Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Tempo published this article on August 17, 2012 (Front page). It can also be accessed at:


Manila, Philippines – “Anak ng Pasig naman kayo… Kalat doon, kalat dito… Natakpan na ang langit kong ito… Nilason din ang Ilog ko.“
Geneva Cruz couldn’t have sung it with more conviction when she popularized “Anak ng Pasig,“ her award-winning ode to a dying Pasig River, in 1992. The mere mention of Pasig River triggers depressing images. Of a stinking, stagnant body of water. Of people’s indifference. Of a black river.

Pasig River is regarded as the most iconic waterway in the Philippines. Its economic significance helped establish Manila as the country’s “nerve center.“ It also silently witnessed the Philippines’ rise to development as a nation and cradled the birth of modern Filipinos.

That was then.

In the decades that followed, Pasig River showed a remarkable deterioration because of pollution. Overpopulation due to people’s aspiration for economic prosperity gave birth to the mushrooming of informal settlers on the riverbanks. All of these continuously contributed to the quality of river Metro Manilans experience today.
Since showing the first signs of deterioration, Pasig River has been struggling to recover from its sorry state, even coming to a point when it was no longer suitable for marine life.
In 1990, ecologists finally declared the river “biologically dead.”
With hundreds of families and nonstop booming of informal settlers thriving along its riverbanks, the Pasig River problem has turned from trivial to structural. Worst, the river has become a vast container of different waste forms namely, five percent solid, 30 percent industrial and 65 percent domestic from direct human waste. All kinds of sewage, including both biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes, go into the ‘esteros’ or tributaries that all feed into the river.
Simply put, exposing one’s self to the untreated, contaminated wastewater of the septic tank-like Pasig River means endangering one’s health.
Experts say that consuming river water unfit for drinking and other household uses, or even just wading in the dirty river, means welcoming bacteria and viruses that may cause gastroenteritis, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis, among many others, into one’s bodily system.
What was then a useful estuary for domestic consumption, transportation, and recreation has turned into a desolate part of urban life, which eventually became a huge breeding ground of anti-social elements, crime and subversions–all left unattended across times.
But it was a different story back in the 1920s–the “Golden Years“ of Pasig River. (TO BE CONTINUED)

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