Top 5 Historic Bridges in Manila: A Glimpse Into History

Top 5 Historic Bridges in Manila: A Glimpse Into History

Bridge by Bridge: Unfolding Manila’s Historic Bridges

1. Jones Bridge: The Parisian Touch of Manila

View of Jones Bridge from the side during nighttime in Manila, Philippines

The Jones Bridge is not just a structure that spans the Pasig River in Manila; it is a historical testament to the city’s architectural and colonial past. With its classic elegance and storied history, it has become one of the most iconic landmarks in the Philippine capital. Its construction, destruction, and subsequent reconstruction tell a narrative of resilience and cultural significance that intertwines with the development of Manila.


  1. Initial Construction: Jones Bridge was originally named Puente de España (Bridge of Spain) and was built during the Spanish colonial era. However, the original bridge was replaced and renamed Jones Bridge in honor of US congressman William Atkinson Jones, who authored the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916.
  2. Architectural Design: The bridge’s design reflected a Beaux-Arts style, which was popular in the early 20th century. Its design incorporated lavish details and decorative sculptures, embodying the grandeur of an era where aesthetics played an important role in public structures.
  3. World War II Devastation: The bridge was significantly damaged during World War II, specifically in the Battle of Manila in 1945. Its destruction represented one of the many losses the city endured during the war.

2. Ayala Bridge: The Path of Presidents

Inside the Ayala Bridge with view of high buildings located at Manila, Philippines

Ayala Bridge is named after the prominent Ayala family, a Spanish-Filipino family known for their significant contributions to the business and cultural development of the Philippines. This bridge spans the Pasig River, connecting the districts of Ermita and San Miguel. The construction of the Ayala Bridge played an essential role in Manila’s urban development, as it facilitated transportation and commerce between different parts of the city.

Originally constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ayala Bridge has witnessed several renovations and reconstructions due to various reasons, including wear and tear, capacity expansion, and resilience improvements against earthquakes and floods. Throughout its history, the bridge has not only been a thoroughfare for vehicles and pedestrians but also a silent witness to many historical events in the Philippines, including the Battle of Manila during World War II, when the city experienced significant devastation.


  1. Construction and Design: The original Ayala Bridge was a steel truss bridge. Over time, due to the demands of modern traffic and urban growth, its design and structure have been updated.
  2. Notable Renovations: A major reconstruction effort took place in 2015, which aimed to strengthen the bridge to withstand large vehicles and potential earthquakes. The renovation included replacing the old structure with a new one that had better seismic resistance.
  3. Accessibility: The bridge connects key areas in Manila and is a vital access point for many commuters. Its role in the city’s road network is essential for the flow of traffic, especially during rush hours.

3. Quezon Bridge: The Art Deco Span

Art Deco design of Quezon Bridge, Manila Philippines.

The current incarnation of the Quezon Bridge was completed in the mid-20th century, replacing an earlier structure known as the Puente Colgante that dated back to the Spanish colonial era. As Manila’s urban landscape continued to evolve, the bridge played a critical role in the city’s expansion and modernization, facilitating movement and commerce between the north and south banks of the river.


  1. Historical Construction: The original Quezon Bridge was built substantially earlier, with the current structure having been rebuilt after significant damage during World War II. It was part of the post-war reconstruction efforts that aimed to restore the city’s infrastructure and connectivity.
  2. Architectural Design: The bridge features a streamlined design reflecting mid-century modernist trends. Its functionality was a primary concern, aiming to support the increasing traffic load as Manila grew into a bustling metropolis.
  3. Cultural Significance: The Quezon Bridge isn’t just a piece of infrastructure; it has been a silent witness to various historical events that shaped the Philippines. Political rallies, religious processions, and everyday human drama have all unfolded on its span, cementing its place in the cultural tapestry of Manila.
Wall of the Roxas Bridge with beautiful design.

The Roxas Bridge, originally known as Puente de Claveria, is a significant historical and infrastructural landmark in Manila, Philippines. Named after President Manuel Roxas, the 5th President of the Philippines, the bridge serves as a vital artery that crosses the Pasig River and connects the districts of Ermita and Paco.

Constructed during the Spanish colonial period, the Roxas Bridge has undergone several renovations and reconstructions to accommodate the increasing traffic demand and to withstand the effects of natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons, which are common in the region. The bridge’s strategic location has made it instrumental in the urban development and economic growth of Manila, facilitating trade and transportation within the metropolitan area.

Throughout its history, the Roxas Bridge has witnessed many pivotal moments in the Philippines’ colorful history. It has seen Manila’s transformation from a colonial outpost to a bustling modern city. The bridge itself is a symbol of the blending of colonial and post-colonial influences that characterize the history of the Philippines.


  1. Economic Significance: Binondo, one area connected by the Roxas Bridge, is known as the oldest Chinatown in the world. The bridge thus plays a crucial role in the business and economic exchanges between Binondo’s markets and the rest of Manila.
  2. Renovation and Reconstruction: The bridge has undergone several reconstructions to maintain its structural integrity and modernize its design. Over the years, it has transformed from a simple colonial structure to a more robust modern bridge able to support heavy traffic.
  3. Cultural Significance: As a key thoroughfare, Roxas Bridge has played a role in both everyday life for Manileños and national events, such as parades, processions, and political demonstrations.

5. MacArthur Bridge: Resilience Redefined

View of MacArthur Bridge on a sunny day with lots of people walking on this bridge.
Ramon FVelasquez, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inaugurated in 1917, the MacArthur Bridge was initially used for both automobile traffic and railroad transportation, showcasing a cantilever design that was state-of-the-art at the time of construction. It was built by the city of St. Louis to offer an alternative to the privately-owned Eads Bridge, which had until then monopolized river crossings in the area.


  1. Dual Purpose: Originally designed to support both rail and vehicular traffic, the bridge featured two levels: the upper deck for vehicles and the lower deck for trains. This ceased in 1981, when the upper deck was closed to vehicles, and since then, the bridge has been exclusively used for rail traffic.
  2. Length and Design: The bridge stretches approximately 2,080 feet in length and is made of steel. Its distinctive cantilever design afforded the strength needed for the heavy loads and the long spans without support piers in the river, which could impede boat traffic.
  3. Resilience: Despite floods and the general decay that claimed many early 20th-century bridges, the MacArthur Bridge remained a resilient structure owing to its robust design and ongoing maintenance. It has stood the test of time as an active part of the nation’s railway infrastructure.

The Historic Bridges of Manila Are Walkways to the Past

Manila’s Historic Bridges FAQ

Here are the most common questions about historic bridges in Manila.

1. What is the oldest historic bridge in Manila?

Jones Bridge, originally built in 1701, is considered the oldest bridge in Manila.

2. Can I visit these historic bridges?

Yes, these bridges are open to the public and can be visited. They provide a glimpse into Manila’s historic past.

3. Are there any special events that take place on these historic bridges?

While there are not usually events that take place specifically on the bridges, Manila hosts several festivals and parades throughout the year that may pass over these bridges.

4. What is the architectural style of these bridges?

The architectural style of these bridges varies. For example, the Jones Bridge was designed in the neoclassical style, whereas the Nagtahan Bridge has a more modern design.

5. Have these bridges been renovated or restored?

Yes, some of these bridges have undergone renovation or restoration. For instance, the Jones Bridge underwent a major restoration in 2019 to restore it to its original design.