|José P. Rizal|
The Manila to Laguna journey (and vice versa), in the 19nth century were done via Pasig River. It is the ideal way since highways were non existence. Roads were unpaved, primitive and unsafe. The trip was usually done with steam boat or Casco. Rizal gave us a very vivid glimpse of that travel in the opening chapter of the El Filibusterismo, where the steam ship Tabo was traversing the Pasig River. What was interesting for me in this chapter was Rizal writing about the Pasig River waterway and the river communities of the town of Pasig in the 19th century. For example in Chapter III he wrote:
"When Padre Florentino greeted the little group there were no longer traces of the ill humor of the past discussions. Perhaps they were influenced by the spirits, by the charming houses of Pasig, the glasses of sherry they had taken to whet their appetite........
I asked many times, where could this houses be? What are those houses he was writing about? My research led me first to conclude that Rizal was describing the area around Sumilang nearing Kalawaan, where houses were said to be beautiful and well built in the latter part of the 19nth century. Subsequent inquiry specially with the historical experts of Pasig City suggested it could be the houses near the church. Remember, 19th century Pasig was different. The dominating edifice at that time was the church. Back then , from the Pasig river, if one is already in the vicinity of Sumilang one could see the church dome, the bell tower and the houses that surrounds it.
|The view of the church from the Bitukang Manok. Note the dome of the church|
*The Legend of Doña Jeronima as Rizal wrote:
"Once upon a time there was a student who gave his word to marry a maiden of his village who, it seems, he later failed to remember. She , faithful, waited for him for years and years, wasted her youth, became a spinster. One day she heard that her old love had become Archbishop of Manila. She disguised herself as a man, came by the Cape and presented herself to His Most Illustrious Person, demanding the fulfillment of his promise. What she asked for was impossible, and the archbishop had a cave built, which you have seen, draped and decorated at the entrance with tangled vines. There she lived and died and there was buried, and tradition relates that Doña Jeronima was so fat that to enter she had to go sideways. Her fame as a charmer came from her custom of throwing into the river all the silver plates on which she served lavish banquets to which came many a gentleman. A net was stretched under water to catch the pieces which were thus washed. It is not more than twenty years since the river passed close by, almost kissing the mouth of the cave, but little by little it receded from it, as its memory fades among the Indios"
But of all this things written, the most interesting and the most candid, was that last scene in Chapter I of the El Filibusterismo where a group of travelers were discussing on the upper deck of the Tabo . Two characters, Ben Zayb the journalist and Don Custodio, were talking about ducks...itik... that abound the area. Now quoting Rizal in the El Filibusterismo he wrote (Don Custodio telling Ben Zayb): "I am not talking of wild ducks, I mean the domesticated ones. Those that are bred in Pateros and Pasig." Rizal was actually mentioning the source of livelihood of my ancestors and that also of the ancestors of many Pasigueños who lived and still are living near the banks of the river. To be precise, the barrios of Pinagbuhatan and the Bambang-Kalawaan area. For this are the places in Pasig where duck industry flourished for perhaps more than a century before its demised in the 1980's.
|Pateros river scene 19nth Cent. by Jose Honorato Lozano. Notice the "kamalig" and the "puya"or puyahan".|
Rizal was so indeed a keen observer for he even discussed in that El Filibusterismo chapter how duck feeds were obtained in the area and of course he also mentioned the famous "balut".
In the mid 1960's when industrial pollution started to ravage the Pasig River, the duck raising industry started it's decline. As feeds "caracoles" (river snails or "sambuele" in the local language), became scarce, leading family of duck raisers in Pinagbuhatan started to abandon the business, which was then taken over by the Chinese entepreneurs, only to abandon it also later. The Kalawaan folks held on a little bit for years but as the 1980's came, the whole duck industry of Pasig would be dead. Ending perhaps one of the oldest known industry of the river communities of Pasig.
If Rizal would see the Pasig River now from my hometown, he would probably say: "Gone is my river!"
DOÑA JERONIMA'S CAVE from PASIG CITY MUSEUM Photos
|Circle marks the entrance of the cave. Its beside the c5 bridge connecting Pasig to Makati|
|Excavation done by Barangay Pineda, Pasig|
Old Picture of "Puyahan"
|Familiar scene in duck raising areas of Pasig and Pateros|
19th Century Pasig River Scenes
|View from the town near Taguig on the Pasig River by Jose Honorato Lozano|
|The casco as mode of transportation.|
|Mouth of the Pasig River (ETH Bibliothek Bild Archiv)|
|Steam boats and cascos.|