Reviving Manila Bay
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2019 - 12:00am

I am glad to hear that the government is taking concrete steps to bring Manila Bay back to its former glory – or at the very least, as close to its former glory as possible. We all know Manila Bay has always been a favorite tourist attraction for both Filipinos living in the Philippines as well as tourists visiting from all over the country and around the world who come to enjoy sunsets on the shores.

These days – enjoying time on the banks of Manila Bay is not as it was in the past. Many years ago, lovers and friends could be seen strolling down the boulevard and letting the time pass sitting and enjoying the water and the scenery. This was during the early fifties when the country was still recovering from the ravages of World War II. Manila was devastated by the conflict and was just getting back on its feet at the time, but the simple pleasures of life were slowly coming back after the horrors of war.

I have exceptionally fond memories of Manila Bay and the surrounding areas. My father Paul Katigbak used to take us out every Sunday after work at Reuters (Philippine Bureau) where he was a war correspondent. He would take us to Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard) riding the old reliable Manila Motor Coach (Matorco) from Luneta to Baclaran and Parañaque and then back again. My dad and I used to sit on the second deck of the bus and admire the beautiful sunset and clear shores. We’d watch fishermen pull in their catch and see families out in the streets enjoying their time together.

Those were certainly the golden years of Manila, at least in my estimation. It’s quite sad to see how things have changed so drastically since then. These days people are more focused on looking down at their screens rather than looking up and admiring nature around them. We no longer live in a world where people actually enjoy the moment since they are too busy capturing it for their social media platforms in an attempt to get the likes and the followers.

It’s a pity that the world has changed so much in such a short amount of time and that we’ve allowed so much that really matters to be lost. The Manila Bay has become so polluted it’s hard to remember what it was like years ago. And while people still continue to visit, the once quite popular tourist spot is certainly not like it was during the golden years.

It’s not surprising though that things change. That’s all that’s really constant. However, not everything that changes has to remain that way and it’s never really too late to try to make things right again. This holds true for all things and most especially for the environment. I’m glad that we have finally really started placing importance on things that truly matter like helping reverse all the environmental damage we have caused throughout the years by finally taking even small steps toward making a difference – looking for ways to utilize sustainable energy, trying to go zero waste and lessen plastic use, and conserving resources just to name a few.

I’m also glad to learn that the government is joining hands in an integrated effort to clean up Manila Bay. Because it has gotten to the point that it is now going to take a lot more than just one person or agency to make a difference. It will require local governments to work together to clean all the esteros and rivers that drain into the bay in order to make a real and lasting change.

In order to achieve this big goal, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) offices in Metro Manila and the Calabarzon region as well as provincial offices in Pampanga and Bataan will all be involved in the rehabilitation efforts helping not just clean up the Bay itself, but ensuring it stays clean by ensuring all the drain points are clear as well – not bringing in garbage from the different provincial rivers right back.

I fully support this project. And it’s something that should not be left to the government alone. We all have our part in ensuring this is successful. Unlike the environmental plan in Boracay that took roughly six months (and ongoing) according to Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol it would take far longer than that to address the problems of Manila Bay. He pegged that this would take roughly seven years or more. But then again, in the end, no time is too long to turn this around.

* * *

Over the weekend Taipain Henry Sy Sr., one of the richest men and one of the biggest philanthropists in the country, passed away. He went peacefully and is remembered by his family and friends and the many in the country who were inspired by his legacy. After all, who would not be inspired by the story of a man who worked his way up from extremely humble beginnings to a multibillion dollar business empire with over 72 shopping malls – including some of the largest in the world – serving over 3.5 million customers a day.

May his legacy live on and may he continue to inspire entrepreneurs and would-be business owners to continue going after their dreams and making the impossible happen.

REVIVING MANILA BAY
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