Monday, October 11, 2010

Thousands run for Pasig River

When tens of thousands of Filipinos joined the
“Run for the Pasig River” Sunday, the passion they showed for cleaning
the Pasig River had a ripple effect.

Not only did their presence give the long-neglected waterway a great
big hug, but they also hoped to achieve the race organizers’ goal of
beating the Guinness Book of World Record for the largest footrace in
the world.

Before the races, organizers said about 160,000 registered for the
event. An auditing firm will determine if the number of actual runners
beat the record of 110,000.

The run was part of the global 10/10/10 event known as the “Global
Work Party” for what organizers hoped was the world’s biggest day of
climate change activism.

The second annual fund-raising event in Metro Manila was designed as a
“fun run” instead of a marathon, and consisted of three races for
registered runners—a 3K, 5K and 10K. Each race started at different
points of the metropolis but ended at one finish line at Mall of Asia
in Pasay City.

The event, organized by ABS-CBN’s Kapit Bisig Para Sa Ilog Pasig
(KBPIP), also included a ceremonial 21K run strictly for police and
military personnel.

All ages

Runners of all ages and backgrounds gathered before dawn in front of
the Manila Peninsula hotel (starting point for the 10K race).

The diversity of the crowds alone showed that using a sport to show
support for the environment is something that everyone can relate to.

Some people came alone, others as couples, or with family. And many
participants proudly ran in groups representing their school,
corporation, the military, and civic, religious or community groups.

10K race hosts Manny Pacquiao, Piolo Pascual and Dyan Castillejo
helped warm up the crowd during the prerace ceremony.

El Shaddai’s Brother Mike Velarde and the KBPIP’s Michel Chan hosted
the 5K, while former President Fidel V. Ramos, Winnie Cordero and
Pokwang hosted the 3K.

Pacquiao explained why he decided to spend his day off from training
to help a cause he believes in deeply: “It is important because we
have to take care of our environment and Mother Earth. This is why I
support this run. We need to unite and clean the river. If we work
together, we can do it.”

As the sun rose and Ramos signaled the start of the race with a
gunshot, organized “clusters” of 2,000 colorfully dressed participants
ran past the starting line one at a time.

Extra spring in step

They moved at all speeds—some walked, some sprinted but all seemed to
have an extra spring in their steps. Many screamed in joy or chanted
as they passed, excitedly waving their hands in the air, while others
ran hand-in-hand.

Although they came from different backgrounds and ran for different
reasons, they ended up singing the same song.

Mary Magtulis, one of the 50,000 El Shaddai members who joined the
awareness effort, said she ran to help nature and to let the country
know how special the Pasig River was. “This is our way of showing love
for our country,” she said.

Nico Lolasco, a bank employee, said the run was a perfect event
because it took advantage of the Filipinos’ natural desire for

While some were driven by the love of exercise, the steps of many
others were powered solely by the thought of saving the river.

Clarisse Arabie, a nursing student, wanted to tell her generation that
“it’s never too late.” “I live near the Pasig and whenever my mom says
‘she could swim there before,’ I want to experience that,” she said.

Toward the end of the race, many people slowed their pace, but their
enthusiasm and drive to continue remained. A group of three female
college students sang as they walked, then giggled as they shared
their insights on their river and their country.

Nina Balayan, 18, explained how she felt before the race. “We need the
river clean for our future, but especially for the next generation,”
she said. “The efforts are helping but people need to be more
disciplined, cooperative and need determination. Attitudes are
changing but too slowly.”

After seeing tens of thousands of people join the event, however,
Balayan was less skeptical. “The effort we see today gives us hope,”
she said.

Evelyn Forbes, Run for the Pasig River executive, felt power was
really in the hands of the Filipino people.

All of the projects to clean up the river since the KBPIP was launched
in 2008 have been focused on Estero de Paco.

Gina Lopez, ABS-CBN Foundation director, reiterated the importance of
cleaning the “esteros” before the river can be cleaned.

“First, you will have peace and order. If it looks nice, it means less
crime. The economy will also benefit—if the waterway is clean, real
estate value on both sides will be very high. And then health—the
majority of the children from the esteros were malnourished and had
respiratory problems. So, if we clean one estero well, I hope the
others will follow,” she said.

Half of the money raised at this year’s race (about P10 million) will
be used to clean up Estero de San Juan behind Malacañang.

The San Juan tributary will follow.

San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez expressed her happiness at the turnout.

“Before, our cleaning of the Pasig and San Juan area was a dream but
now it’s turning into reality,” she said.


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