Pasig River: “Revive the River of Our Dreams”

We go about our daily live day in and day out. Traveling from one place to another, often noticing the busy sidewalks, old building and even the traffic on the road. However, when was the last time you stopped and noticed the Pasig River? As a kid, I saw how polluted the river was. Our village was right beside the river and I would often see floating piles of garbage and dead fish. As the years progressed, though still slightly polluted, I would no longer see the piles of garbage. My teachers used to tell us how beautiful this river was when they were young. The water clear enough to bathe and swim in, while others even wash their clothes in it. So what happened to it? Lack of discipline or simply the people who choose to turn a blind eye to the reality we’re facing?

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Earlier today, Mathieu Padilla shared a few snapshots of the Pasig River that somehow gave shows there is still hope for this river.  It doesn’t look as beautiful as my teachers used to describe it yet, but it’s already a LOT better than how I remembered it 20 years ago. Perhaps some day, with a little concern and discipline, we will able to return it to its former beauty. These photos were taken between May to October 2015.

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Mathieu shares,

This past year I’ve been traveling around the Philippines and I’ve managed to revisit and photograph the awe inspiring rice terraces of Luzon, the pristine beaches of Visayas, the ever developing cafes, restaurants, and art galleries of Manila, among others, but I somehow feel that I’ve been biased in the way I’ve been portraying the country. What I capture in my images are targeted at friends and acquaintances from different countries who are willing to spend a month or two to experience what it’s like to live an adventure in a foreign land and at the same time have a taste of a life of impecuniousness. Don’t get me wrong, I know a considerable amount of travelers with genuinely good intentions and a fervent commitment towards the benefits of others, that generalizing the situation would be ignorant in my part. But again, the lush greeneries and crystal waters as far as your eyes could see, as well as the exponential growth of the major cities are peddled in every tourism magazine you could pick up abroad, so, I don’t blame them. “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is the tag line, but at what price? A quintessential metaphor for the situation I’m trying to bring to light was several simple ferry rides I took through the Pasig River. The major artery that passes through the heart of the country’s capital. In the 1990’s the river was declared biologically dead. I did several trips from end to end to photograph and take in the situation at hand. The trips I did were bleak and demoralizing. The slow movement of the ferry through garbage filled, reeking water, the docks that are barely erect, shanty towns along side the river, and families catching lifeless fishes(presumably for their next meal) being swept by the tides. Passing by Malacanang Palace, the president’s official residence, I wonder what thoughts enter his head as he looks out the window and see his fellow country men and women living off the remnants of a dying part of the country. As we were getting ready to disembark, we passed beneath the Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge. I snapped a photo of what was left of the words on it. “REVIVE THE RIVER OF OUR DREAMS”. In the backdrop you could see a flourishing metropolis. I was in a crossroad in my mind. Was this a sign of hope for the state of our country, or was this the epitome of the inequality we are subjected day to day in our homeland. No facade can cover this up. Change is inevitable, but so is decay.

By the way, my words mean nothing.



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What do you think of the Pasig River today? Do you think it’s slowly getting better? How can YOU help?