When was the last time that you visited Rizal Park, more popularly known as ‘Luneta,’ which is our country’s premier national park?
A group of balikbayan friends who recently went there excitedly narrated how surprised they were at how Luneta looks and operates now, compared to the last time they were there which was just a couple of years ago.
They were too happily surprised that they sought to personally congratulate the one behind all the positive changes in what remains to be a top tourist destination -- National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) Executive Director Penelope Belmonte, who, they said, was but all too glad to oblige.
For starters, Belmonte has opened all the gated facilities in the sprawling park to the public, free of charge, unlike before where admission fees are being collected for each facility, believing that the park is not supposed to be used for income generation and must be enjoyed by all Filipinos freely.
These include the classic attractions like the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Kanlungan ng Sining, Light and Sound Theater, Binhi ng Kalayaan, Orchidarium, and the newest attraction which is the National Parks Museum and Archives. These are on top of the famous dancing fountain and the Children’s Playground which also remain well-maintained to date.
For those who haven’t been to Luneta for quite some time, the Light and Sound Theater is a landscaped garden designed by national artist for ar-chitecture Ildefonso P. Santos. It features statues created by sculptor Eduardo Castrillo showing characters at the scene of the execution, including that curious dog captured in the famous photo of Rizal’s execution taken by Manuel Arias Rodriguez.
Built to promote friendship between China and the Philippines and which was recently renovated in keeping with the times, the Chinese Garden features a lagoon and a corridor designed like the Summer Palace in Beijing, China. An ornate Chinese-style gate, carved with swirling dragons, leads to the whimsical garden which looks like it has been transported from old Peking. Along the lagoon constructed to simulate a small lake, are pagodas and gazebos that are set off by red pillars and green-tiled roofs and decorated with a profusion of mythical figures.
The Japanese Garden, on the other hand, was built as a memorial of the country’s strong relations with Japan after World War II. Inside it are Japanese-style gardens, a lagoon and a bridge, as well as rocks and low-flowering trees and shrubberies characteristic of typical gardens in Japan.
Housing flowering vines clinging on trellises, wild and ornamental plants and different species of orchids endemic to the Philippines. The Orchidarium also showcases the country’s rich collection of orchid species and butterflies and has become a favorite venue for weddings.
The Children’s Playground is where kids may enjoy the swings and slides while adults can also play by climbing up and down Jurassic creatures cast in cement, clambering in and out the mouth of a hippopotamus or scampering under the shade of the tall trees.
The Kanlungan ng Sining Museum or ‘Artist’s Haven’ is one which offers a tranquil place where Filipino artists may do their works of art. It is like a forest with big trees, plants, birds and insects and the dramatic exhibits of sculptures, paintings and photographs help inspire artists.
The Binhi ng Kala-yaan or ‘Seed of Freedom’ is a huge bronze monument similar to the famous ‘Pieta’ of Michelangelo. It is a favorite ‘picnic area’ for park-goers and a reception venue for special occasions such as birthday parties, weddings, product launching and art exhibits.
All these and more. For those who can no longer walk long distances, there is the E-Jeep that could take you around the park for a measly P10.
My balikbayan friends were further pleased not only after finding the whole park spic and span and but moreso when, after collecting their loose change so they can pay for the use of the comfort room, they found out that the restrooms are now free of charge, too.
They said they enjoyed all the new, as well as the old but enhanced attractions inside the park and vowed to share their
experience and spread the good news. Taking their word for it, we ought to try visiting Luneta one of these days too.
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Jokjok (from Gelo Lobramonte of Pasig City) -- TEACHER: Class, bakit sa Luneta ITINAYO ang bantayog ni Dr. Jose Rizal?/ PEDRO: Ma’m, kasi po hindi s’ya puwedeng IUPO?!/ TEACHER: Abah, biruin mo? Naisip mo pa ’yun? Ang galing ah! Puwes, tumayo ka du’n sa corner hanggang matapos ang klase ko!!!