Kevin Harris and Maja Olivares CoMOVED by the advocacy of cleaning the river, Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig (KBPIP) resource mobilization manager Kevin Harris took on the job of raising funds to make it happen in March 2010. He is looking forward to the day when the vision of a clean Pasig River becomes a reality.
“Our goal is to bring up the water standard in all esteros to class C level water quality, that is, suitable for marine life. It’s not going to be potable, but it will be a living river, not the dead river we grew up with,” says Harris, who spent his college days taking for granted the stench and filth of the estuaries around Malacañang. “For the main Pasig River, we want to bring its water quality to class B level, which means now human contact on the river water is possible.”
His work as fundraiser has its ups and downs, the most difficult downers being rejections of funding proposals. “It’s a fact that resources are scarce. When I go to a potential donor, I know I am competing with other charities. Some of them could even be other projects of AFI (ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.), which are all really worthy of support as well,” he says. Harris was creative and marketing officer of AFI prior to being “drafted” to specifically work for KBPIP.
But the most exciting part of his work is knowing firsthand the difference that the project is making in the lives of the people who live on or along the Pasig River.
“We are changing the lives of people, and of the nation. We transfer informal settlers, provide them with shelter, train them for alternative sources of livelihood. And in the process, we rehabilitate the river. We give a new life to the people, and a new life to the river at the same time, and also the Philippine economy will boom,” Harris says.
“What’s great about this project is that this is a project with a heart, and it really inspires me every time I see all the people making this project possible, the River Warriors, the students, the army, the police, a normal citizen or a corporation— everyone really working together and that’s what makes KBPIP special.
Because at the end of the day, if we clean the river it will benefit us all. It’s our river, it’s every Filipino’s river,” he says. Project designer Maja Olivares-Co of SSO.a (Sonia Santiago Olivares and Associates), meanwhile, came on board on the invitation of AFI executive director Gina Lopez.
“Gina and I were speakers in a conference in SMX last August 2009. My presentation was on the power of design. She asked me to stay for her talk. After I had given mine, I stayed on, and discovered how vital it was for the then 98-year-old market to be rehabilitated to ensure the sustainability of the river cleanup. The rest is history. Gina is awesome, a real mover,” Olivares-Co recalls. Research following that meeting found Paco Market to be historic, turning 100 years old this year. This is what got Olivares-Co, a specialist in in-store and hospitality design, interested in the project.
‘Passion for markets’
“I have a passion for markets. I believe that a market is a window into the culture of a people—how they shop, what they buy, what they eat and how they maneuver inside a market…it really tells you a people’s way of life. In Tokyo, despite being a crowded market you will never be pushed,” Olivares-Co says.
Apart from addressing the environmental concerns and commercial sustainability of the market, she has designed the new Paco Market to have an activity center to draw people in. With its completion, children of vendors waiting for their parents to open and close shop will have a new venue for education, arts and culture. Students from nearby schools will have a place to hang out in; residents will have a haven of arts, culture and health care; and with buskers, good music will be playing from opening to closing. A palutuan (cooking area) will let customers buy fresh produce from the market and have them cooked according to the regional cuisine of their preference. It is envisioned to become a tourist destination: clean and green, safe and secure, inviting and proudly presenting the best of Filipino culture.
“What’s really nice is that this concept is transportable. You can bring new life in any public market by creating an activity center inside. Can you imagine how great it will be to have these in all our major markets? It will be a hub of activity and will attract visitors from all over. The objective is to make the activity center self-sustaining in two years. I hope we will generate the seed fund to launch this,” says Olivares-Co, who is concurrently culture and programs director for the Paco Market activity center launching this year. “In the end, if the new design and execution of the Paco Market redevelopment is achieved, we hope that the sustaining programs will renew life and purpose into the place.”
Olivares-Co, who is committed to several other advocacies, is also tapping into her vast network of clients to help complete the Paco Market. Harris works double time to put together funding for the next phase of the river rehabilitation: the cleaning of five Malacañang esteros (San Miguel, Aviles, Uli-uli, San Sebastian and Quiapo).
“Task Force Malacañang will help us on funding. The government through the PRRC (Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission) and Task Force Malacañang through the Office of the President, with DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and the LGUs (local government units) will work on these five esteros together with the KBPIP,” Harris reveals.
Indeed, they are changing the nation in the kapit-bisig way, working tirelessly on their own part of the huge project called KBPIP.