Remembering the river
Growing up in Marikina City, I have fond memories of happy family picnics and barkada moments along the banks of the infamous Marikina River.
Every sunday, my family would pack up some dinner and drive a twenty-minute ride to Marikina Riverpark, a recreational place near the Marikina river where there are baratillos of goods, biking lanes, amphitheater and a green lawn to lay down to and spend quality time with your loved ones.
Although it may look simple as it sounds, the Riverpark is just one of the tourist destinations of the shoe capital. It has a river taxi (a boat where you can cross from the Riverbanks mall to the riverpark), an animal trail filled with statues of animals on the walk ways along the river, little carnivals and good food markets long before the Mercato and Distrito gained popularity at Makati.
Every year, it also houses dozens of exhibits made by every barangays across Marikina. As we Marikenos celebrate Christmas, our government holds an exhibit contest with different theme each year. When you walk along the river, you will see each booth of the barangay, and you can take photo moments worthy of a space at Christmas postcard.
We used to also have what we call “Tianggian” along the river banks. It’s a very very long row of tents; a night market visited by thousands of metro manila residents at the onset of the Ber months. It’s like a divisoria near the river, filled with the blaring music from the restos behind the tents, as well as the festive sound of bargaining.
And at New Years, we Marikenos will flock by the river to watch the annual New Year Concert at the amphitheater. Then, when midnight’s nearing, we’ll shout happily with the count-down for the ten-minute display of marvelous fireworks! It was always an exhausting evening but we’d go home happy and brimming with energy.
Marikina river holds a special place in my heart. It’s the place where I always bring my friends from other parts in Manila and let them see how beautiful my place is. Marikina river means marikina. If you want to see Marikina in a nutshell, the one place you should never miss is the river itself. Aside from the shoe, the river is symbolically, almost spiritually connected to it, more than the name and the geography can do.
The wonders of Marikina river came to an abrupt end when Ondoy came at 2009.
The once placid and calm river turned into a rampaging monster, devastating the nearby villages and barangays, killing many people and destroying many properties worth millions. It was a horrible experience to all of us. Ondoy marked the trauma not only to every Marikenos, but also of Manilenos, that something as ordinary as heavy rains, can cost us many unnecessary loss of lives and materials we worked so hard for.
During the tragedy, we also saw the damage we incured to the river. Its murky waters are brown and black with garbage and waste. Janitor fishes were everywhere. That’s when we realized that we took the river for granted…We took Nature for granted, and now it’s teaching us a harsh lesson we’ll never forget.
My perspective of the river has changed ever since. Two years later, the river had now grown unpredictable to the point that businesses slowly decreased by its riverside. Families seldom go there for activities. There were less fishermen and bikers exercising at its bicycle lanes. The festivals, the events, the activities we have enjoyed near its riverside are beginning to disappear.
And now that a rain strangely similar to Ondoy is pouring over us this August, the Marikina River had broken records again. It rises to the critical level of 20 meters, almost surpassing the bridges and LRT tracks with its quick growth. It’s now a raging river, intent to kill and destroy, and nothing’s going to stop it on its way.
Just a few meters away, and it will be Ondoy all over again.
Marikina in itself is a valley, a natural low-lying area. All the waters from the nearby mountains cascade down to the Marikina River where it rises and surges into power. You couldn’t blame it for behaving such a way, especially when we human beings are also accountable of the injuries we inflicted to it. It’s just a way of nature getting us back.
The river is just a facet of Mother Nature. It’s beautiful, it’s splendid and gives us a reason to celebrate life. It witnessed some of the special parts of our lives. But in a wink of time, it’s also monstrous, scary, unpredictable and totally out of control, with us in its mercy.
I just wish that the residents near the River would be safe and sound. As well as all others affected by the flood. We will survive this through sheer will and guidance of God. We’re Filipinos after all, the allegorical ”cockroaches” who can survive through anything.
And I wish the river would return the same way it is before. The one place where you can create happy memories with, not something you’d fear when a typhoon comes. Through working together, I believe we can restore it to the state that it had been once, through our simple efforts such as tree-planting and correct garbage disposal.
Be safe everyone!
Twitter is flooded with tweets of “Marikina River” and #PrayForThePhilippines. Imagine how scary it had been.
Pictures of the flood belong to their respective owners.