Rediscover Manila–aboard a Pasig River cruise
By Sunshine Lichauco de Leon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:06:00 06/14/2009
MANILA, Philippines – “The state of the Pasig River today mirrors the state of the country. And the potential of the river mirrors the potential of the country. It might take a generation to make it happen, but the river, and the country, can be transformed,” said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano as he observed the view from the deck of the Pasig River Ferry.
Durano recently took the ferry as part of the launch of a new tourism program. Thanks to a partnership between Philcoa, an association of tour operators that exclusively promotes in-bound and domestic tourism, and Department of Tourism and ABS-CBN’s “Kapit Bisig sa Ilog Pasig” project, visitors can now use the Pasig River “to see and explore Manila.”
Providing an alternative to the more conventional tour package trips to Luneta, the National Museum or Intramuros, this new program is centered on the concept of “Beyond the Usual.” Its first tour, “Pasig Ferry Cruise and Binondo Culinary Walking Tour” is just the beginning.
The ferryboat cruise will start at the station in Mandaluyong and end in Escolta. En route, the air-conditioned, 150-passenger boat passes historical areas such as Malacañang Palace and Sta. Ana. An outside deck is also available for those who want fresh air and a glimpse of water lilies floating by.
Starting in September, pre-taped audio-visual presentations will be shown onboard on all ferries with tours, with historical facts and stories shared as each particular area of interest is passed by the ferry.
A guide from the Mabuhay Guides group, the DOT’s highly-trained team of tourist guides, will meet the group at Escolta and conduct a three-hour walking tour of the highlights of Binondo.
The tour provides historical information and insights on what life was like in a bygone era, with visits to streets such as Escolta, Tomas Pinpin, Quintin Paredes, Ongpin, Condesa, and Enrique Yuchengco.
A visit to a local Philippine-Chinese temple is also included. To provide a break from experiencing the sights and sounds of this bustling area of little streets and alleys, stops are made at different eateries where participants can try things such as delicious dumplings and fresh Chinese lumpia.
Although walking tours of Binondo exist, this program is unique in that it uses the Pasig River as a means to transport local and foreign tourists to the heart of what was once “Chinatown.”
Walking tours emanating from other Pasig River Ferry stations will be launched in September.
Within the next two years, tourists will be able to disembark at the Mexico station for a walking tour of Intramuros; the Sta. Ana station for a heritage tour of Sta. Ana; and Guadalupe for shopping at nearby Shangri-La Plaza, and SM Megamall.
Sense of pride
As Clang Garcia, owner of Jeepney Tours and Philcoa member, says, “It gives me a sense of pride to rediscover the richness of Philippine history. Seeing it through such an unusual experience of traveling on the Pasig River only heightens that affect. It made me feel connected to my real identity as a Filipino.”
According to Durano, the Pasig River tour program is important because everything begins with building appreciation of this vital waterway.
“We just need more people to appreciate it and to not continue the mind-set of past generations, which have neglected what we have. It can dramatically improve the quality of life of residents of Metro Manila,” he says.
The Pasig Ferry Cruise, along with its peripheral tours, is just one example of the “Beyond the Usual” tour packages that have been created by Philtoa. The rest will be officially launched at the Philippine Travel Mart on Sept. 4. The fair is open to the public.
For more information on the Pasig River tours, call 812-4513 or visit www.philtoa.ph.