Then and Now – Binondo Canal
Posted by BCS on October 6, 2008
My grandmother used to live in one of the buildings that line this canal/river… actually, we also did for quite some time (though in a different building). And for that, I have my own share of memories that has something to do with this particular body of water.
One such memory would be flying paper airplanes from my grandmother’s apartment’s balcony with my brother and cousin. More often than not, our paper airplanes would land in the water… which, I think, makes us contributors to its pollution.
I also remember having ridden on some sort of a ferry in crossing this river. I have no idea of what it’s properly called, but the “ferry” looked more like a small barge, having only a rectangular platform, railings on its two sides, and a roof. The “ferry” could only move back and forth in one direction (which is across the river) as it was sort of restrained by a long thick rope that had its two ends tied on the opposing banks of the river. The “driver” had neither paddles nor poles to pilot the ferry with but, instead, he would tug/pull on the rope to make the ferry move and travel to whichever direction he needed it to go.
I think there’s a small bridge now somewhere close to where the “ferry” used to be.
That’s about all I can say about it. But, fortunately, I’ve found some historical accounts that mentions of it.
In Noli Me Tangere (as translated by Pascual H. Poblete, 1909), Jose Rizal describes the river as follows:
“…sa pampang ng ilog na sangá ng ilog Pasig, na cung tawaguin ng iba’y “ría” (ilat) ng Binundóc, at gumáganap, na gaya rin ng lahát ng ilog sa Maynílà, ng maraming capacan-ang pagcapaliguan, agusán ng dumí, labahan, pinangingisdâan, daanan ng bangcang nagdádala ng sarisaring bagay, at cung magcabihirà pa’y cucunán ng tubig na inumín, cung minamagalíng ng tagaiguib na insíc. Dapat halataíng sa lubháng kinakailangang gamit na itó ng nayong ang dami ng calacal at táong nagpaparoo’t parito’y nacatutulig, sa layong halos may sanglibong metro’y bahagyâ na lamang nagcaroon ng isang tuláy na cahoy, na sa anim na bowa’y sirâ ang cabiláng panig at ang cabilâ nama’y hindî maraanan sa nálalabi ng taon, na ano pa’t ang mga cabayo, cung panahóng tag-init, canilang sinasamantala ang gayong hindî nagbabagong anyô, upang mulà roo’y lumucsó sa tubig, na ikinagugulat ng nalilibang na táong may camatayang sa loob ng coche ay nacacatulog ó nagdidilidili ng mga paglagô ng panahón.”
Although not really a description, the river is mentioned in Chapter 5 of the book “A Woman’s Impression of the Philippines” by Mary Helen Fee (1910).
“We rattled up a street which I have since learned is called San Fernando, and which looks like the famous Chinatown of San Francisco, only more so. We passed over a canal spanned by a quaint stone bridge, arriving in front of the Binondo Church just as the noon hour struck. Instantly there burst out such a clamor of bells as we had never before heard–big bells and little bells, brass bells and broken bells–and brass bands lurking in unknown spots seemed to be assisting. I do not know whether the Filipinos were originally fond of noise or whether the Spaniards taught them to be so. At any rate, they both love it equally well now, and whenever the chance falls, the bells and the bands are ranged in opposition, yet bent to a common end.”
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