There has been a lot written about the Pasig River ever since I have been living in Manila, most of it far from complimentary, and deservedly so. However, all of this has been slowly changing and for the better.
As a bit of a background, the Pasig River flows to Manila Bay from Laguna de Bay and is 26 kilometres in length and has an average width of 50 metres, with an average depth of 5 metres. It also divides Manila into the southern and northern parts.
All throughout history, the Pasig River has been used as one of the main sources of livelihood, food, water, and transportation for many Filipinos living in Metro Manila.
During the Spanish occupation era, the Pasig River was full of commerce and life. It was the major thoroughfare for ships and boats transporting goods and people from Manila’s port area to all different parts of Metro Manila.
It is such an essential component of the Phillippines that Malacañan Palace (the President of the Philippines Official Residence) is located on the river’s banks.
However, and rather, unfortunately, over the last several decades, the river became over commercialised, crowded, and very polluted. A formerly thriving river was transformed into an eight-foot-deep dumping ground and cesspit.
Before the river became so polluted, ferries were a very common sight. Therefore, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) was put in charge of the effort to re-establish a ferry service in 2007.
Since then, there have been several attempts to rehabilitate the Pasig River. However, one of the major obstacles, and quite frankly a serious eyesore, is the heavy stream of water lilies that occupy the water.
Although they are a completely natural, and heavily thriving phenomena, they do create the illusion of garbage in the water. What’s more, they have often proven to be too much for the commuter ferries to handle at certain times of the year.
This, combined with several other factors, including high fuel prices, sadly led to the discontinuation of all ferry services in 2011.
However, since then, the river has been fully dredged, shanty towns have been removed from the river banks, and other environmentally sustainable measures have been introduced.
This meant that in 2014, the river became safe enough to transport passengers around Metro Manila once again via the Pasig River Commuter Ferry service.
The first Asia Riverprize was won by the PRRC (Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission) in October 2018, to recognise its efforts in helping to rehabilitate the Pasig River.
The PRRC reports that there are signs of aquatic life in the river once again now that the river has been restored close to its former glory.
The Asia Riverprize is an international competition that recognises the successful efforts for revitalising waterways around Asia. In the initial Asia RiverPrize Awards, to the surprise of many, the Pasig River actually beat the Yangtze River in China!
The Pasig River Ferry Service is the only water-based transportation service in Metro Manila and is operated currently by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
At the moment there are two lines for the ferry service – the Pasig River line and the Marikina River line.
The Pasig line has 12 stations starting at Pinagbuhatan Station in Pasig and finishing at Plaza Mexico in Intramuros, while the Markina line is currently under redevelopment.
Further to this, the government plan on extending the ferry service so that it actually runs all the way from Manila Bay to Laguna De Bay, which includes adding 22 more stations to ferry system.
The project is expected to be completed by 2022 and will hopefully help with reducing traffic on Manila’s notoriously congested roads.
The Phillippines has numerous beautiful tourist attractions, however, many foreign tourists and Filipinos have not discovered Metro Manila’s latest ferry service. Having taken it myself, I fully recommend that you do.
If you take the ferry from Guadalupe (Makati), or Hulo (Rockwell), bound for Chinatown, you will see notable landmarks along the way with the ride taking around half an hour.
The landmarks of note include Malacañan Palace, the old Pandacan Oil Depot, Hospicio de San Jose, and the Manila Post Office, which is a beautiful old building.
For national security reasons, keep in mind that you cannot take photos while you are cruising by the President’s house.
The Pasig River Cruise is a great way to look back at history and learn how Manila evolved along this vitally important waterway. You will get to see Manila from a completely different perspective from the water and I’m sure you will be very impressed, as was I.