What we will lose if we don’t take care of the Pasig River

Went on a Pasig River Heritage Walk organized by Renacimiento Manila.

We started at Plaza Lawton in front of the Manila Post Office, crossed part of the Jones Bridge, and ended up at the First United Building along Escolta.

Plaza Lawton or Liwasang Bonifacio. The building behind it is the Manila Post Office. (Yvette Tan)

The walk showed me how small Manila can be on foot, even for someone disabled like myself, and how car-centric roads take away not just from the enjoyment of the city, but also from other, sometimes easier, ways to get from point A to point B (I’m still mad that they had to permanently close the Plaza Mexico ferry stop).

Our very knowledgeable guide. All Renacimiento Manila members are volunteers. (Yvette Tan)

We stopped by many historic art deco buildings, some still in use, some, like the Capitol Theater, getting ready to be torn down.

One of the pillars that mark Jones Bridge. This is the only original one. The other three are replicas. (Yvette Tan)

It’s evident that a lot of people don’t value history enough to save even just a facade of it.

The Capitol Theater. (Yvette Tan)

Walks like this make me sad because you get a glimpse of the Manila that was, and what it could have been had, maybe, WWII hadn’t happened, or had we had more historically-minded leaders. So many what ifs.

View of the Pasig River from Jones Bridge. (Yvette Tan)

And the trend continues. The path we took constituted some of the areas that would be affected if plans to build an expressway over the Pasig River pushes through. All these small communities, all the flora (and unseen fauna) that thrive in the area will be affected in a negative way. If you’ve seen the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or have read about the US’s historic and near-mythical Route 66, or have seen the Pixar animation Cars, you’ll know that expressways don’t build communities, they destroy them.

Chinese Fu dog statue at the base of one of the pillars that mark Jones Bridge. (Yvette Tan)

I’m glad that there are organizations like this, staffed by volunteers, who not only dream of a walkable city, but who also take great pains to allow others to experience the joy of being able to navigate through one, and to show them what could be if we ask for it loud enough.

One of the few remaining art deco buildings in the area. (Yvette Tan)

If you’ve been overseas, you know how the most progressive cities are ones where people can walk, bike, and take public transportation with ease. Don’t we want that for ourselves?


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.

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