PHOTOS: Leeroy New's latest project highlights the beauty of the Pasig River
Set your sights for the Bakawan Floating Island Project.
(SPOT.ph) We have something in our midst that a lot of other cities can only long for—a river. Our own Pasig River remains polluted 26 years from the time it was declared biologically dead. This year, urban designer Julia Nebrija and artist Leeroy New join in the efforts to rehabilitate and restore pride in Manila’s main waterway through the Bakawan Floating Island Project.
During a talk at artist-run space 98B COLLABoratory on February 13, Julia and Leeroy outlined their project’s vision. “A part of bringing back Pasig River is rebuilding the relationship between the river and its people,” Julia said, “The aim of this project is to give people a reason to come back to the river—take a ferry ride, see art on the water, and by extension, notice how beautiful it is.”
Leeroy is also working on murals on walls found along the river and its tributaries. You can watch a short video on the making of the artists’ Bakawan Floating Island here. After the dialogue, the audience was invited to view a special performance. The spectacle of performers dancing inside Leeroy’s sculpture on the water, and vistas of the river’s surrounds gave us enough reasons to go back to Pasig River. Here are a few highlights.
During the talk, urban designer Julia Nebrija explained the Bakawan Floating Island Project’s broad objectives: “Activate underutilized spaces along Pasig River through art, engage new audiences to experience the river, and create awareness for the potential of the river as a corridor for transport, environment, and culture.”
For Leeroy, the floating island was a chance for him to expand his practice, a challenge since he and Julia had to fund the project without the usual sponsors and patrons. The artist was committed to their vision: “We felt that if this project was successful, or at the very least done right, it can prove to be a model for future creative projects that harness the Pasig River as both site and context, at the same time presenting more solutions for rehabilitating the river.”
After the talk, Julia led the audience to the Pasig River Ferry’s Escolta Station where a boat took the small party towards Quezon Bridge to witness a special performance by the Daloy Dance Group inside Leeroy’s sculpture.
It was a surprise to learn that the Philippine Coast Guard accompanies all the ferries traversing the river. For more information about the ferry’s routes, rates, schedules, or the station nearest you, log on to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s website or download the Pasig River Ferry app on your iOS or Android phone.
And no, we were not accompanied by extra-terrestrial beings—these guys are members of the Daloy Dance Group.
The ferry ride offered a unique perspective from where one can survey the city. We also thought that with its location, the FEATI University students must have one of the most spectacular classroom views in the country.
Cruising on a ferry boat was a strangely calming experience since the distance from the city muted its chaotic din. It was also a rare treat to see Manila’s architectural gems—like the Manila Post Office—from a distance; the unobstructed views displayed the buildings’ stately scale and grandeur.
The cruise revealed the city’s secret stories, such as the man who sought refuge in the quiet stillness of a bridge’s underside.
On a short stretch, clothes from informal settlers are left out to dry. In its 2014 Annual Report, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission declared that there are still 7,559 informal settler families in Manila’s major waterways alone.
Finally, we caught a glimpse of Leeroy’s floating installation which was towed to the middle of the river by a boat provided by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
A trio from the Daloy Dance Group performed inside the Floating Island, which attracted the attention of a few pedestrians and the community folk around the area.
A man cycling through Quezon Bridge stopped briefly to view the performance on the river.
Leeroy is seen here at work on one of several murals that he created with the help of volunteers and Pasig River communities.
Here is a sample of a finished mural. Julia and Leeroy welcome other artists who want to collaborate and donors who wish to donate to their cause. Interested parties can send an e-mail through Viva Manila.
This is a render of the Bakawan Floating Island, a project partly funded by a grant from the Burning Man Global Arts Program. Leeroy will be adding plants and LED lights that will resemble the glow of fireflies at night. Once completed, this floating sculpture will be docked in various points along the river’s route where people can enter, and explore a vibrant symbol of hope and rejuvenation.
Photos by Brando Relucio and Devi de Veyra