Monday, September 12, 2016

Manila Revisited: A Pasig River Cruise

Who would have thought that Pasig River as a tourist attraction is possible? Most of us would be apprehensive -- thinking of the stinky smell, images of garbage, and so on. But this notion of the river has changed, with the transformation and rehabilitation of Pasig River.

Thankfully too, Zoomanity Group under business tycoon Robert Yupangco thought of promoting education and environmental conservation of Pasig River by launching Zooper Cruise last August 25.

Zooper Cruise is a specially arranged tour along Pasig River, with an option for a walking tour of Manila. I have never tried cruising along Pasig River, so I was ecstatic that I was able to join the trip last September 10 courtesy of Tag Media.

Meeting place was at Alveo, Circuit Makati at around 2:30 PM. After some snacks, we were transported by a van to the Valenzuela Ferry Terminal in Sta. Ana, Manila.

We boarded a 120-seater, twin-hull airconditioned ferry boat owned by Engineer Ed Bondad, who was very passionate about sharing his knowledge on Manila’s rich, historical past.

the Captain of the ship at the center

It was pretty smooth sailing and some notable landmarks we’ve passed along the way were Manila Post Office, Hospicio de San Jose, Pandacan Oil Depot, Fort Santiago, Parola, and Arroceros, among others.

The neo-classical architecture of the Manila Post Office Building stands elegantly along the banks of Pasig River.

the old Pandacan Oil Depot at night

For me the highlight of the cruise was passing along Malacanang Palace, where I was able to see the actual view as it is shown in the 20 Peso bill. But for security purposes, we were not allowed to take photos, or even stand up. A presidential security guard will board the ferry to ensure these guidelines were implemented.

Malacanang Palace from Pasig River viewpoint as depicted in this old twenty peso bill.
Join the cruise to witness the real thing!

We also passed by eight bridges -- Pandacan or Zamora, Delpan, Nagtahan or Mabini, Lambingan, Jones, Ayala, MacArthur and Quezon. Hey better, listen to the guide as there will be a game after, with prizes!

Considered as "Manila's Queen of all Bridges", 
Jones Bridge is a neo-classical bridge designed by the great Juan Arellano

At the delta of Pasig River leading to Manila Bay, we have to turn as the ferry is not fit for navigating the waters of the bay. It was exhilarating to witness how fresh and salt water run over each other.

Where Pasig River meets Manila Bay

After an hour of cruising, we arrived at Escolta station to explore the old downtown district of Binondo, the world’s first and biggest China town.

We then traversed the old business district of Escolta towards Santa Cruz Church. Santa Cruz Church is a historic 17th century Spanish baroque-style Catholic church in Plaza Santa Cruz.

built by the Jesuits in early 17th century

Beside the Church is Regina Building, the immaculate-white structure originally known as Roxas Building. Its neo-classical design was created by Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna. Just across it is the First United Building (formerly, Perez-Samanillo), also designed by Andres Luna. It was the tallest building in Manila in circa 1928.

after Santa Cruz Building is First United Building, and facing it is the white Regina Building

Walking along Escolta, I noticed a French beaux-arts architecture style building at the corner of Tomas Pinpin, which I found out to be Natividad Building.

Natividad Building - one of the moat beautiful buildings in Manila that has survived the war

We then proceeded to have our dinner at UNO Seafood Wharf Place, said to be the first restaurant to be built in Binondo.

After our sumptuous and authentic Chinese lauriat dinner, we went pasalubong shopping at an outlet of Polland located at the corner of Escolta and Yuchengco streets, just across the Escolta Ferry Terminal. They serve traditional flaky-crust hopia, which is said to be the best hopia in Manila.

We got back to our ferry, which took us back to the Valenzuela ferry terminal. We were then shuttled back to Alveo, Circuit Makati. It was almost 9:00 PM.

The Zooper Cruise is definitely an offbeat, fun and enlightening way of rediscovering Old Manila’s charm. I encourage everyone to take this “history class on a boat and by foot”. Time to bring back the glory days of Manila with Pasig River as the portal!

Zoomanity is planning to have this more often, but for the meantime catch the cruise on these dates -- October 8, November 11, December 3 and 13, 2016. Tour packages range from PhP 699 (student), PhP 999 (cruise only) to PhP 1,999 (cruise, tour, dinner), inclusive of guide and snacks.

What’s more, part of the proceeds will go to Zoomanity Foundation for conservation projects and rehabilitation of Pasig River.

For package rates and more information about the Zooper Cruise, contact 09166299381 or visit,ph


  1. This is interesting! I've been looking for something like this since 2006. One question though: do you think the cruise is worth the steep price?

  2. hi janis!

    Thank you for reading! Well, I may be biased here-- but personally since I love cruises, walking tours, bridges and history, i'm willing to pay that much. But I must say that their price is "quite steep" compared to other travel packages.

  3. & by the way, visited your site -- i like your blog! :)

  4. Hello there,

    I'm so glad I came across your blog while looking top bloggers on our niche. My name is Kim of Jacaranda Travels,

    I was browsing around your blog and I can't resist not to comment on this particular post. I enjoyed your visit in Pasig.

    Anyway, I was hoping if you are interested for an interview that we will post on our business travel blog at
    Thank you, hoping for your positive reply.

    Kimberly-Tourist spots in the Philippines
    jacaranda travels

  5. Hi Kimberly,

    Just saw your message. Thank you for finding the time to read my blog and appreciating it :)
    Yes, I would love to have that interview. You may also contact me via



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