#MetroManilaDiaries The Pasig River Ferry

It was in the song “Anak ng Pasig” that the writer cries about the people’s maltreatment of Pasig River. True enough the former life of Metro Manila was destroyed by the industrialization and boom of the poor urban population. It’s far from how Rizal sees the river in the El Filibusterismo. In chaprer one of the novel the steam ship Tabo was passing the river from Manila going to Laguna de Bay. On board were folks from all walks of life during the Spanish period. With the debate on going, the people stopped and were mesmerized by then striking houses, owned by the rich, built on the banks of Pasig River. Nowadays these houses seen by Rizal were replaced by factories, oil depot and barges in the name of industrialization.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel they say. This holds trie with the ongoing rehabilitation being conducted by some NGO. The Pasig River will soon be a passable river for human movement and activities. 

True enough the MMDA or the Metro Manila Development Authority re-opened the Pasig River ferry last April of 2014. the once closed river now again transports people from Pasig and Makati to Manila. It’s far from what Rizal’s depiction in his novel but the gesture of the MMDA is a good start. 

A factory near Guadalupe

From Guadalupe in Makati, we entered the ferry station and paid the Php50.00 fare going to Plaza Mexico in Manila – the last station. Fare ranges from Php30.00 to Php50.00. There are seats in the waiting area for passengers waiting to be on board. After a while, we were called by the MMDA personnel and asked us to board the “Bus Ferry”

The Bus Ferry is a tug boat that is converted into a bus-like vehicle to accommodate passengers. It can accommodate 35 seating people, up to 45 when standing. According to an MMDA personnel on board, the tag boat turned bus ferry will soon be replaced by a more conducive boat for human use. Bus ferry is not bad though.

A residence on the banks of the river
The Bus Ferry is far from the previous ferry that runs in the Pasig river years ago. I had the opportunity to ride the 150-seater white ferry before the operation was shut down in 2008 (?) due to losses. The previous ferry that runs in Pasig river has air-conditioning just like the 11 stations it stops. With fewer people riding the ferry then, it was predictable that it will be closed. And it did.

A community in Pasig River
Water lilies are abundant in the river. Is this a sign of life?

According to Rappler MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said, "Smaller boats are easier to load, to fill-up compared to 150. It took so long to leave, that's why they didn't earn before,Jumbo jet yung dati, eh domestic airport lang ang bababaan, so hindi makapuno

Small boats are used by the resudents far from the bridge to cross the river
Although rehabilitation  efforts are ongoing the river still has an alien particles
An untouched part of the riverbank

The ferry before was ambitious and lacks feasibility as compared to today’s setup. 

PNR does cross the Pasig River

When the ferry moved I had some apprehension about the trip. Stinky smell might suffocate us in the middle of the journey or the filthy smell might stick in our clothes. Contrary to what I was expecting, the smell wasn’t bad and my clothes smelled the same when we reached Plaza Mexico! 

There is the freedom to live as well as responsibility.
Ayala Bridge under rehabilitation

According to the MMDA personnel that I interviewed, Pasig River is not stinking during the months of December to February. But come summer, passengers might experience the polluted river's bad face. Actually, years ago when I tried the air-conditioned ferry, the stinky smell of the river entered the ferry although it was closed. That was summer and that was a year ago. With the rehabilitation efforts of the government and some NGO’s I hope that in summer Pasig River will still be good for commuting.           

One of the artillery of Pasig River

It was raining when we left Guadalupe but the god of the rain and god of the sun talked so the rain stopped. Good thing though because I was able to go out and see the surroundings while we cruise in the Pasig River. There are a lot of factories, oil depots,s and barges on the banks of the river. That is a given fact because the river serves the drainage of these factories. I haven’t researched yet if there is a moratorium or if these factories are being regulated. In Makati area one will see a lot of developments, condominiums specifically like the Acqua of Century Properties and the urban developments of Ayala properties in Sta. Ana – the Circuit Makati. 

The grandeur of Manila

A PSG boarded the ferry before we pass by Malacanang

One notable landmark along the Pasig River is the MalacaƱang Palace. Before you reached Mabini Bridge, a PSG will board the ferry. Taking pictures after the Mabini Bridge is strictly prohibited due to security reasons The Presidential Palace is for your eyes only. You cannot cheat because there are camera’s all over aside from the fact that there is a PSG watching you.    

Once you pass by Quezon Bridge (yes the one in Quiapo and Lawton) you will see the rich heritage of Manila. Many iconic buildings are built on the banks of the Pasig River. Very famous is the Post Office Building fronting the Escolta Station. After Jones Bridge, you will see the controversial building of El Hogar fronting Plaza Mexico Station.

You may ask why I did the Pasig River Ferry. You just can't neglect what we have because of the popular stereotype thinking about the Pasig River Ferry and the Pasig River itself. Which I am guilty of as well. Commuting in the Pasig River is a beautiful experience! It's a different experience that needs to be developed by the stakeholders - and that is us. The action of the MMDA is a hope for the river and a hope to live. There is still more room for improvements and I would like to believe that MMDA is thinking of improving it. They may be just a catalyst in bringing glory to the Pasig as this is also an opportunity for private entities.

I may not see what Rizal saw in Pasig River. Seeing the river alive with booming and sustainable economic activity is enough for me. I would like to believe that there is hope in the river... to see life again in the Pasig River.


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