The Abra River is one of the largest rivers in the Philippines. It is born in the heights of Mount Data in Benguet where the headwaters of other four big rivers in northern Luzon are also found. From Mount Data, it flows west on a precipitous slope to the town of Cervantes in Ilocos Sur and then north through the Abra Province. It turns west in the vicinity of Lagangilang, Abra, and empties into the South China Sea just South of Vigan City.

The river basin is a scant 125 km in length but its intricate meanders make the river reach some 180 km, nothing great as rivers go but what it lacks in length is more than compensated by the amount of water it carries and the area of its basin spreading through 5,125 square kilometers. At the height of the rainy season, the lower half of the river can be as wide as one kilometer or more.

Near the sea, a very wide Abra River cuts across three mountain ranges through the 9-km Banaoang gap (aereal photo at left). During the rainy season the volume of water flowing though the river increases dramatically, the gap effectively constricting its flow, with the effect that the river level raises to great height and the waters rush through the gap turbulently.

The important road connecting Manila and Central Luzon with the Ilocos region crosses the Abra River through the Quirino Bridge (also called Banaoang bridge) at the Western end of the Banaoang gap (photos below). The bridge has a critical and strategic communications importance for there is no other way to connect effectively most of the Ilocos Region with the  rest of Luzon to the south except by an exceedingly long detour along the coast to the north through Laoag, Claveria and Aparri, and down through the Cagayan Valley.

Originally an elegant truss bridge, it suffered often the destructive force of the river's turbulent waters during the rainy season, at times making the bridge impassable. In the flood brought by a typhoon in 2001, one of the spans was washed away. The span was repaired but with different trusses than the original, which gave it a very awkward look.

To prevent repetition of the communications interruptions due to floods and typhoons in this strategic area, a new bridge was built some 320 meters to the west (downriver) which was inaugurated in December of 2009. The new bridge creates a shortcut in the road layout to Vigan. In contrast to the old truss bridge the new one is a beam bridge with nine spans laid higher over the river bed and at almost half a kilometer, it is longer than the old one.

Check video on the bridge elsewhere in this website.

Original Quirino (Banaoang) bridge

Old truss bridge with a repaired second span
New beam bridge built in 2009
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Web Page by Jose R. Perdigon
Last Updated Sept., 2013
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