Beyond Jogging Along Manila’s Esteros: In Response To Gina Lopez

Dear Gina, in your Philippine Star musings “From the Heart” dated September 30, 2012, you shared “another dream” for Manila’s mall-bound urbanites –  that “we can jog along the esteros” (presumably, not just of the rehabilitated showcase of Estero de Paco but of the other esteros of Manila as well).

You asked us to “ imagine if the esteros were beautiful with trees and green and clean — with clean water flowing! Wouldn’t it be great to jog along that? That’s where I would like to go. Then maybe people will not just go to the malls and start enjoying nature instead!” You concluded your pristine dream sequence with a philosophical, if not religious, insight: “Fostering and nurturing a connection with nature is very good for the soul.

Gina, I am not much into jogging, nor running. Walking is more my type. Nevertheless, you have a point. However, let me take your dream one step further, deeper, and backward. Instead of (or maybe, aside from)  jogging, why not  imagine taking a banca ride along the Pasig River and into Manila’s esteros, Spanish colonial period style.

As far back as 1621, when the nuns of the Monastery Santa Clara stayed at the Sampaloc convent before they moved to Intramuros, visitors wishing to consult the members of this revered religious order, took a banca ride from Intramuros, up the Pasig River, and into Estero de Sampaloc (there was no Estero de Aviles or Estero de San Miguel since these places were still at the south side of Pasig and not at the north).

Imaginary Boat Ride of around five kilometers from Intramuros to Sampaloc via Pasig River and Estero de Sampaloc . Photo’s of Actual Scenes Along Today’s Estero de Sampaloc, circa 2012.

Upon entering Estero de Sampaloc (blocked by today’s MMDA Nagtahan Pumping Station), the visitors turned left and followed the contours of the estero until they found themselves parallel with today’s Legarda Street. Upon reaching today’s MRT Legarda Station (named today as Estero de San Miguel but part of Estero de Sampaloc during the Spanish colonial period) the banca would turn right into a smaller creek, cross today’s Legarda Street towards Bustillos. Just a few yards away (where a McDonald’s Hamburger Store is located), they would disembark and walk towards the atrium of the Our Lady of Loreto Church.

If we can imagine being able to take this Intramuros to Sampaloc via Pasig River and Estero de Sampaloc banca ride, then your dream would go beyond the realm of nature/environment and into living history. If people can navigate again the Rio Grande and the Esteros of Manila, even for leisure, then truly the waters of Manila are not just clean, but alive. Just imagine boats with people of different inclinations.  In one boat, there’s a child’s excitement over catching a fish. In another boat, a young couple exchange glances of affection. In another, an old man reenacts the religious pilgrimage taken by devotees of Our Lady of Loreto a long time ago. Gina, imagine your River Warriors taking the helm of these boats. Imagine your River Warriors as guardians, not just of the environment, but of history, culture, and heritage.

I can imagine riding one of these boats, dipping my fingers into the clean waters, as the boat creates ripples into the fabric, not just of space, but of time. When my soul thirsts for connections to my adopted town’s history, I just take that banca trip along Estero de Sampaloc. When my soul thirsts for a meditative and slow journey, I just take that banca trip along Estero de Sampaloc. Gina, will you be patient enough to ride along with me?

Gina, Will You Ride With Me?

MRG (text & photographs).

Additional Readings:  Gina Lopez, Cleaning Up and Running For Pasig River, Philippine Star, September 30, 2012, Retrieved from  (

HobofromManila, Rehabilitating Pasig River: One Estero at a Time. Retrieved from

Ivan Anthony Henares, What To Do With Manila? Retrieved from


~ by Martin Gaerlan on November 2, 2012.

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