Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bridge of My Youth

Okay, I said no issues. But I can't help it.

Two days ago, I went to SM Baliuag with a friend. The jeep we were riding got stuck in traffic right above the Plaridel-Pulilan concrete bridge. The few minutes we were there awakened me to a nagging truth- the Plaridel-Pulilan PNR Railbridge is no longer where it used to stand.

It was the bridge of my youth. That bridge was a playground of sorts for me and my playmates. In the early '60's, my elders used to go to the river to wash clothes and to have a picnic. While they did the laundry, the children ( that includes me) swam in the crystal clear waters which was only knee deep at the time. While swimming, we each had a tabong lata where we put the very fresh tulya which were later cooked by the older ones. We cooked rice using firewood gathered around the area. We gathered fruits from the trees along the river. Several times, we ate fresh langka as dessert, courtesy of the homeowners near the river. We were literally submerged in water the whole day. Almost always, we sat at the concrete platform of the railbridge while telling stories or while munching on some goodies we brought there. We would only leave the platform when a train passes overhead, either north or south bound. The memories and the images are still so vivid. They were the best of times.

Years later, it became impossible to do what we used to do there. The waters darkened and smelled. The banks were now filled with makeshift houses built by people from other provinces in pursuit of the good life away from their hometowns. Worse, the PNR trains stopped operations northwards. Suddenly, there were no more sounds of a cho-choo train nor the sight of the dark smoke emitting from the engines. But the bridge was still there. And it felt okay. The sight of the railbridge evokes memories of a healthy and merry childhood. That was enough.

Then it happened. Slowly, the railbridge disappeared part by part. First to go were the wooden railings. Someone said it became a hot stuff for architects and decorators. Now, they can be found in the best homes worthy of a page in the Architectural Digest. Then, the metal rails went. I myself saw several times how the metal bridge was torn apart. There was no furor over the dismantling. There were talks that it was done regularly-meaning, above board. But nothing is impossible in this country. Whoever got richer by messing with a cultural and historical artifact only has to answer for it with his god.

It wasn't a white elephant even if the trains stopped operations. Many people from both Pulilan and Plaridel benefited from it as it is used by pedestrians who choose to use it instead of walking onto the concrete bridge in order to avoid accidents. It could just have been asphalted or concreted to remain as useful as it was. But no, there were other agenda.

I have no pictures of the bridge of my youth, because it is no longer there.

PS. this is how it looked like.
It's the bridge on the right.

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