Monday, 17 June 2013

The Living River in Iloilo City

I just came across this article in Philippine Star about reasons why it floods in Manila. ( ).

 Having lived in Manila for more than 30 years, what immediately came to my mind without reading the article first, was Manila’s dirty and choked-up river. A river that has been suffocated by the city bursting with dirt and undisciplined people. A river that has been the victim of man’s adulteration of nature. The urban poor lifestyle in Manila just seeking abodes in the waters where the last parcels of  land of the metropolitan are swallowed by more buildings and people squeezing in.   It is only us human beings who are at fault for what nature inflicts us in return. My mother asked me once—“My son, why do most Filipinos love to make their life more difficult?”  Manilans suffer from horrendous floods because it chose to make its life difficult by pushing nature to the edge of death.

What comes from Earth do not leave the Earth. They remain  in our planet. This is what we must instill in our people that we throw on  and  in to  the river, the poor river  will not expel it somewhere out there like a magician. The degradation of the river system in Manila comes from undisciplined people—people who want  to make their life difficult. Even much more difficult to the poor river. 

Blame it to huge informal settlers? Sustainability not taught in Philippine schools? Urban planning is co-terminus with public office rather than co-existing with nature?   Perhaps also political will because as far as we know, the Pasig River rehabilitation started as far back as when  former First Lady Imelda Marcos dipped her polished nails into the murky waters  in the 70’s and yet, 40 decades past, not much have changed, if not nil. Even worse. Many of the past leaders in Manila had diarrhea of the mouth promising to clean up the rivers, yet the rivers have had severe indigestion of their OPM’s ( Oh Promise Me).

Everytime, I pass by Pasay City to go to the airport, the river tributaries are simply  covered with corrugated sheets along the bridges to hide the magnitude  of garbage dumped on the already dried up river. I have lived as well in Pasay for so many years, yet after 30 years, the same corrugated sheets I saw when I first came to Manila  are still  there.   Cosmetic  treatment, a bad habit in Manila for many leaders, never fail to back fire to make the life of its inhabits doubly difficult. Nobody can conceal beyond those corrugated sheets and cement walls the ugly sights, stinky smell, illnesses, chaos, headaches, floods and  shame.  The Pasay City local  government perhaps has the worse act one can imagine with managing its garbage on our natural water eco-system making its rivers the basin of their toilets by just covering them so our eyeballs will not pop out of our eye sockets.   

While Iloilo river, on the other hand, surprised the world with just less than one year and a half  of rehabilitation, there is not much secret except the Ilonggos opted to make their life easier. Ilonggos did their best to cooperate and be disciplined. Also, to  support our  leaders to make ours better, if not the best, because they do not sing OPM’s.

There were river bank settlers in Iloilo river way back then. I remember travelling from Jones bridge crossing the river with shanties in La Paz district fixed to my eyes. They were gone. They were settled somewhere better for their own good.Now, there are only fishermen hobbists lining the bridge enjoying the time of their life catching fish from the beaming river. 

 Here, I present comparative pictures of Manila/ Pasig River with that of Iloilo City River. The pictures will tell a lot of stories.  The Iloilo Metropolitan Times wrote about Iloilo City river as : “….  a recipient of a gold award under the Environmentally Sustainable Project Awards of the International Awards for Liveable Communities (LivCom) in 2010 for its Iloilo River Development Project.” It is not bronze or copper, it is gold! Thanks to our leaders like Sen. Frank Drilon, Congressman Jerry Treñas and Mayor Jed Mabilog and on top of all the Ilonggos who respect the river as sacred as our man-made heritage as well.  It is as precious as our soul as people. In Iloilo city, rich or poor, formal or in-formal settlers, we are reverent to our river like it is our Queen. It is a living legend untouchable to those who will  end its life. ( )

In terms of tourism, the First Philippine International River Summit hosted by Iloilo City last May 30 to June 1, 2012 marked as a peak of the development of the Iloilo River. From that time on, the Iloilo River sparkled  like a gem,  the former Regent Queen of Spain, if she is still alive today, will probably give Iloilo City its second title as the Queen’s River of the Philippines.  

There is a great old hotel  by the river bank of Iloilo City called River Queen Hotel---perhaps should be buffed up as it can be a remembrance for old timers because the hotel stood by until today by the much more magnificent river of Iloilo.My thought is perhaps we will can also call our precious Iloilo City river, the River Queen or The Queen's River---say to glorify the status of the river as one of the finest in the world.  

The city has an ambitious plan to make our river a total center point where Ilonggos can converge. preserve and enjoy nature in the middle of the city. Everytime I pass by the river, I have joy in my heart because where can one find lush mangroves within a city? Where can one find herons co-habits with people in a city?Even as far back as when I was at the University of the Philippines Iloilo Campus, which was near the river, my classmates and I would sneak out of our class and jumped into the river in bamboo rafts and just frolick there.Soon there will be visiting folks who can experience the same.

I remember,  I did a fashion show called River! in Iloilo City in 2005.  It was in  celebration of the Second Iloilo Jetski   Competition  in Iloilo River as presented by  the JCIP Metro Iloilo Dinagyang.  Writer Ronelo S. Ladiao wrote: “River… smoothing cascading as it flows, murmuring beyond memory and filling one's journey into the bliss of elemental fashion. This exceptional fashion event was organized to preserve the Iloilo River as one of the cultural and environmental gem of Iloilo City beyond the flickering fad of contemporary vogue. In fact, the fashion show was conceptualized by international Ilonggo lifestyle designer PJ Arañador and in-demand fashion event director Bombette Marin to fuse elemental forces with the latest impression fashion .”

Eight years ago, my visualization of Iloilo city river as an artist came true today. I reckon now that  PJ Aranador’s “River” fashion show, perhaps forecasted the things to come as I wrote its design inspiration from Iloilo City river from which I created sportswear and swimwear in tandem with international brand Nike meant to be used in Iloilo river ( which was unimaginable to be used in Pasig river):

My creative brief for River the Fashion Show was, thus,  written:  “ The Sun represented by the color of yellow clothes symbolizes the eternal energy, shimmering, alive in vibrancy, binding with contrast, giving life to greeneries and reflecting the beauty of the river.

 Blue apparels replicate ‘Water' as cooling tears from heaven, showering the symphony of nature   and refreshing the   womb of the Earth through the veins of the river.

 Pink and red attires harmonized the vibrant horizon of the ‘Earth', transforming the unique layers of the earth. Black and gray outfits symbolize the warmness of ‘Stones' as the bed of the river where cooling ripples of water run in endless flow and finally the ‘Sky' is seen in white colored wardrobes that ceaselessly roof the river from the translucent mystic of heaven that coincide to the beat of the drums.( )

God bless our dear  Iloilo River---a living testimony that it is possible for Filipinos to clean up our rivers and let them live to make our life easier and more enjoyable.

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