The good and bad of cleaning Manila Bay

We’re going to start this with a very strong question, “When was the last time you actually went to Manila Bay to SEE Manila Bay?”

Let me guess… It’s either during the LAST THREE WEEKS, or LAST TWO HUNDRED YEARS.  The beautiful Manila Bay is famous for its breathtaking sunsets and warm scenery; but over the past decades or so, this picturesque view has been violated and abused. We watched the desecration of a national beauty, and we did nothing.

Quick links

A Passive Race

I am being real here in saying that we, as Pinoys, are passives. We let other people do their mistakes, complain about these acts; yet we do nothing to stop (or better yet, prevent) these things from happening. Remember the time we found out that a number of our Senators were accused of graft? We stood and sat behind a TV screen and watched. We complained… a whole lot! Some of the people who were accused, are (once again) running for a chance at another term in the senatorial race; and yet, what do we do? The vast majority of us are just… passive.

Inaction and inactivity

But this is not a bad thing, Pinoys. We have been known to be one of the most tolerant group of people in the planet. Our hospitality knows no bounds. We have been open to almost every race that knocks on our doors. We have yet to encounter a Pinoy who does not answer a doorbell.

Kidding aside, this has been an on-going situation for us Pinoys. The weight of our inaction and inactivity has been our burden as a people.

Quite a long talk if we are going to discuss the recent rehabilitation of Manila Bay eh?

Do you remember…?

When I was 5 years old, my parents drove us to Luneta and Rizal park during weekends so we could roam around and run. The neighborhood we lived in was in a shady part of Sampaloc ( i.e. Balic-Balic), so we had very little room to move around and prance. We usually took our owner-type jeepney for a spin and went to different places.

One of the spots I remember very clear as day, was that long stretch of concrete we call the baywalk at Roxas Boulevard. This lengthy saunter will take you to a wonderful place… I have seen double decker buses taking its trip around the area; and from up top that bus, you can smell the sand and practically taste the Manila Bay sunset on the tip of your tongue, watching as that yellow ball of gas and fire went down. It’s as if the sea was trying to place a blue blanket on top of the sun, tucking it to bed; with the murmur of the waves singing it to slumber. It felt as if it were a lullaby trying to lull you to sleep as well. I rode on one of those double decker buses before, and it was one of the many childhood memories I haven’t forgotten.

The Manila Bay In my Memories…


When you walk the stretch of the concrete wall, you see people waiting patiently; watching for twilight to sink into the horizon, with the sun’s rays waving goodbye to its audience. Joggers stop to see this scene. They freeze in awe of its beauty. This was the way I remember Manila Bay. This is my selective memory kicking in.

The Change we did not WANT

Fast forward 20 years. I was already working in a corporate office selling outdoor ad spaces. One day I was lucky enough to visit a restaurant for a presentation which was near the Bay. It was 4:45pm MNL Time and as my car drove by Roxas Boulevard, I rolled down my car window (For those of you who don’t know; back in the days, you literally ROLL A CAR WINDOW, not PUSH A BUTTON) to reminisce a happy childhood memory. Those memories came back to me when I saw the sunset; but my mind went to a screeching alt when my nostrils felt an acrid smell that sent a signal to my brain saying, “CLOSE THE FREAKING WINDOWS MAN!”.  The smell was excruciating. My head immediately took a 180 degree turn. I had to stop and see where the smell was coming from. So, I pulled over.

The Manila Bay we Loathed


Smell that putrid air!

I stepped out of the car, thinking I ran over some animal feces somewhere. I checked the tires and saw nothing. My mind was saying, “Get inside the car, dude.”, but I really wanted to know what reeked. I looked behind me and saw the bay… Oh boy, it was a sight to see. The sunset still gave me goose bumps. I had to take a closer look. I walked near the concrete wall and for some reason, the nearer I got to the sea, the smell grew more powerful and stronger. The odor was like a pungent atmosphere blanketing the whole area!

As I got near the cement wall, I looked down and saw the fruits of our passiveness… and it was not a fruit that I wanted to pick up.

Piles of garbage left and right, it was almost as if you were looking down  at a trashcan; only it had a sea behind it! It broke my spirit. This was totally unacceptable; but I also felt powerless to do anything. I was just a salesman who barely made minimum wage… and there, my friends, is the passiveness. In a heartbeat, I left Manila Bay. I forced myself to forget the Manila Bay Sunset… and never came back. I acted like it did not exist.

The Change We NEEDED

Fast forward to 2019… Now, here is where it gets exciting. We saw news headlines that the current president of the Philippines wanted to clean up Manila Bay. I was drinking a bottle of beer with my friends when I saw the news. They began saying things like, “This guy right here… Boracay was a walk in a park compared to that dump we call a BAY.”. Another one of my friends said, “This I gotta see! If he cleans this Manila Bay, I will cut off one of my fingers!”

Then one day, it happened… Early one night, I saw the news, as I was writing an article about my Cebu Trip. I heard the news saying that Manila Bay started Phase one of their rehabilitation. As I quickly ran downstairs, I accidentally kicked my keyboard off my desk, and there from the 6th step of our staircase, I saw Manila Bay from the TV. I was at a loss for words… Everything around went silent for a bit… My jaw dropped to the floor. My mind went totally blank and all I could think of was that double decker bus ride with my parents.

The garbage and filth along the shore were gone. It was like a large hand took all those away! You can see SAND and the shoreline on the BAY! I saw people sitting around the shore as if it was 1990 all over again! They had their families waiting to see the Manila Bay Sunset.

That was something else… I never thought that it can be done and I went to full passive-mode. I gave up even without trying or believing!

The Scary Truth

Now let us talk facts. After Ferdinand Marcos, 4 more presidents assumed office before Rodrigo Duterte stepped in. That’s a total of 24 years of power. During those 24 years, not a single one of them ever thought of cleaning this mess up. During the Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III regime, there was a Supreme Court ruling to clean up the Bay but nothing was touched. Not one of them thought it was a good idea to clean up.

Some years ago, a video of a former president circulated social media showing him picking up trash in Manila Bay. But what the cameraman forgot to edit, was his own crew throwing trash IN the bay, just to show the former president was part of the movement. Apparently the video was aired July 2017 but this stirred the people up in a different way.

We are NOT going to dive deep into the political side of things as that is going to steer us from the beauty of this movement.

Social Media’s Role

After a few scrolls into social media, I saw the vast number of volunteers who went to the Bay and cleaned it up. People who made it possible. Pinoys who wanted to make a change! Pinoys who put away their cloak of passiveness to raise their hands high with fists clenched! They brought banners to represent their companies and groups. These were all seen by thousands of people all over the world via Social Media!

They joined hands and helped the government make this possible. It was sight to see… And I was ashamed. These Pinoys did not bat an eyelash when they were given a chance to help. While I was skeptic about this movement, they made appropriate actions to have this done. And now, we see their efforts put on top of a pedestal while everyone watched in amazement. I was one of those people who JUST WATCHED.

The Pinoys we NEED to be

This showed us one thing that we Pinoys were capable of. That nothing can be achieved when one person wants it to happen. You should have the support of other people. I remember when President Rodrigo Duterte said that he will clean up Boracay, a handful of people believed but the others complained. He ordered the place to be closed down for 6 months and they thought that it was a stupid idea to shut down a tourist attraction.

After 6 months, Boracay was better than ever! The rehabilitation was a success that even the locals said it was an experience to remember, because they were able to have everything cleaned up in an orderly manner.

When the President said that he will clean up Manila Bay, a handful of people trusted this decision but a vast number of Pinoys watched. And it now we see the results when the right mind-set meets sheer Pinoy Willpower. This is how we Pinoys are today. We have left that passiveness behind us and faced problems head–on! But some of us including myself realized this late but not TOO LATE (hopefully) to do something about our simple problems!

Technically the problem with the Manila Bay rehabilitation is hard to actualize. That is, if you are looking at it on a budget perspective, but the smallest of things matter which can make a difference. Imagine 1 random man or woman picking up 10 pieces of trash every day. That is 300 pieces per month, 3600 per year. Now from we have witnessed, there were thousands of Real Pinoys who volunteered to make this happen!

The Biggest Steps

With this big step towards a better and cleaner future, we expect detractors and critics who will try to put a halt, or even try to lash at this move that the people and the government made. We have heard and read news about a certain group who asked for the rehabilitation to stop because it will make way for the government to build more establishments around the bay area. I was like, Word?! The last statement I heard from the current president is that “Lagyan niyo ng water treatment yan… You do something about your waste otherwise I will close you,” (Put water treatment on that ‘the establishments near the bay’). If the government wanted more buildings, why are they threatening to close down establishments which are already prominent around the area? At least this is based on my opinion alone.

As for me personally… I will not be idle and passive anymore. It is very enlightening to see Pinoys this way. I have never felt more FILIPINO. This is something that we should be proud of now, this is definitely a change that we need.

My Pinoy Friend…?

As for my friend who swore that he will cut his finger off, don’t worry. I am knocking on his door everyday asking for it to happen and I remind my friends about it all the time.