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White elephant in Bohol now a new tourist attraction

Loboc Jumbo Bridge was once called ‘monument to stupidity’


[ Manila Bulletin Online ] December 30, 2008

By JUNE S. BLANCO


LOBOC, Bohol -- This tourist town has a new attraction.


Not a new structure – nor a new discovery – but just putting to good use an erstwhile white elephant that was once described by then Public Works and Highways Secretary Gregorio Vigilar as "a monument to stupidity" that best exemplifies an unsavory phenomenon of "how not to build a bridge."


Sticking out like a sore thumb in Poblacion, Loboc, 24 kilometers northeast of the capital, Tagbilaran City, the Loboc Jumbo Bridge also bagged an infamous kalabasa (squash) award for being so despicably expensive and yet, cannot be used as intended because it has not been completed – until now.


Rather than crying over spilt milk, however, Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado sought the turnover of the structure from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to the local government unit (LGU).


And philanthropists – still in consultation with the governor and Mayor Leon Calipusan – took over from there.


Richard Uy, chairman of the First Consolidated Bank (FCB), continued his late father Alfonso’s vision and life mission of helping those who need help the most – carrying on his father’s legacy of corporate social responsibility (CSR).


The late Alfonso consolidated 14 rural banks in Bohol – a first in the country –strengthening them in the process by pooling resources to serve more its countryside clientele.


Today, FCB with head office in Tagbilaran City has branches all over the country.


In his memory, Richard spearheaded the renovation work on the bridge – engaging a National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA)-accredited Architect German Torero to design it so that it will blend with the design of the nearby church and belfry.


To note, the clamor of the parishioners and art lovers had prevented the completion of the bridge: They had expressed apprehension that driving the piles into the earth to support the ramp from the superstructure to ground level might destroy the church, the belfry or both.


The Loboc church is the second oldest stone church in Bohol – next only to the four-century-old Baclayon church.


As such, the structure is accessible by vehicles only from its Jimilian side across the Loboc River.


People can now cross the river through this bridge though, and this came after FCB spent some R4 million in corporate funds to install tiles, build a stairway on the Poblacion side and adding enhancements to turn the bridge into a promenade.


The municipal government of Loboc under Mayor Calipusan, it was learned, is tasked to provide ornamental plants and landscaping and transform it into what Aumentado calls the "Hanging Garden of Loboc," a la Babylon of biblical times.


Alfonso’s widow Paz, his brother Mario, the "deputy mayor" of Tagbilaran, and Aumentado unveiled the marker of what is now known as the Alfonso L. Uy Promenade. This came short after blessing rites last Friday afternoon, witnessed by the Uy clan, some came all the way from the United States – close family friends and guests.


A short program at the nearby Loboc Children’s Theater followed, capped by a performance of both the Loboc Children’s Choir and choir alumni and the Loboc Youth Ambassador Band.


In his inspirational message, Aumentado described the unveiling ceremony as another historic and glorious moment for Loboc and Bohol. It recognizes the philanthropy of one of the greatest Boholanos of all time and inscribes in the hearts and minds of the Boholanos the man who worked not only for his family but his province as well.


Aside from his philanthropic works, the founding chairman of the then First Consolidated Rural Bank Inc. went on to become one of Tagbilaran’s councilors and preached the benefits of cooperativism with a passion.


Dinner at the floating restaurant – and a visit to the world-class air-conditioned rest rooms -- rounded up the tourism experience of the Uy clan this Christmas.


Why Loboc? Alfonso’s father had owned a general merchandise store that served most Lobocanons’ needs only a few meters from the bridge.


The family later moved to Tagbilaran where the third-generation Uys were born.


Richard also received for his father a posthumous President Carlos P. Garcia Leadership Award from Aumentado during the celebration of the 112th birthday anniversary last Nov. 4 of the only Boholano so far to become President of the Republic of the Philippines.

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