The Pasig River may never win an environmental award but for historical and cultural value, the Pasig River, which cuts across Manila and ends in Manila Bay, is one of the famous and iconic rivers in the Philippines.
Once an idyllic river in 19th century Manila, the Pasig River has inspired countless romantic ballads, folklore and is a witness to countless battles and key epochs in the Philippines’s turbulent history. It is also an inspiration for writers and the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal has used the river as a setting or backdrop in many of his novels and literary writings.
Photos from the late 19th century and the pre-war years show picturesque views of the river. Lamentably, today’s Pasig River symbolised the hard times that Manila (and the Philippines) has fallen into. Severely polluted by both urban and industrial waste, the Pasig River has become a veritable sewage canal that is bloated with the refuse of congested Manila. The historical Spanish fort in Manila, the Fort Santiago, stands along Pasig River and views of the Pasig River and Manila Bay from the fort can offer the casual visitor a wonderful sunset view (ignore the smell).
Historically, the Malacanang or Presidential Palace is bordered by the Pasig River and the river occupied a key role in the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada who was reported to have eluded an arrest order by crossing the river in a boat (fat luck, he didn’t drop into one of Pasig’s festering whirpools!).
Despite volumes of environmental reports, stacks of books and countless attempts to save the river, the Pasig has remained the tragedy that it is- a liquid scar in the face of Manila.
Long live the efforts to save the Pasig River!