Sunday, February 27, 2011

A boulevard for health, environment

The Treñas Boulevard has morphed from a bypass road to one that is off-limits to vehicles to give way to health buffs and pedestrians after its unveiling on March 13, 2010.

It has also spurred developmental efforts, including the rehabilitation of the Iloilo River on whose bank it is situated. Government institutions and officials, and private groups have joined in efforts to turn Treñas Boulevard and the Iloilo River into a tourism and environment showcase.

Named after the late constitutional convention delegate Efrain Treñas, father of former city mayor and now Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas, the thoroughfare has lately become a showcase of river development projects and other initiatives.

The International Awards for Liveable Communities (LivCom) in Chicago cited the city government’s Iloilo River Development Project in handing out a “gold award” for environmental sustainability on Nov. 8, 2010—besting seven other entries around the world.

Launched in 1997, the LivCom Awards are endorsed by the United Nations Environment Program. Its website ( says it is “the world’s only awards competition focusing on International Best Practice regarding the management of the local environment.”

Sen. Franklin Drilon says he was in the talks with architect Paulo Alcazaren, one of the developers of the Singapore Quay, to improve the river and the boulevard’s economic and tourism potentials.

The senator, who hails from Iloilo, is negotiating with the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Philippine Ports Authority for river dredging and the removal of illegal fish pens, sunken vessels and other eyesores.

Sustaining the Iloilo River

The Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements (Citynet) has pledged P500,000 in financial assistance to remove the fish pens and provide livelihood to the fishermen who would be affected, Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog says.

Citynet, composed of 47 member-cities, is a multi-actor network of urban local governments, development authorities and NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region that aims to “strengthen the capacities of local governments to effectively manage the urban development process and to develop partnerships at the local level.”

Former Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel donated P1 million for the operation of “Bantay Suba” (River Watch), which is composed of volunteer groups and individuals.

Jeffrey Celiz, city government team leader for complaints and action center, says that even the communities by the river bank are keen on doing their share in protecting the river through “Bantay Suba.”

Coffee under the bridge

A constant source of wonderment and amusement among Ilonggos is the literally named Coffee Shop Under the Bridge, an “accidental venture” of businessman Lando Layson.

Layson, 66, is fondly called by local media “Ambassador of River Development” because of his effort to develop the boulevard and keep the river clean.

“This is the world’s most expensive coffee shop; the roof is about P10 million,” says Layson, pointing at the Carpenter’s Bridge.

He is one of the first to initiate the Healthy Lifestyle Partnership Association in December 2009 when the boulevard had its soft opening.

He was also instrumental in having vehicles banned from using the road.

From a membership of 15, the association now has 400 card-bearing members. It does not collect any membership fee but has a commitment to regular exercise and healthy lifestyle, as well as keeping the boulevard clean.

Layson, who starts his day with taebo exercises at 5:30 a.m., has asked permission from the DPWH to put a landfill on the smelly and dirty area under the P78-million bridge.

After he was given the go-signal, he and his nephew, Joemarie Layson, spent P80,000 for the project.

Although it was a lot of money, Layson says he had to find a way to continue his taebo sessions with his friends—rain or shine.

“We would always run under the bridge every time there is rain and it became a habit, so I decided to improve the place,” says Layson, a trusted ally of Mayor Mabilog and overseer of the Iloilo River.

Bring your own coffee

Coffee Shop Under the Bridge, however, doesn’t sell coffee.

Instead, patrons must bring their own coffee sachets. Hot water will be provided by the utility man hired by Layson to keep the shop clean.

Even before people started paying attention to the boulevard in 2009, Layson spent for the installation of 20 big garbage cans and sent 15 employees of his stevedoring company to clean the boulevard, cut the surrounding grass, and maintain the cleanliness of the two makeshift toilets he had constructed beside the Carpenter’s Bridge.

His coffee shop has been frequented by prominent individuals. Among them were Drilon, Treñas, Mabilog, socialites Judgee and Sarah Peña, Pavia Mayor Arcadio Goricetta and former Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Paul Dominguez.
Activities galore

All sorts of activities have been sprouting at the Treñas Boulevard.

Lando’s wife, Teresita, was kept busy entertaining about 60 guests of the Knights of Columbus Molo Council 5028 during its Valentine’s and Family Day dinner-dance at Coffee Shop Under the Bridge.

On New Year’s Day, Ilonggos marveled at the Iloilo First Pyro Digital Musical Aerial Fireworks Display.

Layson says he was also approached by a couple who wanted to get married this April at Coffee Shop Under the Bridge due to its view of the beautiful sunset.

But for 70-year-old Ramon Valasote, former Grand Knight of the Molo Council 5028 and friend of Layson’s, he always looks forward to exercising at the Treñas Boulevard and gazing at the river.

“It is very clean and safe. Wala ka nang hahanapin pa (You can’t ask for more),” says Valasote.

Ref: By Hazel P. Villa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:06:00 02/26/2011


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