After reading about Magellan landing in Umatac by the sea in our school books when I was a child, it never occurred to me to challenge it. At least we know that he was smart enough to pick the month of March to visit Guam. Had he chosen to sail into the Bay in September, he could have been discouraged from landing by stormy weather at that time of the year.
In recent years we have heard some skepticism on whether Magellan actually landed at Umatac or elsewhere on Guam; or, for that matter, elsewhere in the Mariana Islands. We defer to others on that point.
Regardless of the outcome of that debate, the Spaniards considered Umatac Bay important enough to guard it with four forts, two of which still stand today: Fort Soledad on the south which is still in remarkably good condition and Fort Santo Angel on the north. Two other forts are in ruins.
Galleons sailing between Mexico and Manila often replenished their food and water supplies in the "Spanish port of Umatac". The town became prosperous and there was much activity between Umatac and Agana.
As in the case of Spanish settlements around the globe during that time, the main road was named El Camino Real, the King's Highway. That road extended from Umatac to Agana and ran along the southeast coast of the island.
There is a bridge in Umatac which does not even look like a Spanish bridge made of stone on the surface. Decades ago, an asphalt road was built over it and motorists drive on it by the hundreds daily without realizing they are driving over a Spanish bridge built centuries ago. Water from Sadok Castillo still runs under the bridge.
Captivating scenes of Cetti and Sella Bays are familiar to everyone on Guam and tempt the viewer to visit them. Be aware that these are difficult places to reach either by land or sea. We chose to go by sea but the sea acted like a horse that did not want a rider. The fabled coral rocks and shoals that are nightmarish to navigators were everywhere but we lucked out and landed safely and the sight that greeted us was the Spanish bridge over Sella Bay, part of El Camino Real, still in excellent condition.
Within a hundred yards from the bridge are the remains of a Spanish beehive oven and a Latte site which the fervent jungle keeps covering after its last visitors leave. The lush jungle growth near the bridge momentarily catapulted me back to a time when such natural settings were not constantly threatened by thoughtlessness and neglect.
Structurally, the bridge remains imposing and impressive due to the care given by our territorial Parks Department. Happily, the bridge has a a lovely resident, the legendary mermaid, Sirena, who moved there in recent years. Sadly, like the beautiful city of Agana, it has stepped aside from being in the mainstream to serving as a depository of stagnant muddy water. A bridge over a river that no longer flows.