Jose Rizal's Pasig River: Loving it, caring for it, one boat ride at a time

Coming from a city by the river, I couldn't help being interested in Jose Rizal's Ilog Pasig.

There is something about Iloilo River at high tide, in daytime, that makes the rhythm of life in the city beats faster than usual. I could feel how everyday lazy provincial life quickens....the mood changes...there's urgency as the blue waters rush through the farthest depths of inland Iloilo.

Stone wall in Intramuros commemorates 400 years of galleon trade and 
 expedition between Mexico and Philippines

This stone wall marker in Plaza Mexico, Intramuros commemorates 400 years of galleon trade and expedition between Mexico and the Philippines.


Rizal was just as affected by Ilog Pasig as I am with Iloilo River. Which is why, I expected the same impact the first time I got a glimpse of Pasig River more than 20 years ago. But, alas! It was not to be. It was black and lifeless! How disappointing. At least that's what I thought it was. The culprit? Industrial and human garbage!

Today, fortunately, the efforts of many to save Pasig, and most particularly of the former first lady Ming Ramos, are paying off. For Rizal's Pasig River is moving again, observes modern historian, Ambeth Ocampo. "The color has changed, and I hear fish are in existence!" What would Rizal do had he lived today, I wonder. But then, I agree with Mr. Ocampo: "Rizal would have been pleased" because his beloved Pasig is coming to life, though, slowly but surely, I hope.

"References to the Pasig River and Laguna de Bay abound in Rizal's writings," notes Ocampo, who confessed to have built his career on the Philippine hero.

"Witness to my griefs...."

In Rizal's book El Filibusterismo, translated by the late Ma. Soledad Lacson-Locsin, the opening scene is that of a Filipino steamship TABO "ardously sailing upstream through the winding course of Pasig River." In "By the Banks of the Pasig River," he, according to Maria Pia Benosa's executive summary of the lyric poem, invites listeners to join him on a banca trip to Antipolo and bask in the beauty of the Pasig River".....Yet, the most poignant tag he'd ever give to Pasig was as "witness to my griefs."

Griefs no more, I pray, because the 25km long river that originates from Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, is coming to life. A million thanks to the efforts of people who care enough to rehabilitate the river. I enjoin everyone to continue the efforts.

The best way to show support - use Pasig River

Besides making financial contributions and helping keeping it clean, the best way to show your support is by using the water thoroughfare. Take the ferry boats plying from Plaza Mexico station in Intramuros to Sta. Elena station in Marikina City, if you could.

Last Friday, February 12, I had the opportunity to enjoy the boat ride from Binondo to Makati City and have a feel of the river even though the experience isn't close to Rizal's in his time. It wasn't Hongkong's Star Ferry, but it's alright.

 River Ferry Intramuros station passenger lounge.

This neat and clean lounge in Intramuros station offers refreshing comfort to tired and harassed passengers.


Loving the Ferry Network

Instead of casco and banca, it's catamaran-type ferry boats serving the entire network. The fun starts from the moment I bought my ticket. At Binondo station, while waiting for the ferry, I struck a conversation with some people who obliged me with their opinion of the water bus service as a whole. It could be summed up as: quite useful! I also learn that almost 99% of them are regular passengers.

Taking particular interest in everything along the river banks, it was pleasurable to get a glimpse of Malacanang Palace at last...and the lady who sat beside me was beaming with pride, too. Our main interest, it seems, was seeing Pasig River becoming useful and coming to life once more.

I am glad that both government and private interests are working together to restore to good condition this vital thoroughfare. It's part of our culture and it's only proper that we are putting it back in our hearts, where it should belong. That means, we should love it, care for it and save it every possible way we can.

I will be cruising the river again, with a friend. This time, we shall start at Plaza de Mexico and will try to land in Marikina City, where the last station is located. From Marikina city, we plan to revisit Rizal's birthplace, Calamba and have a look at the museum dedicated to him. We also plan to take our lunch in Tagaytay City then on to Cavite to check out the Geronimo de los Reyes Museum which holds the original photo of the execution of Jose Rizal in Bagumbayan.

Keep returning to this page for updates.

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