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If these waters could talk…

The inclement weather didn't bother the twin-hulled Zooper Cruise, which could withstand a Signal No.2 typhoon

Zooper Cruise lets Pasig River tell the story of old and new Manila

It was a gloomy Thursday afternoon. The rains had just stopped, casting a gloomy overcast sky over Metro Manila. The damp roads still littered with a sea of people and vehicles going about their business.

But I wasn’t heading to the roads. I was going to Manila’s very first commercial highway: Pasig River.
The Pasig River stretches for roughly 25 miles, connecting Manila Bay to Laguna de Bay. It divides Manila into the northern and southern halves.

During the time of Spanish occupation, Pasig River was teeming with life and commerce, being the main thoroughfare for boats and ships carrying people and good from the port of Manila to various parts Manila and its neighboring towns.

Decades later, it got crowded, commercialized, and — sadly — terribly polluted. What was once a thriving river turned into an eight-feet-deep dumpsite. It reeked and bore no life. Pasig River died together with the livelihood it once brought.

There have been a few attempts to rehabilitate the Pasig River, including dredging (which yielded hundreds of tons of garbage). And a few years ago, the river became safe enough to once again carry passengers around Metro Manila with the Pasig River Commuter Ferry, with stations from Bonifacio Global City all the way to Escolta.

However, the heavy flow of sturdy water hyacinths have proven to be too much for these commuter ferries, so it was discontinued.

Fortunately, there is a new way to experience the metro’s historical river.

Ayala Bridge as seen from the Pasig River on board the Zooper Cruise

Ayala Bridge as seen from the Pasig River on board the Zooper Cruise

A story told by the river

Enter the Zoomanity Group with the Zooper Cruise: the very first Pasig River ferry tour service.

Officially launched on August 25, 2016, the Zooper Cruise is a fantastic way of seeing the other side of Metro Manila. It’s presents a combination of old and new Manila with the Pasig River playing the part of an effective storyteller.

The Zooper Cruise is the brainchild of business tycoon Robert Yupangco, while the twin-hull ferry boats are own by former Navy and Presidential Security Guard (PSG) Eduardo Bondad.

“The Philippines is well-endowed with many beautiful tourist attractions, yet many Filipinos as well as foreign tourists have not yet discovered the beauty of Metro Manila,” Yupangco told Expat.

Through the Zooper Cruise, Zoomanity Group — in coorperation with their charity arm, the Zoomanity Foundation — aims to promote education and environmental conservation of Pasig River.

“It caters the four pillars of our mission and vision which are Education, Entertainment, Environmental Conservation and Exhibit,” said Yupangco, adding that they even have a special discounted rate for students who want to experience the Zooper Cruise.

The tour

The Zooper Cruise starts from Circuit Makati, where a van will take the passengers to the Valenzuela Ferry Terminal. From the terminal, the Pasig River tour goes all the way to Escolta in Manila, culminating with a sumptuous Lauriat dinner in the first restaurant built in the oldest Chinatown in the world: Uno Seafood Restaurant in Binondo.

Watch out for notable landmarks such as the Post Office Building, Hospicio de San Jose, the old Pandacan Oil Depot, and yes, even the Malacañang Palace. For national security purposes, just remember that you can’t take any photos while cruising by the President’s official designated residence.

The Post Office Building still looking stately and photogenic after all these years

The Post Office Building still looking stately and photogenic after all these years

Escolta at night

Escolta at night

According to Yupangco, the Zooper Cruise is a great way to “rediscover the splendor of Manila historical landmarks.”

“I encourage today’s generation to look back and find out how Manila came to be,” Bondad, a seasoned seafarer, told Expat. “It’s quite an experience, knowing where we came from… And this Zooper Cruise is a unique history class on a boat.”

These ships and boats are remnants of Pasig River's once commercialized past

These ships and boats are remnants of Pasig River’s once commercialized past

The Zooper Cruise plies Pasig River every first Saturday of the month, with packages ranging from PhP699 (student rate), PhP999 (cruise only), to PhP1,999 (cruise, Intramuros tour, and dinner). Snacks and refreshments are also available inside the ferry during the tour.

To know more about this Zooper Cruise experience, contact (02) 899-9819, (02) 899-9824, or (0917) 952-1371. For more about the Zoomanity Group, visit www.zoomanity.com.ph.

 

By CHING DEE

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