San Juanico Bridge will be turning 45 very soon, it has withered Typhoon Yolanda and there is no doubt about the economic gains and the love and connectivity between Samar and Leyte. (ajc/nbq/PIA8-ESamar)