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.
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.