A view of the Manila Post Office from the Pasig River.
Joanne Rae Ramirez
Smile me a river
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2020 - 12:00am

Malacañang Palace was once my place of work, and on my way to the office, whether via Nagtahan or Ayala Bridge, I would catch glimpses of a river that was virtually a floating trash bin, I kid thee not. This was in the late ‘80s.

Cruising down the Pasig River with Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat recently was like cruising down a new river. I have never seen the Pasig River this clean in my life, it reminded me of Venice’s Grand Canal in Italy. Not crystal clear, but not murky either. Flowing, flowing.

Berna credits the present rebirth of the Pasig River to the political will of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu, who, without much fanfare, has transformed the waterway into a living thing once more. No more informal settlers on the banks (except a couple pasaways), or colonies of plastic bottles floating on the river that has tributaries through most cities of the metropolis. Scarlet Snow Belo, who was with her parents Doctors Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho during the hour-long cruise, saw a green plastic bottle bobbing up and down the river and she was furious.

A tranvia takes us on a tour of Chinatown and Intramuros.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) have joined forces not only to ease traffic flow in the metropolis but also to offer a new way of exploring the Metro.

At some point during the cruise, which sailed from the Guadalupe Ferry Station, I even thought I was in Singapore, with high-rises flanking the river. On one side was Rockwell and on the other side was a cluster of skyscrapers built by Century Properties.

When we neared the historic Sta. Ana area, we saw stately old homes. Then we passed Malacañang Palace, at which point we were asked not to take photos for security reasons.

We saw the jetty where both the Marcoses and Estradas boarded their barge for the minute-long-ride across the river to the Presidential Security Group compound across when they left Malacañang.

Soon, we beheld the neo-classical Manila Post Office, which could easily be turned into another Fullerton Hotel, as Singapore did to its old post office.

The now-famous Jones Bridge leads to a bustling Chinatown.

By the time we got to the graceful Jones Bridge, with lamplights reminiscent of the bridges of Paris, we had traveled down the riverway of time to Old Manila.

Images depicting Intramuros in its heyday are projected at the United Philippine Lines Building in Fort Santiago.
Jose Paolo Dela Cruz

Oh, but it was a youthful Manila Mayor Isko Moreno awaiting us at the ferry station in Escolta, where snacks of hopia beckoned. From the station, we climbed a few steps to Jones Bridge, where a tranvia was waiting for us. The tranvia took us on a tour of a well-lit and clean Chinatown, before passing Manila City Hall and the National Museum, all alit but still needing more illumination. Our first stop in Intramuros was the gallery of Presidents, whose portraits were carved in stone. Before dinner at the palatial Ayuntamiento de Manila, we beheld a now shimmering Fort Santiago. You will be transfixed by the United Philippine Lines Building inside Fort Santiago, which glowed with magical projections of imagery depicting Intramuros in its heyday.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

Intramuros Administration head lawyer Guiller Asido has truly made Intramuros a must-see destination in the city’s capital.

***

MMDA, in collaboration with the DOT, has agreed to exclusively allocate one 150-seater air-conditioned ferry to service the needs of tourists, both domestic and international, who may want to explore Manila, Pasig, Mandaluyong and Makati, using the river transport and its 11 ferry stations. For the entire month of February, trips on the ferry will be free of charge.

There will also be the Pasig River Hop On Hop Off Ferry Tour for tourists wanting to explore Manila, with a heritage tour of Intramuros, a heritage walking tour of Sta. Ana and the famous culinary tour of Binondo, with a photo opportunity at the elegant Jones Bridge.

For Makati City, tourists may disembark at the Guadalupe and Valenzuela Stations with a waiting guide to help them explore the country’s financial district either through a Poblacion Heritage tour, Makati Skyline tour, the famous Poblacion Bar Crawl and even a tour of the nearby cities of San Juan and Mandaluyong through the Hulo Station.

Guide to the Philippines, DOT’s official online tour partner, will initially offer an exclusive Poblacion Chocolate Bar Crawl highlighting Makati City’s nightlife with an interesting twist on both drinks and food using a local Filipino chocolate brand.

It was magical taking a historical trip to illumined Intramuros, knowing that just like the Pasig River, it need not languish in the worst of its past, only thrive in the best of its past, present and future.

(Commercial run will commence in March 2020 pending logistical operations and booking facilities. Interested parties may inquire directly with PHILTOA via 8812-4513 or e-mail info@philtoa.com and Guide to the Philippines via guidetothephilippines.ph.)

 

PASIG RIVER
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