The rain, I thought, would ruin my chance of finally witnessing the whispered beauty of a bridge down in Southern Leyte. The province of Southern Leyte, a one-hour flight from Metro Manila, is the lower half of the Leyte Island. (And if you think that the other half is called Northern Leyte, which is but logical considering that the lower half is Southern Leyte, you’re wrong. The northern province is simply called Leyte, which is unique, I believe.) The province is a vital link between Luzon and Mindanao, part of the national road network in an archipelagic country composed of more than 7,100 islands. It’s also accessible by ship from many points, including direct trips from Metro Manila or Metro Cebu.
It was raining when we landed in Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province. Dizziness is expected with a 4 a.m. flight, especially after a night of drinking in a belated Christmas party, but that was not enough to stop me from seeing the Agas-Agas Bridge, a good 2-hour drive from Tacloban City (though I must say that it’s unfair for these airlines to make us wake up in unholy hours for early flights, yet consistently taking off very delayed).
We were fortunate that the rain stopped about thirty minutes from the bridge, at around 8 o’clock in the morning. With the sun already up, I thought it would be a perfect time to have a great view of the bridge and the whole view. Green mountains with sheer drops. Perhaps a glimpse of the little water cascades (“Agas” means “flow” in the Visayan dialect. The concrete road in this area was constantly destroyed by the mini-waterfalls that flow here, carrying with it boulders and sand. A detour would add around 2 hours of travel time, which is why bypassing the most destructive part, even if the project costs around a billion pesos, makes perfect sense).
I was mistaken. When we reached the bridge before 9 a.m., it was still blanketed with heavy fog. Visibility was down to a minimum.
Some places are easy to remember – Cebu, Manila, Quezon City, Boracay, Davao, among others. You probably haven’t heard of Southern Leyte, although this is quite ironic since you most probably heard of Limasawa Island, the site of the First Mass in the Philippines. Limasawa Island is found in Southern Leyte.
There’s a controversy, of course, stemming from Butuan’s claim that Limasawa is not really the site of the First Mass, attended by no less than Ferdinand Magellan, the man who “discovered” the Philippines.
No matter what’s the outcome of that controversy, it’s beyond dispute that the Agas-Agas Bridge, with a height of 90 meters, is the tallest bridge in the country. It’s located in Brgy. Kahupian, Sogod, Southern Leyte. Our travel was like hitting two birds with one stone, or two bridges with one travel, because when you land in Tacloban airport, the San Juanico Bridge — the longest bridge in the Philippines — is just around 10 minutes away. Agas-Agas Bridge is 350 meters in length.
It’s a perfect location (and it’s intended by the local leaders) to be a tourism magnet, as a place for extreme sports such as bungee jumping, zip-line rappelling, paramotor, downhill skateboarding. I was, in fact, expecting to see at least bungee jumping when we get to the bridge, but I learned that the sports infrastructure is still in the process of being finalized (though you could see the platform for bungee jumping, protruding at both sides of the bridge).
After more than a 2-hour drive from the airport, what do you get? A full bladder. We were happy (the women in the group were much happier) to learn that there are clean restrooms at the southern end of the bridge. There’s also a structure for a restaurant, with wide parking areas and viewing decks. It should really be a great site once it’s fully operational.
I would definitely go back here, but just to see the place. I can’t imagine myself doing bungee jumping, going off the side of the bridge with nothing but a special rope and lots of guts. That would be insane. But wouldn’t that be extremely fun? Let’s see (if I change my mind about trying out bungee jumping).
Anyway, it wasn’t all that bad even if the fog partly covered the view. Looking at the other side of the bridge gives you an eerie feeling that some unknown underworld creature would suddenly jump out of the mist and devour you (sorry for an active imagination, perhaps the Lord of the Rings has something to do with that). That, in my opinion, is only fitting because a lot of unknown potential (tourism-related or otherwise) lies in this bridge, and the entire province in general. We’ll see you in the bridge one of these days, perhaps in an international competition or something. Let’s see (if that happens).