Pasig's place in history

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces -

Today, Pasig City celebrates its 436th Foundation Anniversary. The region occupied by the city was originally part of a vast region extending from what we know now as Montalban, Rizal up to San Mateo, Rizal on the north up to as far south as Bai in Laguna. Early known settlers were called Remontados derived from the Spanish verb remontar, meaning “to flee from the hills”, so called after they were frightened away by the Spaniards who first came to explore Maynilad in 1571. This vast region, previously named Morong Province, was later named after Dr. Jose P. Rizal after a historic meeting attended by 221 delegates held at the Pasig Catholic Church for the organization of a civil government in the provinces of Manila and Morong. One of the agreements was to separate the Province of Morong from the Province of Manila. 

It was only in 1975 when Pasig was taken from Rizal Province and made part of Metro Manila, one of the first projects of the newly created Metro Manila Commission then created by former President Ferdinand Marcos. In 1994, Pasig was converted into a highly urbanized city after which it experienced spectacular growth and development. Today, it is recognized as one of prime centers for business and commerce in Metropolitan Manila along with Makati City, Quezon City and Manila. 

Pasig’s history as a city is eclipsed with that of the Pasig River. Its name describes its very nature, “sandy river banks”. The word also comes from the Malayan word meaning “strand” referring to the way the river cuts through the vast area of land. The word may have also evolved to passi, from the word mabagsik, meaning “fierce”, referring to the river’s fury when a storm passes by. Its 25-kilometer stretch divides Metro Manila in two, giving life to the growth of Manila and its surrounding cities from ancient civilization. The early kingdoms of Namayan, Manila and Tondo gave rise to the early civilization along the banks of the Pasig River. We should know our roots, but most people don’t know that our very identity comes from Pasig. We are referred to as Tagalog, because natives were then called taga-ilog, with ilog referring to the Pasig River.   

Its existence is a major factor for the strategic location and stronghold of the earliest central kingdoms in the island, the early Muslims and later the Spanish conquistadores. It was the main waterway where ancient people used to pass in traveling to and from Manila and nearby provinces. In the 1600s, it was recorded that 30,000 sangleys (Chinese) lived in barangays established by the Spanish friars along the Pasig River. Even today, there are boats that ply the Pasig River to bring workers to and from Makati and Mandaluyong. After World War II, the river banks attracted informal settlers and factories and consequently, in the 1930s, garbage and pollution erased the glory left of the Pasig River. Anyway, I can still remember Pasig River when it was perfectly clean and where I spent many memorable childhood moments playing in its crystal waters. Now, it is one of the most devastated historical landmarks in the country.

History makes a city but development can destroy its glory. A well-kept city is built on history and its past. With these, a city has enduring monuments to its beginnings.

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