Running for the river

CITY SENSE - CITY SENSE By Paulo Alcazaren () - April 28, 2007 - 12:00am
I never got to see that movie directed by Robert Redford, A River Runs Through It, which sparked an interest in fly-fishing in men (and a female craving for a pre-Angelina Brad Pitt).

I’ve often wondered what the fishing was like in our own Pasig River. Old-timers say that before the Second World War you could see the fish swimming in the Pasig, but now the fish are gone and you’d be hard-pressed to see anything through the murky darkness. The river died a slow death going into the last part of the 20th century as the metropolis itself also faced impending environmental collapse.

Thankfully, concerned citizens and non-government organizations like the Clean and Green Foundation Inc. (through its Piso Para sa Pasig program) have helped put the Pasig on the road to recovery. The government had to be prodded hard to do this. Factories constantly relapse to their polluting ways and riverside residents continue to contribute to the river’s degradation.

To keep the Pasig continually in the public, corporate and government’s consciousness, the Annual Pasig River Heritage Marathon was organized. The run advocates a sustained program for the rehabilitation of the Pasig.

It also brings to focus the plight of the city’s heritage architecture, many of which are by the riverside. The Intramuros walls are being threatened again by an ill-conceived sports complex. Early 20th-century buildings on the various muelles (quays) are falling down from neglect. In progressive cities abroad, riverside redevelopment is bringing in tourists, investments and life. We should endeavor to catch up soon or lose the river and the heritage that surrounds it.

Back to the race: Originally local, the marathon has now been recognized as an international event. The United States-based International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) and the Association of Marathons and Road Races (AIMS) gave the marathon their respective seals of approval in August 2004.

The marathon was renamed the "Philippine Marathon for the Pasig River" (PMPR) in 2005 and today draws thousands of participants. The marathon consists of 3K, 5K, 10K and the full 42K distances and is open to all runners subject to benchmark fitness levels. The PMPR is now included in the official schedules of marathons in the world and race results are internationally recognized and posted.

The 2007 PMPR was a successful event with Olympian Eduardo "Vertek" Buenavista establishing a new course record of 2:23:08. The race took runners along the Pasig River’s banks and across 11 of its 13 bridges. The race got off at exactly 4:30 a.m. and ended at the Global City in Taguig.

Buenavista edged out flashy runner Cresenciano Sabal and international running personality, Kenyan Robert Wangbugu, to claim the crown, his second victory in the event. This new record shattered the previous best time of 2:26.13, which Sabal established. Buenavista went home with the P100, 000 cash prize.

Cresenciano Sabal took second place; Rolando Piamonte, third; and Wangbugu, fourth. On the distaff side, Jho-Ann Banayag won first place; Flordeliza Carreon, second; and Ailene Tolentino, third. Rene Herrera and Mercedita Manipol won the men’s and women’s 10K race. Nelbert Ducusin and Nhea-Ann Barcena topped the men’s and women’s 5K event. Finally the 3K run was won by Fernan Nakila and Macrose Dichoso.

Celebrity runners came to participate, too, led by Sen. Pia Cayetano, Sec. Angelo Reyes, former President Fidel V Ramos, his wife, former first lady Ming Ramos, and the new president and chair of Unilever, Sandeep Mehta.

Sadly, I missed participating in the marathon. My less-than-fit body needs about three years’ work to get in running shape. It is something to aim for, though (and I can join the fun runs as a start).

Earth Day just passed by, too, and we should seriously take all the warnings to heart and act now. The summer heat should be enough to convince anyone that global warming is a reality. In the meantime I’ll just keep cool and take the recently launched River Ferry to enjoy the progress made with the river.
* * *
The Clean & Green Foundation, Inc., as lead organizer of the marathon, makes sure that the PMPR brings to focus the plight of the river. The PMPR is just one of its many projects; others include the conservation of Philippine flora and fauna, education campaigns, concerts, art exhibits and tree planting activities. For more information visit the Clean & Green Foundation at The Orchidarium & Butterfly Pavilion, T. F. Valencia Circle, Rizal Park, Manila, or call 527-6376. If you’re nearby, you may also visit the thoroughly engaging exhibit on Philippine modern architecture, "Building Modernity: A Century of Architecture and Allied Arts." Exhibit is until May at the Museum of the Filipino People (formerly Finance Building), National Museum Complex, Manila.

Feedback is welcome. Please e-mail the writer at paulo.alcazaren@gmail.com.
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