Winning the battle of Manila Bay

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On 1 May 1898, the American Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey fought and defeated the Spanish Pacific Squadron under Contraalmirante Patricio Montojo in a decisive naval engagement that will be known as the Battle of Manila Bay.

“It has given us newfound optimism that all is not lost; that there is still hope not only for Manila Bay but also for our country.

A century and 20 years have passed since that momentous occasion when a new battle of Manila Bay took place on 27 January 2019. The events that transpired would not be as destructive nor as bloody as a real war but the consequences would be as enduring and significant.

On that day, thousands of government workers, environmentalists and civilian volunteers trooped to the iconic Manila Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard to clean up the tons of garbage that littered its shores. It was truly a sight to behold as thousands of people of all ages and sectors descended to clean the Manila Bay shoreline. Simultaneous clean-up activities were also held in the nearby cities of Las Piñas and Navotas as well as in the neighboring provinces of Bulacan, Bataan and Pampanga.

The resulting success of the undertaking was immediately evident and it was truly remarkable. Pictures that went viral online show how portions of the iconic Manila Bay Baywalk were restored to its former resplendent glory. Social media and news outlets picked up the transformation, prompting people from all over Metro Manila to come in droves to see the garbage-free shoreline. Migratory birds even appeared the following day to enjoy themselves on the beaches as if to approve and welcome the change.

The sheer scale and ambition of the clean-up, as well as its impressive aftermath, shocked the entire nation. For so long, people thought the task to be quite impossible and quixotic. But the government, in partnership with the volunteers, has demonstrated that the mission, no matter how difficult, can be done.

The success of the clean-up was truly a great victory for the Filipino people as the polluted waters of Manila Bay have come to symbolize not only the miserable condition of our ecology, but also the sad state of affairs in our society. Now that we have demonstrated that it is possible for us to clean Manila Bay, a world of possibilities opened up in the Filipino psyche. It has given us newfound optimism that all is not lost; that there is still hope not only for Manila Bay but also for our country.

I give credit to this accomplishment to the various government agencies that made it happen, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for spearheading this endeavor and especially to the thousands of volunteers who took part in this undertaking. They are the real heroes of this battle.

I also give credit to President Duterte for having the courage and resolve to get things done to realize the change that he promised to the Filipino people. We have seen this before during the campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption; the war on irresponsible mining; the battle for Marawi; the battle against red tape and bureaucratic inefficiency, and the rehabilitation of Boracay Island. We see it now during the successful battle of Manila Bay.

But our fight is far from over. These are just some of the many important battles that we have to win in order to rejuvenate this part of the nation’s capital and create a better future for all Filipinos. We must continue to work together, in the spirit of bayanihan, to sustain the gains we made and bring about real, lasting and meaningful change in our country.

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Blast from the past: On the night of 4 February 1899, sentries from the United States Army entered Barrio Santol in Sampaloc, Manila conducting a night patrol in the vicinity.

At around 8 o’clock in the evening, the American sentries caught sight of some Filipino soldiers walking towards the American-held sector, whereupon one of them shouted “Halt!”

As the Filipino soldiers did not understand what was being said, they continued on their way.

It was at this moment that one of the sentries fired at the Filipino soldiers, killing one of them. This triggered an exchange of gunfire between the Filipino and American soldiers stationed in the area, which eventually spread to nearby Paco and Sta. Ana.

In the morning, General Aguinaldo sent a messenger calling for a truce with the Americans, saying the fighting began accidentally and asking that the hostilities cease immediately. The Americans refused and instead used the incident to declare war on the Philippines, starting the Filipino-American War.

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I am one with the Filipino-Chinese community as we celebrate the Lunar New Year and welcome the Year of the Pig!

Xin Nien Kwai Le! Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!

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