The highly urbanized city of Pasig was not spared when Ondoy hit the Philippines nearly 13 years ago. The typhoon forced thousands of Pasigueños to evacuate from their homes which were submerged in flood waters. Understandably, because of this, safety and flood control have become two of the Pasig LGU’s key priorities. The Pasig River consequently became regarded as a danger zone, prompting people to build walls along its edges, disconnecting Pasigueños from one of the most iconic waterways in Metro Manila.
This should not be the case, said Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto. “Flood control is important. Physical safety is a priority, but we don’t want to disconnect Pasigueños from the water,” Sotto told the attendees of CREATEPhilippines’ Creative Futures 2022 webinar hosted by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM). “We want to reconnect our citizens to the waterways,” he added.
Another issue of concern in Pasig is the lack of open public spaces for the city’s more than 800,000 inhabitants. The value of public parks and green spaces for physical and mental health has been highlighted especially during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
To address the said concerns, Act Lab-Architecture Office (ALAO), a New York- and New Orleans-based collaborative studio, thought of a solution: build a cluster of floating parks along the edge of Pasig River.
According to Aya Maceda, a Filipino-Australian architect and co-founder of ALAO Design, the proposed project would strengthen Pasig River’s physical and cultural identity. “Following our observations and our instincts, we felt that the real opportunity for the city of Pasig is not to create a single public space but to create a public space that flowed like the very rivers, creeks, and streams that formed Pasig,” said Maceda.
The floating parks proposed by ALAO are inspired by coconut rafts and salambaw, a floating fishing structure used by indigenous Filipino fishermen. These parks would have amenities such as a swimming pool, playgrounds, an open space for group exercises and events, a basketball court, and an outdoor gym accessible to the public. The floating parks will be designed to withstand raging waters during flood.
Alongside this, the firm aims to promote a community effort to restore the mangroves that would increase the protection of the embankment. Endemic tree species will be introduced to areas not protected by floodwalls, which will serve as natural flood buffers.
To achieve the design that ALAO envisions, the team worked with art director Kristian Henson and illustrator Monica Ramos in creating sketches that would reflect the city’s rich history.
After a series of research, they came up with a unifying icon inspired by the nilad mangrove from which Manila derived its name. Each park would be designated with its icon based on the names of the towns in Pasig such as mangoes for Manggahan, coconuts for Caniogan, fruits for Maybunga, and cotton fruit (santol) for Santolan.
Since this is a public project, the proposal still has to undergo a series of consultations with the Pasigueños, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO), the city’s engineering department, especially the flood control division, and other offices concerned. But Mayor Vico said the proposal seems feasible.
“Our commitment is to make sure that these don’t stay just as designs,” said Sotto, expressing his support. “We want to make sure that these actually happen.”