If you have one place to visit in Manila, make it Luneta – more formally known as Rizal Park. I hear it’s transforming for the better these days.
I get nostalgic because this is after all the Luneta of my youth where I spent memorable times in the play slides and tunnels, then eating ice cream and riding the open-air bus when traffic wasn’t still the nightmare it is today.
Am happy that the National Parks & Development Committee (NPDC) now reports much-awaited changes in Rizal Park to include a more vibrant Children’s Playground which boasts of CCTV cameras, newly painted giant animal statues, and children’s songs playing day and night.
Another must-see: the ‘dancing’ water fountain at the Lagoon, which was restored and will soon be choreographed to classic Filipino music with daily shows at 6:30 p.m.
More positive changes expected: sprucing-up of various gardens, installation of a free WiFi zone, repair of the park’s underground drainage system, and possible underground parking spaces and passages to ease the volume of vehicles.
NPDC is preparing for the celebration of Dr. Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary on June 19. Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, was executed by Spanish colonizers on December 30, 1896 on the same spot where his monument now stands at the Luneta.
“The Department of Tourism and several historical organizations will launch a Rizal Heritage Trail that tourists may follow all over the country, and Rizal Park’s huge Relief Map can be a teaching tool in this regard,” Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said in a press statement.
As for the overall improvement in Rizal Park, Secretary Lim had this to say: “People are so eager to have a beautiful park like this as an alternative to the malls. It is our goal along with the NPDC for them to feel that Rizal Park is a citizens’ park, a park for all,” he said.
From the free open grounds to the higher-end Bay Area hotels, Museo Pambata (Children’s Museum) and the two National Museums, Ocean Park and restaurant row just nearby, there is something here for everyone, notes NPDC Executive Director Juliet Villegas.
Rizal Park is additionally being touted as an events venue of choice with the hosting of the famed Cirque du Soleil troupe from June 23 to July 10, 2011, as well as the World Cup Philippines Year 2 on April 30 and May 15.