Recently, I took a Vietnamese friend to take a ride in the Pasig River Ferry Service, starting from Guadalupe and ending in Quiapo.
I confess that it was my longest trip so far, and I was quite enchanted at the changes in the river that had previously been so polluted that mere mention of its name would conjure the image of a smelly, dirty, muddy body of water.
Tuan and I waited an hour for the ferry to come. When we were on the boat though, he said that the wait had been worth it. It was 5pm, the sun was setting, and the air was cool.
I had been afraid that the river would smell, but we couldn’t smell anything. The water was still murky, but at least there were no floating garbage.
We passed by bridges, cargo ships, and small boats that took passengers from one bank to the other. We waved at the children swimming on the banks, fishing or merely playing around, and we got a quick glimpse of the lives of Filipinos living along the river’s banks.
The Pasig River has a long history. It is older than all the cities that grew through the years along its banks. According to my former writing professor Ambeth Ocampo (I took my first ride on the ferry with our class so many years ago), there are many versions of the origin of its name.
The most popular, Ambeth said, came from the legend of two lovers Virgilio and Paz. Their parents had been against their union and wanted to separate them. Desperate to be together, they eloped and went to the river to make their escape. Unfortunately, Virgilio (for some reason), who didn’t know how to swim, fell off the boat.
He bobbed three times, calling for Paz to save him, “Paz! Sigue me! (Save me!)” His last words before he sank completely from sight were “Paz! Sig…?” hence the name of the river.
The whole Pasig River is 25 km long, passing through Laguna, Taguig, Taytay, Pasig, Makati, Mandaluyong and Manila. Through the years, it gradually sank in disrepute, with the communities along its banks polluting the waters with their trash. In the last ten years, however, there had been concentrated efforts to rehabilitate the river. Annual fun runs and marathons—among other activities—were held to raise funds for its cleanup (I ran my first full marathon for the Pasig River!).
We arrived in Quiapo in less than an hour, happy and content with our day, knowing that my friend Tuan also enjoyed the ride. My only regret was that I had not included a Pasig River trip in my article on Things to Do in Manila in One Day. Next time, I will surely recommend it to my foreign friends!
How about you? Have you cruised in the Pasig River recently?