• The Pasig Review

Memes, Urban Legends, and Pasig River

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

Pauline Reinne B. Alcaria, Staff Writer

“Anong kwentong nalunod mo?”

People over social media have been fond of sharing the popular meme featuring a photo of a girl, as well as their unforgettable swimming moments. Little did they know, “Yung nalunod ka sa pagmamahal niya” meme, speaks a lot about a must-known tragic romantic tale of Pasig City.

Ilog ng mga Pilipino

Pasig River is one of the most famous rivers in the Philippines. It has been mentioned in one of the notable works of our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, the famous El Filibusterismo that started with the voyage of Bapor Tabo. The river used to be an important transport route, once known as Manila’s Lifeline and the center of economic activity during the Spanish Colonization. It is also vital source of food and water for the people along the river known as mga Taga-ilog or Tagalog.

Weird looking bamboo rafts were once a common sight in Pasig River. Old folks called it salambaw (or salambao), a traditional Filipino fishing raft composed of a giant net attached to long bamboo poles which were then fitted to the bamboo raft. Duck ponds is also one of the thriving business of the families nearby the river particularly in Kalawaan and Pinagbuhatan.

The duck farmers raised their animals with fences made out of bamboo on the river banks. Not only the ducks can escape the heat, but as well as the public. There’s also coconut rafts or balsas de cocos and houseboats. The river’s principal part, the Bitukang Manok waterway also know as Rio de Pasig played an important role in the Philippine History.

In the first week of May 1896, 17 bancas aboard in this river for the Asamblea Magna led by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo. At the present, due to negligence, massive growth of the population, and the rise of industrial development, the river has become very polluted and is unable to sustain life according to ecologists. Efforts to revive the river is on going led by the Pasig River Rehabilitation Program (PRRP) in partnership with the Department of Environment and National Resources.

Proving a Filipino notable saying, “Lahat ng sobra ay nakakasama.”

Kaalamang Bayan

The concept of urban legends can be traced back to the knowledge of certain group of people and Pasigueños are not an exception. According to an interview by Fiel Estrella of CNN News to Prof. Carlos P. Tatel Jr., an anthropologist and coordinator of the folklore studies program in the University of the Philippines, these are deeply-rooted in the Filipino culture.

“What [they] do, their daily lives, their ideas, their habits, behavior, rituals, even what’s on their minds. All of it make up [the school of thought called] ‘kaalamang bayan,” he remarked.

Passing stories from one generation to the next is a part of the Filipino culture that is still practiced in the age of technology, proving that we, Filipinos are indeed folkloric people.

Ang Simula: Bawat Kaluluwa

Filipinos are fond of stories on how such things occur, happen and been there before. Its a wonder to ponder, right? Have you ever wondered how the Pasig River was created?

Before, there was no Pasig River, and it also means, there is no easy way for transportation. Chinese and local merchants do have a hard time transporting their goods from Manila Bay to Laguna de Bay. And maybe, just maybe, lovers from Manila and Laguna have experienced LDR or Long Distance Relationship, and another maybe, they’ve been fond of “magkabilang agwat, gagawin ang lahat, mapasayo lang ang pag-ibig na alay sayo.”

Upon hearing the cry, a great serpent appeared and offered them a snake proposal, they will end their lives and will get their souls. In return, the snake will create a river that can be used to transport their goods. Can you guess what happened? The river was formed and so are other tales.

Buwayang Bato

The story of Buwayang Bato is only one of the urban legends about the river. Filipinos do believe to numerous saints since then together with their miraculous stories. Some are die-hard devotees of patron saints such as San Pedro Calungsod and the Black Nazarene, while others are not really convinced of such. According to the folks, there was once a rich Chinese man who was a non-believer of the Catholic God and claimed to be not afraid of the crocodile living in the river. One day, as he was crossing the Pasig River, a crocodile came and come near his boat. He was hesitant at first but then he found himself praying to San Nicholas, asking to rescue him. Just in a moment, the crocodile turned into stone and the Chinese man become a believer due to his experience.

This may be true for the crocodiles are once one of the inhabitants of the river during the time that it can be still inhabitable.

In the book, Relacion de las Islas Filipinas, by a Jesuit priest, Fr. Pedro Chirino, he shared how a 17th century Filipino chief captured a 36-foot crocodile in the river consist of human bones inside. There are also different version of this legend stating that the Chinese man took a bath in the river despite of the warning given by the locals who used to wash their clothes in the waters of Pasig River. True enough, the crocodile came approaching, he prayed and was saved.

The story was believed to have spread rapidly among the townspeople and the moment his fellow Chinese men knew about the story, they raised enough funds to build a church in honor of San Nicholas. This legend was also mentioned in the third chapter of El Filibusterismo where the characters started sharing the story led by the Captain.

Malapad na Bato

What’s with stones?

Aside from the Buwayang Bato legend mentioned in El Filibusterismo, there’s another story that was told over and over again -- The Legend of Donya Geronima or Jeronima of Guadalupe by that got even our national, Jose Rizal, so enamoured.

Its not a surprising tale of the other half being sent to Manila to study during Spanish colonization for all the prestigious schools are there, and that is what happened to Donya Jeronima and her lover. He made a promise that he will marry her. Sounds surreal right? But unfortunately, he didn’t return. Promises are indeed meant to be broken on this part. But just like Maria Clara, no, she did not kill herself, waited for years, and wasted her youth. Little did she know that he had become the Archbishop of Manila, and it would be impossible for him to fulfil his promise to her.

She disguised herself as a man and went to her beloved asking him the fulfilment of his promise. The Archbishop gave her a cave in Guadalupe as her sanctuary where she also died. It was said that the Donya would wash plates not in Ermita but by the river by throwing all the silver plates. Others claim that she became a fat lady and was often called a witch.

It was a heart-breaking story. After all, living in a cave just to be near someone you love sounds more like obsession instead of romance.

Mutya ng Ilog Pasig

Fantasy teleseryes will always have a special place in every Filipino tv sets and we have only our local lore about mermaids to blame.

Among the more popular ones would be Mars Ravelo’s Dyesebel, a half-human, half-fish maiden appeared in Pinoy Komiks, was a mere adaptation from the classic story of the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen.

The mermaids were believed to posses powers to control the sea, have beautiful voices that would captivate anyone who hears them sing, and are usually protagonists in tragic romantic tales that makes two worlds collide.

What is more interesting is that we even local names for these creatures in different provinces such as Magindara in Bicolano and Catao or Kataw in Hiligayon and Cebuanao languages.

Pasig, not to be left out, also has her own – Mutya.

During the Spanish Colonization, there is a beautiful maiden named Luisa. The daughter of the Cabesa de Barangay who do possess a beauty that captured the hearts of men including Rodrigo.

He crosses the river in order to be with his beloved, little did he know, there’s this half-human, half-fish, a mermaid to be exact, who’s captivated with his manly appearance, named Mutya- the youngest daughter of King Bangkusaw.

Just like any love story of a woman admiring her beloved from afar, Mutya still continued being crazily in love with him despite of the words of her sisters, a very famous line of romance novels and movies, “Magkaiba ang inyong mga mundo, hindi kayo nababagay sa isa’t-isa.”

And just like any other woman smitten by love, she did not listen.

Things between Rodrigo and Luisa were doing fine, they found themselves in love with each other. An almost fairy tale love story not until Luisa got to know that her parents are not in favor of the young man. Another common plot, they are forced to stay away from each other, but Rodrigo is not considering the option of giving up what they have and what could they become, “Ipaglalaban ko ang ating pag-ibig,” so they decided to elope. Mutya, on the other hand, upon hearing the conversation of the lovers, got mad.

The cloud is dark, the thunder is roaring, the weather is no doubt bad. Rodrigo waited for Luisa to come despite being soaked with rain. The waves seem to have anger issues, nag-aalimpuyo na animo’y nananaghoy sa nalalapit na kasawian. Mutya can see both laughing crazily just like lovers who were free for the first time from everyone who were trying to keep them apart. “Ito na ang pagkakataong pinakahihintay ko!”

Rodrigo and Luisa fell into deep waters of Pasig River. Mutya was able to get Rodrigo’s unconscious body, but just like any plan that didn’t go well, the waves snatched him away from her, an almost but not quite moment and became more like a reality check as Mutya realized hwo the tables have turned. “Nasa kamay mo na, nabitawan mo pa,” she can only tell to herself.

As the sun rose from a deep sleep, so did Luisa and Rodrigo, All feelings of guilt were drowned by sadness and anger as Mutya can only surmise what has happened.

To this day, some people living near the river often hear Mutya singing a very sad song that sounds more like reminiscing of what she really never had.

The Official Seal of Pasig

The Pasig City Seal is no doubt the only seal in the cities in our country with affiliation to a mermaid folklore. The woman at the center of the seal is believed to represent Mutya ng Pasig.

Going back to the Greek Mythology, Greek gods Zeus and Mnemosyne had nine daughters known as the muses, (it is believed that the term Mutya came from this word), named Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomeni, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Ourania and Calliope, whom are believed to be symbols of inspiration and artistic creation.

Every person does have their own “muse,” a source of inspiration and encouragement, and so is the thought that Pasig City is an ideal city in the whole archipelago.

The seal also have the representation of Pasig River, at both sides of Mutya, connecting two larger bodies of water, the Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay, as well as the representation of industrial growth and development and last but not the least, the symbol of Catholic faith and tradition, the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral built in 1572.

Paz Sigueme (Paz at Igme)

Let’s burst out your bubble! The very famous story from Pasig City is not really about a man named Igme, but rather Virgilio and Paz, revealed in the book, Kasaysayan ng Kamaynilaan published by Manila Metropolitan Commission. Shocking right?

One night, there were young lovers named Paz, a local maiden, and Virgilio, a Spanish gentleman. They decided to ride a boat through the river, which was still unnamed at that time.

Virgilio paddled while Paz sat on the boat. The cool breeze and the calm river gave it a picture of perfect calm that would give us nostalgic memories of teenage romantic movies.

As the boat waded through the waters, Paz saw a beautiful flower floating and reached out to get it but was unable to get it. Romantic as he is, Virgilio tried to get it for her but lost his balance and fell into the river.

Unfortunately for Virgilio, he never learned how to swim and he just kept shouting “Paz, sigue me” which means, “Paz, come with me” while in other translations, it is interpreted as “Paz, rescue me” or “Paz, follow me”. It could be a “till do death do us apart” story but Paz didn’t come for he already drowned in the water leaving the words that lingered to those who’ve witnessed the tragedy, and those who’ve got to know about the story until now, “Paz, sig..”, which is believed to be the root word of the current name of our city, Pasig.

It was believed that the word Pasig came from the Sanskrit term “Passis” or sand and refers to a community living near sandy riverbank. On the other hand, others claimed that it came from the word “mabagsik” that describes the flow of the river, mostly by Chinese living in Binondo. Later on it became, “Pasik” to its name today, Pasig.

The Pasig River has been there even before the Philippines became a nation. It has been a witness to history itself; silently observing the changing shorelines as the wind whispers long lost lovers. From clean, pristine waters to the muddy brown it has become, it has remains and will always be that free-flowing water than will symbolize how times have changed.

Perhaps, you can even still hear its plea to be saved.

“Paz, sigue me.”

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