Sunday, March 08, 2009

Estero de Paco: Life Along the River



esterodepaco7

This is a photo-documentary about an estero, and the people who are living along its banks. This is the story of Estero de Paco, once the cleanest and loveliest creeks in Manila. Now, it has become the dirtiest, most polluted, and garbage-laden esteros among all the creeks that flow directly to the Pasig River.

As one of the major creeks that flow directly to the Pasig River, the Estero de Paco is up for a major clean-up. It is part of the "Buhayin ang Pasig" program of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) .

I have observed that the water of the Estero de Paco is now slimy, thick, and dark-colored, with floating garbage of all kinds (plastic materials, household wastes), animal carcasses, and human feces. The garbage in the river has become so thick that rats are able to run on top of it--chased by cats. The river and its surrounding areas has a very hideous odor.

Human habitation along the river is considered a major contributor to the pollution of the river. Everyday tons of garbage from households are dumped into the river. The river has virtually become a garbage dump site.

To solve this problem, and to clean up the Estero, the PRRC plans to demolish the human habitation three meters from the banks of the river. This means that about 1,300 families will be affected in the Estero de Paco area alone.

Of course, the affected families did not like this idea. Although they were squatters, they nevertheless have established long-residency along the river and by law cannot just be ejected. The PRRC therefore opted to give them either a relocation site in Montalban, Rizal, or, if they didn't want the site, they can just receive a cash incentive and find a place somewhere else far from the river.

Most of these families are very poor. I have interviewed many of them and saw first hand their living conditions. Many of them live in squalor, their shanties made of light plywood materials and rusted tin roofs. Most homes have very small living spaces that do not have proper sleeping quarters and toilets. The river underneath their houses has become the toilet. Many of their children do not go to school, and the parents have no permanent jobs or already lost jobs.

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I have photographed this photo-essay alone and with no assistance from anyone. I am not working for any agency or organization and I am not a professional writer or photographer. I have tried to depict the conditions as fairly as possible, and as I have seen them. I have only tried to learn about the river and its people from the standpoint of an independent observer.

Although I have spent months visiting many areas of the river, and interviewed many of the the families that will be affected by the relocation, and interviewed concerned agencies, I do not lay claim that this photo-essay is by any means authoritative. What you are about to see is only a small portion of the bigger problem of the Pasig River itself, and the plan to save it from death.

The Estero de Paco is just one of the thousands of polluted rivers around the world. My only wish is to have my photos expose the sad realities of modernization and urbanization. I also hope that this will contribute in a little way to a more active environmental awareness in all of us.

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The Estero de Paco near the Paco Public Market (The building at left is the Paco Catholic Church)

To be continued...

40 comments:

the donG said...

sobra naman to. those people staying along that creek should take part in its restoration project.

luna miranda said...

this is so disgusting! the condition of this estero has everything to do with the people who live by the banks. sure the residents here are poor but that doesn't mean that they can't discipline themselves and take care of their surroundings. nakakainis kasi kahit linisin pa ng government ang estero na 'to, hangga't walang pakialam ang mga nakatira dito, di talaga lilinis ang lugar.

Hannah said...

Wow. How do people even let that happen? I mean, really? And, why do people let that happen? Some live by it, as you say. I just don't understand some people.

But, there are also those that are trying to restore it and make the environment a better, and most likely safer, place to live.

You've done a wonderful job covering this, Dennis.

l,
Hannah

The Pope said...

I don't know what "restoration" thing we are talking about here, this is not a classic art painting that can restored to its original image or state through modern technology.

The creek is long dead.Its death is slow, predictably and irreversible. Thats' what happened to any neglected natural resources.

Tandaan, ang basurang ating ikinalat at babalik rin sa atin. We do not want these things to happen to our remaining rivers and lakes? Tumulong tayo sa pangangalaga ng mga bagay na ipinagkatiwala sa atin.

fortuitous faery said...

wow, it's 99% trash and 1% water. this can really rival the slum scenes in "slumdog millionaire."

Mari said...

This is so disgusting. I just wonder how these people who live here can bear the stench of the pollution they themselves have created. It is about time the authorities take action and have it cleaned. And, if they do, hopefully, it will not be another ningas cogon project.

SandyCarlson said...

Everyone should pitch in! It's amazing how people change once they feel they own their work and benefit from the results. I hope that gets cleaned up.

REDLAN said...

OMG! ilog pa ba yan? Kung ako papiliin, sa kalye na lang ako matulog keysa tabi ng ilog na 'to. Sobra na talaga yan. Sabi nga nila, tao ang pumapatay sa kanyang sarili.

Sidney said...

Dennis...this is a very interesting topic and one that was on my never ending list for documentation...

I think the responsibility lies primary by the government... first they should never have allowed people to live near the esteros and secondly the garbage collection is not well organized in this country. If people don't know what they need to do with their garbage they will just throw it into the estero or on the street.
So yes, we need a better garbage collection.

And last but not least...it is all about education... send ALL the children to school...educate them and make the children sensitive about the world/nature around them.
Once educated the people will elect better leaders and politicians... they will not vote for someone because they got 100 pesos but they will vote for great leaders...
But I guess politicians are not interested in well educated people who are critical thinkers...

Sad...very very sad... I am happy you took up onto you to show those problems...I might do the same in a few months.

I think we have the same outlook in life...document things around us in an objective way... to show the reality of life around us.

I am very impressed by the quality and human interest of your past photo series! I couldn't have done it better ! Nice work on very interesting topics. Topics that people prefer to ignore !

Keep up the good work Dennis...

dodong flores said...

I agree with the Pope. The death of this river is irreversible. If we talk about restoration, it's not really what would turn about. We can't really bring it back to its former state. But if it can be cleaned up, that's already a big change...

Reena said...

grabe ang dumi!!! dapat pala bumili ako ng maraming walis sa baguio to clean up this mess! :)

great shots! email mo kaya eto sa office of the mayor. baka hindi noiya to nakikita.:)

Sardonyx said...

Nice post Dennis, the people who live along the estero do not have self-discipline at all, and the government is not doing anything that can improve this problem. Basura dapat inuuna ng mga politicians sa pag improve ng bansa at hindi ang pagpalit ng mga pangalan ng mga kalsada o kung ano pang walang katuturang bagay. Grabe, talamak na talaga ang problema sa ating bansa. Nakakaawa ang mga mahihirap wala ng pag-asa.

Thanks for this wonderful blog. Ang galing! Keep it up.

Ash said...

Shocking!

buninay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buninay said...

kailangan ba talagang magcomment?

puro basura laman utak ko eh. so ito lang muna comment ko: NO COMMENT. daan lang poh ako. linisin ko muna basura sa utak ko. harhar.

Lionheart : Richard the Adventurer said...

Kaasar naman!


'Yan lagi ang dinadaanan ko from Sta. Ana...

I hope... 'Yung program ng ABS-CBN na buhayin ang PAsig River ay magwork talaga like the Lamesa Eco-Park.

syel said...

yaiks! i had to look closely pa talaga to make sure estero sya. daming nakalutang or ganun na kadami ung nakatapon na basura. it would take decades to finally clean an estero like this.

Photo Cache said...

it would be to everyone's advantage if the people squatting along the river should pitch in and help out in the restoration of the river. it is a river after all.

this problem is as old as the nation, i think.

sparkzspot said...

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Dennis Villegas said...

Sidney: Thank you for the very well-thought comment. I can agree with you on all the points you mentioned.

But I guess it would be too ideal, and it will never happen, especially if greed and corruption still rule our country.

I look forward to your river series. I will be glad to help you in any way I can. I wish more photojournalists and bloggers should try to present these social problems more to create a voice and awareness.

Garando said...

OMG!! It doesn't even look like a river at all. Garbage has covered every square inch!
Relocating the squatters is most likely the last resort. I think the MMDA or the local government already educated them re: throwing their garbage on the river but its effectiveness is obvious enough from the photos.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many government politician pass by on this estero and think "I should do something about this river and the people who lived here" or they just turn a blind eyes coz this is going to cost them alot of money. But then if they just prevented this from happening in the first place, i supposed this is not going to be a problem like it is now.

jessforget said...

a very nice idea of showing your dear readers the awareness of what is happening on this river. this is just one of the rivers we have in metro that has the same condition. i think if the government did not tolerate the squatters this would have not been the scenario we are looking at right now. yes, sidney is right everything should start by educating the people. i think d masama to leave near the banks if they hold responsible in proper waste disposal. if we want to clean these rivers, tomorrow is not the right time. the government should dom something about this. sabi nga nila prevention is the best medicine.

congrats dennis! hope to see more about this.

clarkdave said...

We live in a building beside the Pasig River and sometimes we can just smell how horrendous the water is especially when we were out of water supplies.

It's funny how would we imagine Rizal in a boat paddling on those trashes, it's indeed how this situation put us Filipinos in shame for letting our once notably an economical river became some "official" dumpster for the slum people.

Anonymous said...

Government should STERILIZE these subhumans so as NOT to proliferate...HINDI mga tao iyan.at kayong mga pipino, PUROS SENTIMENTAL at AWA..kaya HINDI UMUNLAD-UNLAD ang 3rd world at basura nyong bansa..KAWAWA naman kayo.HINDI kayo mga tao..mga BABOY kayo...

Sincent Vimone said...

I dunno, I think it looks kinda cool...

Hazel said...

Hi mr. Villegas,

i need to ask you some questions re estero de paco. is your email account still with skydsl?

kg said...

hi mr. dennis!

i would like to ask permission to use some of your pics at my site...with a link to your site of course! thanks!

Anonymous said...

I studied in PCS for about 10 years of my life... i love the school with every fiber of my being... and every year i look at the river... and it kept getting worse and worse... and who's to blame? people who live around it, people who throw their crap in it, and the government itself. The people that live around there are not responsible enough to clean it, the people who throw their crap in it are not even smart enough to look for the nearest garbage can, and the government is too "busy" to acknowledge one tiny river!!! WAKE UP DOUCHE BAGS!!! THE COUNTRY ALREADY SUFFERED TWO MAJOR FLOODS... one during the time of the late crappy president marcos... and now during 2009... I have friends and family that suffered cuz of this flood... and weather is to blame... but wouldnt it be possible for the rivers of our country serve as a drain pipe to take the flood away to open sea??? THINK FOR ONE DAMN SECOND AND STOP THROWING YOU SHIT ALL OVER THE PLACE!!! Why cant the government enforce rules such as environmental laws??? are you going to tell me they have??? yah shit... they have not done anything... they're too busy doing some other crap... WAKE UP AND SMELL THE SHIT ALL AROUND YOU!!! think of someplace where you can dump the garbage. try recycling? how bout start recycling business. or jobs that involves taking care of the environment? i mean c'mon!! People need jobs anyway right? and the government aint gonna bend and grab the nearest paper to their feet and throw in the recycling bin right?? Start business involving landscaping, or recycling. What bout the biodegradable??? Cant some of them be processed to fertilizer for crops? so whats the biggest threat then?? what bout plastic bags? everyone knows that plastic bags takes a long time to disintegrate. so why not use paper bags instead? where are you going to put the garbage you have at home?? how bout this.. liquids - down the drain; recyclable - recycle bins; biodegradable - paper bags. aint that easy? jeez... i live in canada. and here we charge an extra 5 cents if you want to have a plastic bag, but paper bags or reusable shopping bags are free. why not do the same? i may be in canada but im filipino by heart. i love Philippines, and i dont want it to sink after 20 years. And you may laugh at it now, but why dont you do some research dumn shits! sea level is rising; and if your filipino, you know that Philippines is flood and hurricane prone. Compare the flood levels that we had 10 years ago from the one we have recently. is it higher? of course it is! So what now? to the people that live around the banks of rivers, lakes, or any body of water: you have the out most duty in cleaning it and maintaining it clean; to the people that throw their crap around wherever they want: Philippines is our land! its the land that Jose Rizal, Lapu-lapu, Andres Bonifacio, and other fallen heros maintained and protected! you say you love your country?? then stop taking her for granted and start picking up your shit, look for the nearest garbage can, and dump ur crap there; and for the government: STOP JACKING OFF AND DOING NOTHING!! you've been elected to lead, protect, and take care of the people of the country and the country itself! do you job!! start thinking and doing!!! put some garbage can on every block or even half a block if you have to! start thinking of jobs that can help people that did not study, where not able to finish studying, and finished studying! Start thinking like an environmentalist at times like now!! Dont give me that shit that the earth is dying anyway!! if a person you love the most is dying, would you stare at them and just say to yourself "he's dying anyway. what the hell's the point?" then you just pull the plug?? if you think that then you dont deserve to live, specially to live to a country that served as your mother, you bastard! A sane person would do anything he or she can for that person... so do your part for your country!! WAKE UP!!!

Honest said...

I wish all the best...for Paco Market and the Filipino people who work and live near it.

Keep in mind, success can only be achieve if the changes make sense and is commercially viable.

1. Imagine a floating market next to it?
2. Clean Hawkers market type food for tourist, locals, and high-end dinning near the Pasig River?
3. Kayak or Gondola type boating in the evening.. the water must be clean for this to happen.

All these provide money to Filipinos in Paco Market to keep it clean and progress!

Anonymous said...

During the 50s and 60s, estero de paco used to be the playground of my grandfather but today it is the playground of pantene, pancit canton, tae. During the post-world war in mid 60s, Manila became rich and people from other places in the country were astonished in this economic boost.The population of Manila became larger and larger until squatters came alive. There's no use on blaming anyone. Just do your part.

Lolita Tiongson said...

This post is over a year old. What has happened since then?

Lindsy said...

grabe ,it doesn't look like a creek anymore!it looks like a land filled with disgusting, smelly,and juicy garbages!
i agree with the pope, the situation is irreversible but if the garbages and the houses there will be removed surely the people won't have to bother much on flash floods right?obviously, they dont want to happen again the disaster that happened during the tyhoon ondoy.
i hope they will cooperate.
i want to help in this project even by just convincing the families there to evacuate.they are given the chance to have a better life if they evacuate,hope they grab it.
they dont have to hold on to their life in estero de paco because they're not even taking care of it.
i wish they realize how they are causing their death. that estero deoes not give them life anymore!instead it's death it's offering.
this is a very nice project.
enough of bulidings, the project on saving the environment,is what i think, the best project above all.
i hope besides cleaning the creeks they will have the project on saving our mountains through planting trees.
good luck !

Lindsy's Classmate said...

You say that the situation is irreversible? I don't think so. All it needs is an outrageous idea, support from the government or private organizations and luck. And by an outrageous idea, I mean an idea like having a skyscraper built to clean a river in India, if I'm not mistaken, and provide homes for the slums there. A true scientist perseveres, afterall. There is one question though, that is yet to be anwered: Is there someone willing to spend years, probably a lifetime, formulating these ideas to save rivers like this that was never thought possible?

Lindsy's Classmate said...

irreversible, huh? There are lots of things here thought impossible, but in reality, is possible. What we need is someone who would spend years researching or whatever to formulate this outrageous idea that no one has ever thought of before that may save or rather, restore rivers like this. Well, an example is this group of architects who thought of building a skyscraper in India (if I'm not mistaken) that will clean the river there AND provide a home for the slums living there.

lindsy said...

my classmate,
what i mean by irreversible here is that it can't return to its former state. meaning it wont go back to the river it used to look. but if you really think so, well i hope for that someone to come. do you have an idea who it can be?

jenny said...

nice blog..nice article

Faizza said...

Nothing is impossible if all of the sectors work together. Have you seen the Estero de Paco recently? Here is a link to the before/after shots of Estero de Paco from our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=290473&id=308800808244

Richard said...

The essay is about the estero as are most of the comments. What about the people of the slum that damaged it? I learned about that by reading a post from the English magazine "New Statesman," which gave me a view of the people, of how they struggle against a government that doesn't care about them, even though they are part of the fabric and lifeblood of the society that wants to cast them off (think Fight Club). The residents need to be close to their jobs, but the society won't allow them to live in such a way that keeps the environment pure, and to live close to their employment. The government would rather relocate them hours away where there are no services and no jobs. I think there is room enough for environmental concerns and people concerns, but there must be balance.

Maria Westerbos said...

Dear Dennis,

Marcus Eriksen, founder of 5gyres.com, told us about your blog and this photo-documentary. Everybody who sees it, is shocked. Within a couple of weeks we will organize a three-day campaign to raise awareness in the Netherlands of one of the most invisible and yet largest conglomerations of waste on Earth. This is the plastic debris that contaminates our oceans and all bodies of water, creating graveyards of trash strewn across the planet.
Part of this campaign is an Innovation Lab at the T-Xchange SI Lab in Delft. There they will attempt to formulate an answer to the question: 'How can we clean a river like the Estero de Paco - based on a profitable economics model and the assumption that ‘It’s a waste to waste waste.’

During this session, teams of young people representing science, industry, NGOs, the diplomatic corps and the media will face each other. The winning idea will then be adopted and developed to the stage of realization.

Can we get in contact with you about this?

Maria@plasticsoupfoundation.org