Save Our Sunset (SOS) Save Manila Bay… Do You Mean “Keep It Polluted” ?

First Of A Series

I am not about to argue on semantics here, but I think the guys over at the “Save Manila Bay” movement are being a bit anachronistic.

Manila Bay has been dead for decades, really.  So, do we mean that we want to keep it that way?  Of course not.  I don’t think that’s what the group behind the protesters against the Manila Bay reclamation project wants to happen.

Pasig River Avenger’s Tony Sudden, a blogger with roots in Canada, conveyed his thoughts on SOS Save Manila Bay rather simply but clearly:

Saving the beautiful sunset on Manila Bay isn’t a simple matter of keeping Manila Bay the way it is right now.

Among the forces behind the effort to stop the Manila Bay reclamation project are Carlos Celdran and Jim Libiran.  I like reading what these guys have to say about everything and they seem like they have their hearts in the right place and they’re a lot of fun to read in Facebook.

bagnet festival ni jim libiranLast night I caught Jim posting pictures of his bagnet and I love this stuff.  It isn’t just friend pork with crackling kept on, it’s pork that has been slow fried in a vat of pork lard which is then dried and re-fried to crispy perfection.  Uplanders love pork and if ever they got to vote for it, the Philippines would probably have to consider having the “pig” as a national animal because it is the mainstay of a lot of rituals — watwat, kanyaw, etcetera.

Jim shot into prominence as one of the guys in the now defunct public affairs TV show “The Correspondents”.  It was one of the TV shows I used to stay up late for because Jim is a master at producing episodes that deliver grit and substance in a heady combination that somewhat lifts the ordinary into the extraordinary.

I think it’s the artist in him that allows him to pull it off so well and so memorably.

imelda by carlos celdranAlso on my wall was a status update from Carlos who I think is gearing up for another good run with his Imelda-centric tours of the CCP and it’s got a pretty good poster.  Brings back to mind all the huge bottles of perfume that she left at Malacanang Palace after she and her dear Ferdie boarded a plane going to Hawaii.  Yes, she’s our very own Evita Peron and the fascinating story of Imelda, I am told, couldn’t be told better than the way Carlos tells it.

But they can also stir a lot of outrage over a number of things and turn it into a cause of sorts.

From saving 182 trees in Baguio City, would you believe these two guys are now huffing over Manila Bay’s sunset?  Yep and they are apparently up in arms against another developer — where the thread between these two protests really lie is any body’s guess.

Maybe they move in the same crowd, maybe they met at some party, or maybe they just care about the same sort of stuff.

Then again, it really doesn’t matter at all. Because, like I said, it’s any body’s guess.

But there is a common denominator between the 182 Pine Trees of Luneta Hill and Manila Bay, no one really cared about these things until someone decided to do something with it — other than watch these places rot.

Over the odd number of times that I had passed by Luneta Hill in Baguio City, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone protest the condition it was in or for that matter, did anything about beetle infestation some of the trees had.  Well, not until SM Baguio decided to develop that area and then the part time “tree huggers” came out in force.

As for Manila Bay… Well… I’ve been a Manilenyo all my life and almost all my childhood memories are tied to trips to the bay. My mom and my eldest brother Gene used to take me with my cousins there on weekends for a romp.

Over the decades, Manila Bay has been getting worse and worse.  Not that it was in good condition in the late 70s or early 80s which was the period of my childhood and early adolescence, but at least, at that time, you could still go to Aroma Beach (just a few kilometers down Roxas Blvd and past Baclaran) and have fun with the lumot as well as dikya on its shores.

From then on, the waters of Manila Bay have turned from icky to toxic and it’s no wonder it has, because, all of Manila’s sewers drain into it.  Of course, that’s not to mention that Manila’s piers (and the ships that go through them) are also to blame of the pollution of the bay… And don’t forget that trash barges also go over this body of water or that people still routinely throw garbage into the bay or that all the trash that floats on Pasig River ends up there.

Eco-waste coalition did a pretty good job when it raised awareness over solid waste pollution in Manila Bay and I think their work contributed to the ban of plastic bags all over the country.  This movement against plastic pollution was something I supported and continue to support because of my experience with Ondoy.  It seemed that the movement had worked out the rationale quite well and even got some science to back up their claims, this made it pretty easier to sign on to.

I can’t say the same for the movement to “save the Manila Bay sunset”, at least not right now.

For instance, did you know that the reason why Manila Bay’s sunset is so gloriously colored is because we’re actually looking at it through a thick layer of air pollution?  Did you know that the reason why that the waters of the bay seem more “sparkly” is because of the layer of oil on it?

Kinda makes you think, what are we really saving when it we are called upon to “Save Manila Bay”?

I think there’s pretty much a misunderstanding about what “Saving Manila Bay” ought to mean and this is something I hope the likes of Celdran as well as Libiran help clarify in the coming days.

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6 Comments on “Save Our Sunset (SOS) Save Manila Bay… Do You Mean “Keep It Polluted” ?”

  1. Paul,

    Interesting you mentioned Imelda. Back in the day, immediately following the 1986 “EDSA Revolution,” all the way through the late 80’s and early 90’s, the national government through the City of Manila, the CCP, the DOT and I think even the DTI floated a number of requests soliciting proposals from design schools, and professional developers for a master plan to re-design Metro Manila to direct its development in the years to come.

    For Manila Bay, particular emphasis was placed on the development of what is now known as the “Baywalk” along Roxas Boulevard as a promenade to attract tourists and encourage walking. The idea was to make the area friendly to pedestrians with wide avenues, landscaping and seating to allow people to congregate.

    The proposals also covered zoning (for commercial and residential use) as well as provisions for mass transportation and most importantly, waste disposal.

    Sadly, considering how chaotic the urban sprawl is in Metro Manila, none of these plans came to fruition. And as you pointed out, this has turned Metro Manila’s waterways and Manila Bay into a toxic soup.

    1. Thanks for commenting man and reminding me about those great plans.

      I think things took a turn immediately after World War II and just continued on that path.

      I know little about Imelda’s plans, which were probably drafted by the best minds that could be hired at that time.

      But you see, we’re a country of great plans and good starts, what is consistently lacking in all of this are equally great accomplishments and follow throughs.

      If you’ve lived through the Marcos years or part of it, as I have, you would have also heard that these plans were all part of his administration’s propaganda.

      (Imelda had a number of stupid projects, including the Green Revolution — which, for the life of me, involved planting Ipil-ipil wherever it could be planted. Tangina! Bakit hindi Malunggay, at least makakain. Those fucking scraggly trees were an eyesore and brigades of MMDA had to sweep its leaves and pods everyday. Kadiwa wasn’t that great either. The Bliss Homes? I have to admit, they’re better than the pigeon holes made by successive administrations. But look at these housing projects now, parang malapit nang ma-condemn.)

      I have no idea how many of these Marcosian plans ever came true, but I do recall my father always telling me that he had heard of Marcos’ plans year in and year out — very little of which actually happened.

      Going back to Manila, he thing that is quite apparent about it is that there is LITERALLY no more space for anything, even improvement. Which is not to say that it has come near perfection at any point.

      Walang matinong business and government district ang Manila gaya ng sa Makati. Unless you count Binondo, which is like Tondo — can you imagine doing your banking there? Only if you’re Chinese maybe and your business is a couple of steps away.

      Anyway, I’ll save the other stuff I want to write about this topic for another post.

      1. Don’t lose hope, man. Remember back circa 1967 and the early 70’s? Travelling to Taytay by public transport meant riding the G-Liner from downtown Manila through San Juan and all the way east on Ortigas Avenue. Back then, you looked out the window at the place where San Juan City and Mandaluyong City met and all you could see was flat plain. (Ironic this is now “Greenhills” when the only hills in the area are in Little Baguio) But the Ortigas family started to build communities there. Same with the Ayalas down in Makati. They created PLANNED neighborhoods with a small business/commercial center, schools, churches and residential subdivisions around it. All connected by (at the time) relatively wide, paved roadways with spaces for landscaped greenery.

        The problems came after when city planners, the MMDA and the DPWH pretty much threw out any semblance of following the laws and guidelines for zoning and property development. We all suffer because of the chaos.

        Today however, Ayala, Ortigas and even Robinson’s Land spearhead community development in the south — Laguna and Cavite. I’m hoping they can replicate the formula that made their previous efforts in San Juan and Makati a tremendous success and alleviate the urban sprawl in Metro Manila.

        Either that or we might all end up living in shoe boxes designed by SM Development Corp.

  2. So if pollution is actually causing the red sunset of Manila Bay, do you actually want to keep the pollution to keep the sunset red? Hehe, good logic.

    On another note, while I support the plastic reduction movement in Quezon City, I think calling environment-friendly might be a stretch. I mean, if you use more paper bags, then that means more trees get cut for it. It would be good to say the plastic reduction program is anti-flood. That’s what it’s exactly about.

    1. ChinoF,

      I think you misapprehend the situation.

      It’s true you will cut down trees to produce NEW paper products. Paper is actually one of the best renewable materials to use if you want to be environmentally responsive. Mainly because you can always plant more trees. The problem in the Philippines is the lack of enough large scale industrial forests to produce wood products. One of the best I’ve seen is Enrile’s Casilayan Softwood (part of the JAKA Group). This is a prime example of an industrial tree plantation development company. Considering this company is one of the senator’s moneymakers, it comes as no surprise he ensures its sustainability.

      Also consider this — there are at least twenty (20) paper recycling companies in and around Metro Manila and Bulacan. This recycled paper goes back into the market in addition to new paper products.

      Plastic recycling technology is also pretty advanced. And newer, bio-degradable materials are finding their way into bags and other disposable containers. Take grocery bags for instance. Those marked “Bio-degradable” generally have a shelf life of six months. That is by then, if they aren’t used, you’ll notice they start changing texture. That’s a sign they’re starting to break down. A far cry from a decade ago when you could dig up a landfill and find plastic bags from the 1950’s still intact.

  3. Manila Bay is now polluted with waste and trash.
    The sunset will always be there; along with the trash. I have seen many environmentalists come and go. However, they cannot do anything. Squatters will always be there, to throw trash, waste, etc…Sign of our deteriorating national and economic conditions.

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