Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Colgante Bridge Tragedy, September 16, 1972. Naga City.

A few years ago during my short visit to Naga City, I was walking to the house of an old friend when I came upon the Colgante bridge that connects Pena Francia Avenue and Dayangdang Street. While crossing the bridge, I stopped half way and decided to look down on the river. A muddy water flowed calmly under the bridge but the dark water seemed to hide a terrible past whose horrors are mostly forgotten.

As I was looking at the side of the bridge, I saw a small path leading underneath the bridge. I went down the path and found the place under the bridge dump and smelly. While I was looking at the slow flowing dark water, I remembered the tragedy that happened close to four decades ago that took the lives of many local people in the region.

At that moment, sounds from the distant past echoed in my
mind of breaking timber and thundering shouts of fright and panic that filled the whole area around the bridge. As I observed the quiet surroundings underneath the bridge, I could hear the faint screams of agony that seemed to linger in the place after four decades had passed. It was then that I decided to write an article about the tragedy in Naga whose details is beginning to tatter in people’s minds.

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the Colgante tragedy. This article is dedicated to the departed ones and those who still have the physical and emotional scars that the Colgante bridge tragedy left.


The collapse of the Colgante bridge in Naga during the Pena Francia fluvial procession of September 1972, was considered a major tragedy in the Philippines back in those days. An estimated 140 people perished, including people from the media. Though the memory of that day remained in the minds of many witnesses that were there during that tragic day, rarely is it mentioned in regular conversations nowadays.

Recalling a tragic event is sometimes not pleasant to do. But storing its memory in a hidden shelf in our memory can also be a sign of disrespect to the victims of the tragedy. I believe that both tragedy and triumph in this world should have an equal standing in our historical books. Both provides valuable lessons for those of us who would take time and look deeper to the events that led to its occurrence.

I think it was about 1970 when I first saw Colgante bridge. Weeks before my first visit to Colgante bridge, my friends warned me to walk carefully while crossing the Colgante bridge because it is a very old and rickety structure. My brother even told me that you could actually make the whole bridge shake by just jumping hard on the middle of it. My friends also advised me not to cross the bridge when darkness falls because carnivorous evil spirits are believe to rise up from the bottom of the bridge to grab unsuspecting people who happened to be crossing the bridge at night. The “Lady in white” is also known to live underneath the bridge and sings enchanting songs to lure unsuspecting locals to their demise—No Filipino horror story is complete unless the “White Lady” sings.

One afternoon, my brother and I decided to check out the Colgante bridge and see if the stories we have heard were indeed true. After school at around 5PM, we went to the bridge and stood at the western end of the bridge (Pena Francia avenue side). I looked at its foundation and saw a few large wooden posts, some of which are slightly leaning. To make sure it was safe to cross, we waited for a car to cross over the bridge. After a few minutes, we saw a car drive up to the bridge. The car stopped at the beginning of the bridge and the driver shifted its gears to gear number one before proceeding cautiously. I noticed that the whole bridge swayed slightly while the car was crossing. We waited for a few minutes for the shaking of the bridge to stop before my brother and I decided to cross it.

My brother was braver than I and so he casually walked over the bridge like it was not a big deal. While I was crossing the bridge, I extended my arms horizontally to keep my balance even and made sure that every wooden plank that I stepped on would hold my weight before taking another step. I became terrified when I saw that one of the wooden planks on the pedestrian path was missing. My brother, who was then standing on the other side of the bridge, ridiculed me and kept on shouting for me to hurry up. He said, “Ivan! Para mabalyo ka lang ning tulay, sobra man ang kaartehan mo! Dalian mo ta tibaad abuton kita ning matangang banggi digdi!”. (Ivan, all you need to do is cross the bridge! Quit acting up! Hurry because I don’t want to wait for you until midnight).

At around 3PM during the fluvial procession of September, 1972, I was standing along Elias Angeles street at the cross walk between Colegio de Santa Isabel and Naga Cathedral. There were a lot of vendors around cathedral selling toy clay guns and so I was checking them out when all of a sudden I heard a chorus of shouts coming from the direction of the Colgante bridge. At first, people were confused on what was going on but a lot of people from the crowd started running towards the colgante bridge. Being a little kid, I didn’t want to run along with the crowd in fear that I might get trampled. I heard people shouting in excitement, “Si Colgante na gaba!” (The Colgante collapsed!).

I went to Colgante bridge when I finally found it safe to go near it. The entrance towards the bridge was packed with excited on-lookers. It was chaotic. I was then standing on Pena Francia avenue and I could see people standing at the edge of where the bridge broke and they were looking down at the river. Majority of them are just curious bystanders. Fearing that my parents might get worried, I decided to go home. The next day, the Colgante bridge disaster hit the front page of Bulletin today, which is now called Manila Bulletin.

The following week, I started asking my classmates if they witnessed the tragedy. My classmates had “fantastic” stories that are mostly fabricated. One classmate told me that when the bridge broke, there was a man who was standing at the part of the bridge that broke and his body also broke into two. (How in the heck did that happened??). This student narrated in gruesome detail how the man’s guts spilled out when his body broke. Another student said that there were electric wires running under the bridge and when the bridge broke, the wires fell to the river and it electrocuted a lot of people killing them.

It took about another week or two before I decided to go to Colgante bridge to find out how it looked like. When I got there, there was a single lane cross bridge that was constructed along the side of the fallen bridge. Like the original wooden Colgante bridge, the tiny cross bridge would also sway when a person walk on it. When I was crossing the cross bridge, I looked down at the water. The bottom of the river is barely clear but I could see white objects that I could not identify. Someone told me that they were body parts but I did not believe them because the rescuers were able to retrieve all the bodies that were found underneath the bridge.

Crazy rumors swirled wildly regarding the incident. One known rumor claims that a "white lady" was seen on the bridge before it collapsed. Old folks told spooky stories to us children saying that every midnight and also during the early morning hours, a crying lady wearing a white robe would be seen gliding on water as if searching for souls that are still trapped under the muddy bottom of the river.

Memoirs of Tito Genova Valiente – Naga City

When I left home to watch the 1972 fluvial procession, I told my parents and relatives that I was going to watch the procession near the Colgante bridge. My high school classmates were with me that day and when we reached an area near the Colgante bridge, we saw that the crowd was thick as a bee hive. We decided not to squeeze through the crowd but instead decided to visit the home of a lovely girl named Maria Elena Peña. Maria Elena is the very first girl to grace the cover of Ateneo’s Blue and Gold school paper.

After our lively visit to Maria Elena’s house, we decided to walk back to Centro (downtown). While we were walking along Panganiban avenue heading to centro, we learned from other folks that the Colgante bridge fell. Along the way, we met Mang Edong Morales. Back in those days, there were just two names in photography known to the Catholic schools around the old cathedral: Mang Edong’s and the Bragais studio. No one went to Arevalo’s because that was
UNC’s territory. As we approached Mang Edong, we noticed that he was soaking wet. Mang Edong told us, “Nagaba Noy an Colgante!” (The Colgante collapsed). I am not sure if we
helped him but we rushed to the Colgante bridge to find out for ourselves what had happened. Grief and despair mobbed the scene. Names were being screamed. Roger Diaz, now an officer in the military, remembered the scene as a wet hell.

It was almost past six in the evening when I arrived back home. From the street, I could sense that our house was full of people and all the lights were on. When the people inside our house saw me, they all came alive with shouts, screams of surprise and relief. My sister cried. My grandmother’s voice in Tigaonon dialect went above the din: Ayaw na pag-uriti! (Don’t scold him anymore!)

When the excitement subsided, I was informed that one of the names that were listed as a fatality in the Colgante bridge tragedy was a Valiente. Upon hearing this, my uncles, brother and a cousin went to local radio stations in Naga to verify if I was indeed one of the people who died in the accident. My relatives also went to the provincial hospital and other sites to check the corpses taken from the Colgante. They went through agonizing moments while pulling the sheets off of every corpse to check their missing relative. I could not remember anything else at home. I did not even explain where I was for that would have been the most trivial explanation for that day.

Tony Lagniton - Buena Park, California, USAI was working as a salesman for Coca-Cola back in 1972 and I was assigned in Naga City. I was drinking beer with a couple of my friends in a house near the Colgante bridge. We had a good view of the Colgante from the veranda of the house. While we were watching the crowd at the Colgante bridge, we suddenly saw the whole bridge collapse before our eyes. The tragedy ended our drinking session immediately.

Junie Ablay – ADEN HS 1980, Colorado, USA
Our house was located near the Panganiban bridge along the banks of the Bicol river. When the news about the Colgante collapse reached my parents, they started gathering my brothers and sisters to make sure that all of us were accounted for. We were not allowed to leave the house. At around 6PM, we all saw a body floating at Bicol river near our house. Somebody came riding a bangka and retrieved the body.

Teody Laquindanum – ADEN HS 1980, Naga, Philippines
I left the house with my older first cousin, Benar Manalag, that day to watch the Pena Francia fluvial procession. Before we left, my mother told my cousin, “Bantayan mo yan si Teody. Dai mo pabayaan ta ika ang matuha”. (Watch your cousin Teody. Do not leave him because you are older). My cousin obediently agreed to my mother.

My cousin suggested that we watch the fluvial procession at the Colgante bridge. When we got to the bridge, we saw a lot of people on it. There were children and teenagers swimming on the river near the bridge and some children would go to the top middle part of the bridge and jump to the river. I also saw ice cream vendors chiming their tiny bells, balloon vendors waiting for customers and balot vendors roaming among the crowd. The atmosphere was merry and relaxed.

We have been waiting at the bridge for about an hour already when I felt the bridge sway a little bit. I heard a teenager shout, “Magagaba na ang tulay!” (The bridge is going to collapse). Something inside me told me to leave the bridge. When I told my cousin that I wanted to leave, he became upset, telling me, “Ano ka na man Teody? Idtong harani nang mag abot ang pagoda, saka man gusto mong mag hali. Kung gusto mong umuli, magsulo kang umuli!” (What’s the matter with you, Teody? Just when the barge carrying the image is about to arrive, you decide that you want to leave. If you want to go home, go home alone!) I responded to my cousin, “Mapuli ako pero bahala kang mag explika kay nanay!” (I am going home alone but you have to explain this to Mom). This made Benar worried because he remembered that my mother specifically instructed him to watch over me. Benar was quite perturbed when we left Colgante bridge. It was about 15 minutes later after we left the Colgante bridge when we heard that the bridge collapsed. We were able to dodged disaster because I listened to that voice inside me.

Bunny Fulgentes – ADEN HS 1979, Simi Valley, California USAI was a third grader back in September 1972. The following week after the Colgante bridge tragedy, we came back to school at Naga Parochial school and found one of my classmates named Arnel Avila missing. All my classmates at Taal section wondered where Arnel was. Our teacher sadly told us that Arnel was one of the fatalities of the Colgante bridge disaster.

My sister, Ingga, also told me that one of the teachers of Colegio de Sta Isabel died at Colgante.

Sem Cordial – ADEN HS 1980, Manila Philippines
From the Cathedral, I saw a tall crane that was brought in by the city engineers to clean up the remains of the old wooden bridge. It was also used to reconstruct the Colgante bridge.

Ricky “Guitarman” Sadiosa – ADEN HS 1980, Hong Kong
I was standing along the side of the wall of Colegio De Santa Isabel near the Colgante when the bridge collapsed. Things became chaotic and people started running along the shores of the Bicol river. Some people who witnessed the disaster help retrieve the victims.

I did not bother to squeeze through the crowd because of the panic. There were a lot of frantic people calling out the names of their relatives that they believed might have been at the bridge or along the river banks. There were people in the water but I did not see the conditions of the ones who fell off the bridge and the ones that died. I tried to run towards the broken bridge but the crowd was very thick. I saw that there were a lot of people who died. They had a hard time locating the victims because the water was either black or dark brown. Many were never found. Bodies which were pulled out of the wreck were lined up along the shore and some were covered with newspapers and blankets.

People who were rescued had all sorts of wounds. There was no organized rescue effort because the police did not devote time to prepare for such a disaster. They mainly focused their efforts on controlling the size of the crowd on the bridge, which they failed to do so.

When the barge carrying the Pena Francia image came close to the Colgante bridge, hoards of people rushed towards the bridge. The police felt helpless in preventing the overcrowding of the bridge. This is my recollection of the Colgante tragedy.

Emmanuel Matias – UNC engineering grad, San Francisco, California
When I was a kid, we used to live in Naga city subdivision. From the second floor of our house, we saw trucks carrying the bodies of the Colgante bridge tragedy being delivered to the radio station located along Panganiban avenue.

Rex Imperial – ADEN HS 1975 – Antipolo, Philippines
I was having a drinking session with the Morales brothers at the Morales Studio located in front of our house when all of a sudden we heard a commotion coming from everywhere. After hearing that the Colgante bridge had collapsed, my co-drinkers got worried and told me that their father was at the bridge taking pictures. They immediately got up and rushed to the scene. I was about to go with them but I was too drunk to do so. So I opted to stay behind and drink some coffee to make me sober. I listened to the radio and was able to monitor what was happening at the bridge. It was then that I learned that many died at the incident.

After waiting for about an hour or so, we saw Mang Edong (The father of the Moral
es brothers) arrived at the house all wet. He had some bruises on his arms and face but he looked alright. I also saw his professional camera strapped at his side all wet and slightly damaged. Obviously, he was one of the victims but fortunately he survived.

Mang Edong narrated to us how he survived by holding on a beam as the bridge collapsed underneath him. According to him, the people who died either drowned or got crushed from the falling debris. I remember that the bridge was made of lumber. We were all glad that Mang Edong was safe

Gerry Zantua – ADEN HS 1980, Legaspi, Philippines
I don't have vivid memories of the colgante collapse since we were still in grade III then. As far as I can remember, my brothers and I were at the compound of the Ursua family at Penafrancia Avenue. We always go to the Ursua’s residence every Pena Francia fiesta to watch the fluvial procession.

From the vantage point of the Ursua’s backyard, we saw the horrific collapse of the Colgante bridge. Our dear "Ina" had not yet passed under the bridge because only a few boats had gone through when the bridge collapsed. I even saw somebody jumped down to the river as the bridge was collapsing. People tried to scramble up the collapsed bridge but it was a futile effort because as they tried to climb up the bridge, another portion of the bridge completely crumbled.

As we went home at our house in Concepcion avenue near the Provincial hospital, we went by the compound of DZRB station (now ABS-CBN station). There we saw the dead bodies of the victims laying on the basketball court. These were the cadavers that were not accommodated by the provincial hospital. Curious people lining up to see the bodies and many tried to find out if they could recognize anyone of them as being either their relative or friend.

Iyo lang yan garo ang naguiguiromdoman ko, or naubusan na ako ning ingles. After a few days, Marcos declared martial law. But that is a whole different story.

Bogs Abogado – ADEN HS 1980, Manila, Philippines

What I can recall from that Colgante incident was that my aunt told us about the tragic incident after she came back from watching the fluvial procession. It was a national tragedy that was in the front pages of Bulletin Today and Daily Express, which were the leading newspapers at that time. The recovery efforts made by the Philippine Navy divers was in the news everyday. The scene was very gruesome as you get to see many bloated bodies being recovered daily. Many of the dead are women and children.

Cezar Bagadion – ADEN HS 1980, Manila, Philippines
I was at home when we heard over the radio late afternoon about Colgante's tragic collapse. I remember going to the site together with some of my friends the following day. Rescue and retrieval operations were still on going and the only memories which left a permanent imprint in my mind were the broken bridge and the numerous slippers of different sizes and shapes which were strewn all over the place with some still floating on the river. There was a lot of sadness in our neighborhood during that time. I really don't know for how long was it...but for a good period of time, I did not walk going to NPS simply because the colgante bridge was an integral part of my route.

Bobet Refran – ADEN HS 1980, Pampanga, Philippines
Ang tulay kang Colgante ay naging parte na kang buhay ko iyan. Ang boarding house mi kaidto ay mga 200 meters lang from that bridge. Isa pang landmark dyan so para baduya dyan sa pag isakat kan tulay bago tumawid sa Blumentritt. May phobia na ako sa harani dyan between Elias Angeles street and Pena Francia avenue tombok ang colgante bridge ta nakikilan kami ni Victor Saulon dyan ning biente sinko centavos tapos may kaereba pang suntok sa pandok.

Pena Francia is really our devotion kaya yearly our family participates on that religious occasion. Natatandaan ko pa kaidto ang ama ko na legitimate na taga Naga from San Filipe. Dyan siya nag dakula and ang nanay ko naman ay from Tigaon. Both of them decided to stay in Tigaon.

Pagpoon sana kan traslasyon excited na kam
i maka duman sa Naga. Usually after lunch nag aarkela sinda nin jeep kaereba ang mga deboto sa tigawon para mag traslasyon. When we reached Naga, nagbababa kami along Pena Francia avenue sa tapat kan police station na harani sa Camarines sur high school ta aram kong malimpoy ang lugar na idto dahil sa darakulaon na acacia trees. We have to wait hangan sa pag agi kan divino rostro ta duman kami minasunod sa pag prosesyon.

During the fluvial, ang lugar naman na pig hehelengan mi kan sakay
ni INA sa banks of the river na harani sa Magsaysay bridge un dakulaon na vacant lot na sadire daa kan mga Abella na usually open un for public pag fluvial, thanks doon sa may sadere kan daga. Maengat ang papa ko pag abot sa mga ganon sitwasyon. Habo niya kaming masaktan during the prosesyon dahil nga sa mga nag boboya, dae macontrol ang crowd. So minarayo na sana kami.

Kan mangyari na ngane ang trahedya, nakalagpas na si INA sa colgante bridge sa sobrang kagalakan asin kaogmahan kan mga naghereleng duman sa tulay. Sabi nag rulokso pa ngane daa so mga tawo kaya lalong nag kaigwa impact ang kahoy asin gurang ng tulay. Sa heleng ko more than 300 person ang napasama sa wreckage kan tulay.

Aram ko nag responde kaidto so opisina na Papa (Malaria Eradication Service na under sinda kaidto kan Department of Health ) kasi igwa sinda kaidto nin speed boat saka mga service na pick-up and jeep na ang tatak kan awto ninda JEEP made in USA. Igwa pa ngane nin kamot na nag aabrasahan and may background na bandera kan kano asin pinoy. Ganyan kadayopot ang pag ka amigohan kan pinoy asin kano kan panahon heheh.

Anyway, mayo kaming direct contact kan pangyayari, iyan sana ang nagegeromdoman ko. After so long na dai ako naka-attendir ning fluvial, nakabalik uli ako sa Naga para mag-attendir pero solosolo na lang ako ta mayo na akong kaereba. Duman man geraray ako nagdadalan sa sinabi kong lugar para magpasalamat ki INA. Kaya kan pag agi niya sa tapat ko during the fluvial, para ka bang binigyan ng bagong lakas after so long time na nalingawan mo siya and besides napaluha na sana ako ta naaalala ko kasi so teen age life ko sa NAGA CITY and dakulaon na tabang asin tinukdo niya sa sadiri ko. All my achievements and my failures ini offer ko na sa kanya. Nagpapasalamat man ako dahil naging Bikolano ako, dahil naging taga Tigawon ako, dahil naging Atenista ako, and dahil naging friend and batch mates ko kamo. All these things ay parte na kan life natin na minsan masarap gunitain.Jose C. Camano – Philippines.

I was already in college and writing for the Bicol Mail, a local newspaper, when I encountered my guardian angel.

In September 1972, few days before I was arrested by the agents of Philippine Constabu
lary, I was on the wooden Colgante bridge that connected the Penafrancia Avenue to Tabuco Avenue awaiting the fluvial procession of the Lady of Penafrancia. Since the route of the water procession passes under the Colgante bridge, I felt that being on the bridge would be an ideal spot for a reporter covering the fluvial procession.

People were jostling and pushing in that crowded bridge. It was very uncomfortable on Colgante and I felt that I was being pushed and led out of the bridge. I left the bridge and had tried to look for another spot where I can observe the fluvial procession but I found none. I then proceeded to downtown and tried to skip the procession

After spending sometime at downtown and looking at the thriller photos outside the movie house, I went back to Colgante Bridge. There I saw the collapse bridge and bodies of people being fished off from the river one by one pinned under the collapsed wooden beams of the bridge. My gardian angel did not only spare me from certain death but also shielded me from the trauma and agony of witnessing people helplessly struggle under water as they gasped their last breath before drowning.

Bodies were piled at DZRB radio station at Concepcion Pequeňa where they could be identified by relatives and friends. I proceeded to the radio station and had to hop from one body onto another that were laid on the dusty hall. The body count reach to about 50. I recognized one of the died as the security guard of the local branch of the Philippine National Bank who was known as “Jess Lapid” because he resembled the actor.

It was the first time in the history of the Penafrancia celebration where the image did not complete the whole route of the fluvial procession.

I was not able to draw any meaning from this tragedy. Was it a way of communicating to the people that the ritual should be discontinued? After all, the voyadores that came to worship and carry the image from the shrine to the cathedral and back to her shrine were mostly drunk, rowdy and wild men. The atmosphere was far from contemplative and spiritual event. Some voyadores might have been motivated by joyful spirituality when they have devoted their lives to being the Lady’s noble escorts year after year. But this meaningful devotion is oftentimes diluted by others who are just there due to just sheer fanaticism and fun. Viva La Beer Gin.

Joaquin F. Perez - Philippines
I can still vividly remember the events that happened on that tragic Third Saturday of September, 1972.

My wife, Bebot, and I were bedridden with Influenza, in our room overlooking Mesirecordia Street. Our ears then were glued to our transistor radio following the progress of the fluvial procession. All of a sudden the radio announcer cried out, amidst shouts of ‘Viva la Virgen,’ that the wooden Colgante Bridge was breaking up! Then there was a sudden eerie silence (we were told later that the announcer went down with the Bridge and was listed as one of the fatali
ties). When I looked out our window I could see a succession of wet bloated bodies being carried on the dripping wet bare backs of ‘voyadores’ on their way to Radio Station DZRB in Panganiban! We later learned that the final body count reached more than a hundred! Papa Johnny, my father-in-law, was near the bridge, and was able to save about 5 men and women, with his military experience as a U.S. Veteran! There were, unfortunately, some who also died while pitifully trying to save others.

The following are a few information I was able to gather during my research.The Colgante bridge was 15 years old back in 1972. It was built with steel grinders and wooden planks. It was not able to support the weight of 1000 people that stood on top of the bridge to watch the fluvial procession. When it collapsed, it fell 30 feet into the water.

Four days after the colgante bridge fell, public concern over the victims took a back seat because martial law was declared. The Philippine media network was ordered closed by Marcos and journalists were hunted down by the Philippine Constabulary and army.

As the Colgante victims were being mourned and buried, then Public Information Secretary
Francisco “Kit” Tatad, read on television proclamation number 1081 on the eve of September 21, 1972.

The city mayor of Naga city back in 1972 was Vicente Sibulo. Due to declaration of martial law, mayor Sibulo found it hard to mobilize the city government’s resources. Mayor Sibulo was the leader of the Liberal Party which opposed Marcos’s Nacionalista Party. When Sibulo asked the Department of Public Works & Highways to lend their crane, the officials there initially hesitated. But due to the magnitude of the tragedy, the officials became humane enough and lent their equipment to haul away the debris of the fallen bridge.

Even though the colgante tragedy captured national headlines, the Marcos administration only responded three days after the tragedy. Mayor Sibulo said that he was forced to ally himself to the Marcos administration because it was the only way Marcos will release the funds to construct a new concrete Colgante bridge.

Manuel Sadiua, a member of the Naga City Press Club, arrived minutes after the bridge fell. Sadiua lost count of the number of bodies that were pulled out from the river. He remembered the bodies were laid side by side at the pavement of the former radio site of Radyo Ng Bayan three blocks from the river.

As darkness fell, police and ambulance sirens can be heard around the area. The Church bells tolled like a mother wailing in agony for the death of her child. It is believed that a number of the dead victims were electrocuted because there were decorative lights on the bridge that day. Philippine navy frogmen worked to locate and retrieve the bodies of the victims. Several unclaimed cadavers were wrapped in brown paper and placed in hastily built boxes.

Most of the guards at the Naga City jail rushed to the Colgante bridge to assist in the rescue operation. Only two guards were left at the jail. Sensing their opportunity to escape, the prisoners caused a mock riot to draw the 2 guards into the cells. The guards were overpowered and 47 out of the 52 prisoners escaped. Five prisoners were later captured.

Police detective Major Eduardo Rey remembered that day. “It was like a nightmare. I was about 240 meters from the Colgante bridge riding on the barge carrying the Pena Francia image when the bridge collapsed before my eyes. The next thing I knew, people were bobbing up and down the dark waters of the river clawing one another to stay afloat. It was every man for himself.”

The Colgante bridge was deemed unfit for vehicular traffic after a typhoon hit the region on June 1972 that weakened the bridge’s foundation. This was the second time the bridge collapse. The first one was just a suspension-type bridge made with steel matting and cables. During the fluvial procession on September 1948, the old Colgante bridge broke killing 30 people.

Emmanuel Enalpe, a roving correspondent of the Philippine ABS-CBN network said he was monitoring live coverage of the two reporters on the bridge when all of a sudden the coverage went off the air. One of the reporters who died was Mila Obias. Before Obias fell to her death, the last things that she said in the Bicol dialect was, (translated) “Here is our beloved Lady. Let us rejoice and give thanks to the kind Lady for her blessings…” The coverage was cut after that.

Parts of a Naga city newspaper article published on September 20, 2000 entitled “The colgante tragedy and Ina’s tender mercies” by Jose Fernando P. Obias.Then Naga City police chief Pama appointed Patrolman Ernesto Idian as an investigating officer in the Colgante tragedy. Patrolman Idian recalled his observations.

“Corroded iron barrel bolts were what was then found and salvaged from the pile and tumble of timber—the remnants of what was once a wooden bridged called Colgante. The barrel bolts appeared still whole in the inside but their shaft embedded in the wood has tapered and corroded. I would say that the tragedy of the Colgate bridge did not strike on September 1972. It actually happened a long time prior to the collapse of the bridge.

I spent many days scouring the area on a boat trying to understand through the maze of broken tattered timber and broken wood how the bridge collapsed in seconds. Every night for a month between 8 to 9 in the evening, people claimed to hear groans and moans from the collapsed bridge.”
When Colgante bridge collapsed, the voyadores realized that it was useless to proceed by boat. Msgr. Salvador Naz and Msgr. Domingo Nebres instructed the image be removed from her andas. The image was then carried ashore by passing it from one voyadores onto another. The house near the river shore where the image was carried to is owned by Francisco C. Asetre, who is a dispatcher of Pantranco (now Philtranco). During that time, Mr. Asetre was building his house and he had piles of lumber stacked up near the river bank. Asetre said that he bought the high quality lumber in Tamban, Tinambac, Camarines Sur. The voyadores then asked Astre if

they could use his lumber because the path up the river bank was slippery. Astre gave permission and so the lumber were piled up on the river bank and banana trees were cut to clear a path going up the hill from the river bank. This path is known by the residents in surrounding barangays as “Hinawasan”—A Bicol word that referenced the point where the image disembarked. One witness claims that the Ina image was transported through Dayangdang and Magsaysay avenues and reached its final destination at Pena Francia church.

Some people blamed Imelda Marcos for the accident because she boarded the barge carrying the venerated image of the Blessed Mother and as per tradition no other female is supposed to be in it, except for the Pena Francia image.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yours truly was enrolled in the Ateneo de Naga from outside Bikol a year later or 1973.

But we would go to Naga for summer vacation. A couple or so times we were driven along Penafrancia Avenue. Can recall seeing the old bridge for a few seconds.

Thanks for this article, Ivan.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Ivan. i am fortunate to have found your article. we are asking your help for our documentary video of the Colgante tragedy. we want to make you as one of our sources. your blog is a huge help. if you're willing, please give us a call 811-3655. please look for maskom. or please leave us your contact information. or for FaceBook account. thank you.

4:15 AM  
Blogger Narratives of a Novice said...

Dear Maskom,

I am pleased to hear that you have chosen my Colgante bridge blog article as one of your references in the historical video documentary that you are working on. Please feel free to read and share any information that you see in my blog.

I reside here in California and so if you would like to talk to me, we will have to set up a schedule where I can call you during the day (that would be evening here in California).

The phone number that you mentioned in your email belongs to the Naga Science High School. Are you a student in that school? There is one well known student that attends that school and that is Jillian Robredo. She does not know me but I have seen her a number of times in the Filipino news channel. I recently wrote a very short article about my memoir regarding her father. It is posted in my blog. Here is the link:

For years now, I have been writing historical articles with the hopes of sharing the rich knowledge and heritage of the past to the current generation. All my research are done during my free time and so I always share the information freely to others.

I am hoping for success in your research work. Hopefully your work can entice the current generation to experience the joys of knowing the rich history of the Philippines and the world.

For the love of the Philippines and its history.


6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! i just found a gem in the muddy search for truth. thank you so much Ivan. actually i thought my comment in your blog wasn't accepted for technical reasons. of course i am glad to receive your very favorable reply. i am even surprised to realize you're living in California. i thought i was just connecting with a fellow Nagueño somewhere in the city or elsewhere in the country. the very good thing is you have just given us one big help. we can't be more inspired for this development. what a real surprise!

we have just registered officially for the contest sponsored by SMART organizations, and we have sent Colgante stories as our official entry. incidentally, on good graces, a local newspaper reported august 9 that tomorrow august 31 a ceremony will be offered for the tragedy in honor of the victims. a commemorative marker which bears the names of the victims will be installed in the site. we are confirming the news and if it pushes through as reported, we will go to the event. you can expect a report from us.

by the way i am one of the faculty here and yes, jillian is one of our students.

we hope to get more information from you. we hope you will allow us to send you questions that hopefully you can shed light on.

as the teacher coach of the team, i would like to ask you to be one of our sources in our documentary.

Dios mabalos pong na marhay.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello glad that a very good friend from Naga City forwarded a link to your blog. Thank you for writing about The Colgante Bridge.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name of the Police Detective is incorrect, It should be Major Eduardo Rey, not Major Eduardo Reyes.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Narratives of a Novice said...

You are right. It is Major Eduardo Rey. I always welcome notes from readers that extend a helping hand in adding or correcting certain information in my articles. Thank you.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Leonida Parada said...

Hi Ivan. Good day! I am happy that I found your blog. I would like to request if you could entitled me to get some ideas about your article for my research paper. "Catastrophe: Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia." It is one of my requirements for Philippine History subject. If you're willing, please feel free to email me at I would appreciate a reply at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! May I share your post po in our FB page? The Colgante tragedy is so much a part of our history and one that should never be forgotten. Kaya thank you po sa blog mo, dakol po akong nanudan.

By any chance po, do you have a blog post po regarding that time Ina was stolen in 1981?

Salamat po ulit! Dyos mabalos!

3:59 AM  

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