Friday, January 25, 2013

Estero De Paco (First Part)

Has the Kapamilya network's Bantay Ilog really succeeded in bringing the creek back to life, or I was being toyed by my audacious visions?

Midnight Afterburner


Coming from Paco Station, a swerve of your head to the left window when riding a train lets you catch a glimpse of a lush clearing. A jungle wedged between the flimsy homes of slum dwellers, a commuter may need a second glance to believe that a green landscape thrives in a squalid place.

It is easy to dismiss such oasis being a showcase of a non-profit group. After all, behind the habitat restoration is a TV network that is trying to score points with its viewers. Corporate responsibility aside, I was hoping that the idea lives up to its press release. Seldom does Manila see an urban renewal project happening in one of its most repugnant communities. 

I need to see if it can be sustained.


My journey began at San Andres train station. There is a side street next to the rail tracks. But for reasons of security, I chose to leap between the concrete crossties holding the steel rails in place. Better this way than pass through a narrow alley and receive stares from weary locals.

After what seemed like forever of looking behind - to see if a train was approaching - a clearing led me to the manicured oasis. It was manicured in a sense that Talahib grasses and Birds of Paradise suddenly shot up along the banks of the estuary. There is also a wooden pier jutting out of the pool. If not for the corrugated houses nearby, it is easy to mistake the oasis for a real estate development. But as I learned along the way, my feet led me to the headwaters of a serpentine estero slithering all the way to Pasig River. 

I was lucky to discover its source.

Before Restoration

Not so long ago, the estero was in the news for its horrid reputation. Houses on stilts under the bridge, and at the middle of the waterway. Its dozen occupants lay side by side at night. They sleep on the floor that is just inches away from the murky and foul-smelling water. Heaps of trash so thick, one can actually walk over them. Untold sickness and misery happened there, but its a way of life for the squatters. The estero's banks offered refuge when none could provide them decent homes.

All these had changed when ABS-CBN Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig stepped in. They hauled tons of trash clogging the waterway. Planted grasses and toxic resistant plants to restore the soil, and with the help of the city government, houses that encroached on the estuary were demolished. Its former residents trucked away to government relocation sites in Laguna and Rizal.

The undertaking, which began in 2009 took three years to take shape. With a price tag of 20 million pesos - mostly coming from the non-profit group's coffers, it was one of the more ambitious fluvial restoration project ever conceived.

Did it accomplish its goal, one may ask? The answer I learned when I decided to trace the estero's direction from its source down to its confluence with another body of water.

Solar Lamp Posts


1 comment:

Senyor Iskwater said...

nakakabitin naman ang iyong paggala sa lugar na ito... sa next post ako magfufullblast comment...

hmmmnn... madadalas tambay ko rito...