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Thousands run for Pasig River

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Thousands run for Pasig River

By Sunshine Lichauco de Leon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:25:00 10/11/2010

MANILA, Philippines—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 camaraderie.

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.