Pasig River as a tourist, heritage site
I remember a memorable dinner in a restaurant on the banks of the Bosphorus, the natural strait that cuts through Istanbul and links the European and Asian sides of Turkey’s capital. Our table was outside, beneath a bridge. All of a sudden, the peace was broken by a submarine that surfaced just before the bridge. It was an astonishing sight, and proved to me why the Bosphorus is such an important touristic site. Indeed, the banks of the Bosphorus are lined not just with restaurants and bars, but also with hotels and luxury residences. I remember thinking wistfully why Manila and its own significant waterway, the Pasig River, could not be used in the same way: as a showcase of the city, giving visitors and tourists an unusual experience of the city.
Well, that is precisely what we recently got when Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat led the “Pasig River Hop On Hop Off Ferry Tour” packaged by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa), Guide to the Philippines, and the DOT-National Capital Region, with help from the MMDA. A 150-seater air-conditioned ferry has been allocated for the tour, which started from the Guadalupe Station and ended at the Escolta Station.
“Hop On Hop Off” also offers side trips or guided walking tours to places like Intramuros, Escolta, Sta. Ana, and Binondo, where a culinary tour is an added attraction, along with the now-iconic Jones Bridge. Those who disembark at Guadalupe can explore Makati through the Poblacion food tour or bar hop, the Makati Skyline, and even nearby cities like Pasig, San Juan, and Mandaluyong.
Since we had officials with us — aside from Secretary Berna, we were seen off by Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto and met at Escolta by “Yorme” Isko Moreno, himself a tourist attraction — our preview tour was complete with brass bands and grazing tables from the Poblacion restaurants and even Binondo (we took home packs of hopia!).
But even without the warm welcome and the chi-chi company, the trip along the Pasig was a treat in itself. A light breeze alleviated the heat, and friendly folk and children on the banks waving to us lifted our spirits. I will admit to being surprised by the absence of sewer odor, which I had experienced when I still lived in Mandaluyong and took the commuter bancas that docked in Makati across the river. As we approached the Malacañang area, however, we were asked to come in for security purposes, while rubber PSG dinghies followed in our wake.
We were brought to Intramuros, which now benefits from better lighting, making it possible to tour the place at night. After a tour of Fort Santiago, we were then treated to dinner at the elegant marble hall of the Ayuntamiento beside Manila Cathedral. The evening brought with it a deeper appreciation of the heritage that surrounds us, a privilege soon to be available to the public.
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More on the “David vs Goliath” battle between Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco and barangay chairman Wilfredo Mariano. In brief, Mariano now faces kidnapping charges after men visited his barangay (village) office during last year’s elections with an alleged vote-buyer in tow. The supposed vote-buyer claimed he was just delivering food to poll watchers and was let go.
After two months, however, Mariano received a subpoena stating he was being charged with kidnapping, illegal detention, and other crimes. Charged with him were a lawyer who ran against Mayor Tiangco in 2013, and the driver of the van that brought the accused vote-buyer to the barangay hall. Mariano and the van driver were subsequently charged with kidnapping. Mariano sought the help of Mayor Tiangco, who told him to implicate the Mayor’s opponents in the elections.
Refusing, Mariano now faces trial and the prospect of imprisonment. Not only that, residents of Navotas say that those who ran against Tiangco’s party in previous elections, such as a candidate for city councilor in 2016, as well as barangay kagawads involved in cases of vote-buying against Tiangco supporters, have likewise been threatened with formal charges, if not imprisoned.
Residents of Navotas are beginning to see a pattern of what they call “gangsterism” on the part of their mayor. If he can move with impunity against political opponents and local officials, how safe would be residents who just happen to cross the mayor?
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