Governor Generoso Bridge

Before it became known as Generoso Bridge, that spans over Davao River was, during American rule, a military-type pontoon bridge, a floating platform with barges to support the bridge deck. Though it was considered temporary and fast to disassemble, it served the purpose of allowing automobile and commuter traffic to cross the river with ease.

At the initiative of the national government, the truss bridge was upgraded and named in honor of Sebastian Generoso, whose first term as Davao governor was in 1925. On September 14, 1930, the bridge was inaugurated.

Curiously, the reasons cited to justify the naming of the span after a politician are vague given that Generoso, as governor, was reprimanded, suspended, and eventually dismissed from public service.

Some online ‘copy and paste’ entries, meanwhile, have erroneously attributed the name of the bridge to Armando Generoso, purportedly the governor’s son who died while defending the span during World War II.

Take note that the bridge was built in 1930, eleven years before Davao region was sucked in the global conflict on December 8, 1941.

During the war, the span, known also as Bankerohan Bridge, was partially destroyed after it was bombed. Lt. Col. James Olivier, son of Flora Carbonell, a school supervisor in Davao City in the 1930s, wrote in his autobiography, My Wars and In Between: A Memoir (2016):

“[According to our lawyer Raul O. Tolentino] the partial destruction of the Bankerohan Bridge [was done] by his father, a member of the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). Raul’s father had orders to bomb the Bankerohan Bridge if an armed enemy unit approached the bridge. When the Japanese military force neared the bridge, the senior Tolentino went into action but was not able to complete his job because he had run out of explosives. He had not been provided sufficient dynamite or other explosives to successfully finish the job as directed. He just used what he had available and left the bridge in disrepair but not completely taken down.”

Interviewing survivors of the war, Craig B. Smith, in Counting the Days: POWs, Internees, and Stragglers of World War II in the Pacific (2010), wrote about the experiences the prisoners suffered, the iconic Davao span and the landmarks found not too far from it:

“Traveling southwest out of the city, one finds the Davao River and the rebuilt Generoso Bridge that Hugh Wills and others scuttled on December 20, 1941. A few miles past the bridge, on the MacArthur Highway is the site of the Happy Life Blues Cabaret. The camp was razed after the war. Later the La Suerte cockpit was built on the site.”

Wills, a mine operator at Davao Gold Mine, with wife Jane and daughter Ida (in some accounts Trudi), fled Davao at the height of the conflict and sought refuge in Bukidnon under the Del Monte group. The mining firm he worked with was owned by the Elizaldes with claims in Hijo, then part of today’s municipality of Maco, Davao de Oro.

In later decades, a parallel bridge, aptly called Generoso Bridge I, was built to ease traffic. It accommodated nearly the same volume of transport and greatly helped ease traffic flow from the northern and southwest sectors of the city.

With the growing vehicular traffic pouncing the bridge daily due to the development boom engulfing Davao City, the old bridge, also known as Generoso II, which is also accessible from the western sector, collapsed in 2007.

With a budget of P216 million from the national government, through the public works and highways department, the renovated bridge, which took over five months to complete, was inaugurated on June 9, 2008 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Years later, a narrow suspension bridge was built between two Generoso bridges. It was constructed by the Davao City Water District to hold its huge supply pipeline that distributes potable water to the city proper. Adding glamor to the metal suspenders serving as guy wires are the bright lights that illuminate the premises and the water on either side of the bridges.

In 2019, as part of its maintenance and rehabilitation, the twin bridges undertook waterproofing on its decks as protection barrier against contaminants like water, road de-icing salts, and destructive chemicals that corrode reinforcement bars inside the concrete. Asphalt overlay, thermoplastic pavement markings, and painting of bridge railings were also applied.