The murky waters of Pasig River is said to be polluted, “biologically dead” according to scientists. Looking at the factories that our government permitted to set shop along its banks, there’s no doubt that its waters are contaminated. Add to this are the settlements that has made the river their septic tank. Gone are the days when people could, not only bathe, but take water from it to drink!
But is it really a dead river?
I spoke to two anglers. The first one is the man in the photo (hardly visible, lower left portion). He refused to have his photo taken because by his own definition he was a “dating preso.” To him, fishing is not recreation; he needs it to feed his family. He told me that it has only been some 4 hours since he started but he has already managed to catch a plastic-full of small tilapias (about 4-5 inches long). His secret is that he fishes near a tributary (actually, it’s a canal feeding waste water to the river). Those tilapias he’s plucking out of the water are having a feast feeding from whatever edible waste the canal’s carrying with it. He told me that he has been fishing the river for years and not once did they got sick from it. His only grievance is that the fishes are getting smaller these days.
The other river angler is an employee of MMDA. He said that fishing is his past time. But he does not catch and release. What he catches he also eats. He’s somewhat unlucky these past few days he said, so he ends up buying other anglers catch. He also refused to be photographed because he’s on duty but claims that he only spends a few hours fishing. He likes his tilapias cooked in coconut milk (gata). He brags about how good his wife cooks.
I could relate to these folks as I was once an angler myself. I remember the days when I would surf fish in Manila bay (back in 2005-06). But my hands and instinct wasn’t for it but I wonder if my family depended on what I’d catch for the day, maybe I would be forced to do better.
What brought me to the banks of Pasig was the ferry service that was recently rehabilitated to help alleviate traffic in Manila. There was a company that was running the ferry service a few years back but the business didn’t attract enough passengers to profit from it. The government, as usual, failed to aid the dying venture. They didn’t recognize the potential of the ferry service.
I spent so much time chatting with the gentleman fishers that I missed the ferry ride that’s suppose to take me to Plaza Mexico in Intramuros. I decided to skip the ride for now. For those who wants to keep the Pasig alive, using the ferry system is one way of reviving it. The ferry service is a perfect window for us Filipinos of what the river could give us.
Hindi lamang tapunan ng basura’t kung anung likidong dumi ang ilog Pasig, may panahon na pinagkukunan ito ng pangkabuyahan at daanan din ng mga manlalakbay patungong Manila. Ito’y hindi mga bagong idea. Mas matanda pa ito sa historya.