Got no time to go out of town? Go visit Rizal Park!
MANILA, Philippines – When was the last time you visited Rizal Park – lovingly referred to as Luneta by older relatives – and enjoyed its many attractions, as well as a leisurely walk along its stretch from Kalaw Avenue to Roxas Boulevard?
In a country where malls seem to be sprouting from the ground and replacing wide open spaces every kilometer or so and window-shopping has become the easy alternative to outdoor recreation, very few Filipinos get to enjoy outdoor parks nowadays. Park life has become either a privilege to those who have parks in exclusive villages, or a luxury to those who might have to brave heavy Manila traffic to access the public parks available.
If you don’t have out-of-town trips planned and if it’s been a while since you’ve been to Rizal Park, the yuletide season might just be the perfect time for you to visit. Aside from the cooler December weather, there are more than a few reasons why our country’s national park.
A squeaky-clean Rizal Monument
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) have partnered with Kärcher Philippines in a project to clean the Rizal Monument.
Based in Winnenden, Germany, Kärcher is a multinational company that specializes in the manufacture of high-pressure cleaners, vacuum cleaners and other cleaning equipment for commercial, industrial and home use.
Kärcher utilized high-pressure, hot steam cleaning technology to remove visible stains and deep-seated dirt such as soot, algae, molds and other biological residue on the granite portions of the monument. Dr. Jose Rizal’s bronze sculpture and other metal structures, however, remain untouched. This is part of Kärcher’s initiative to restore 100 historic monuments worldwide, Kärcher Cleans the World.
Previously, the Rizal Monument undergoes cleaning only twice a year – before Independence Day ceremonies in June and prior to Rizal Day celebrations in December. The high-pressure cleaning machine, which can utilize hot water, cold water and steam technology, has been donated to the NPDC and can now be used for the monument’s as well as the entire park’s restoration and regular maintenance.
"Cleaning the Rizal Monument means so much more for us. Because we are not just cleaning a structure, rather, we are preserving a treasure," said NPDC Director Penelope Belmonte in her welcome speech during the opening ceremony of the restoration on December 14.
Free for all attractions
Luneta has many other attractions apart from the Rizal Monument. Among them are the Musical Dancing Fountain, the Relief Map of the Philippines, the Flower Clock, the Chinese Garden, and the Japanese Garden.
The Musical Dancing Fountain is truly fascinating at night, when the light patterns of different colors follow the musical patterns of well-loved Christmas carols and popular hits. In the day, however, loudspeakers situated in strategic locations still fill the area with joyous tunes without disturbing the tranquillity in the park.
The park’s gardens, which used to require the payment of entrance fees, are now openly accessible to the public. The Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden are well-maintained, shaded and peaceful; and are ideal for short breaks or even an afternoon nap after a half a day of strolling through the park. The gardens close well before sunset at 5 pm, so security shouldn’t be an issue.
Christmas decor and a train to spread yuletide cheer
You’ll notice that Christmas Wreaths are placed on the park’s lamp posts. Christmas lights are visible at night and an there’s an area decorated with oversized parcels behind the Rizal Monument.
There’s even a train that goes around from behind the monument to the other end of the Dancing Musical Fountain, which you can ride for only P50.
In a media interview, Director Belmonte said that NPDC is in the process of setting up a Santa Corner for underprivileged children who will be visiting the park, which should hopefully give these children the opportunity to receive desired Christmas gifts.
Guided tours and special events
For the history nut, there’s The Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal: A Lights and Sound Presentation and guided day tours to enjoy.
The Open-Air Auditorium plays host to a number of events, such as Weeknights @ 6, which offers everything from variety shows to film screenings on Friday evenings; Labs Kita Sabado which showcases band concerts and other musical performances at 6 pm on Saturdays; and Concert at the Park which features classical music shows every Sunday at 6 pm.
The New Year Countdown will be held on December 31 at the Central Section.
Director Belmonte says NPDC is encouraging Filipinos to return to the habit of going to the park as a form of recreational activity. This is why they have waived the entrance fees and exerted extra efforts to make the park cleaner and more attractive.
“We find pleasure and enjoyment in accomplishing big tasks, and in making our park beautiful. All parkgoers are happy and satisfied when the park is clean and beautiful. We are given a very important responsibility not just as a steward of the park, but also as a steward of our culture, our history, and our heritage,” she said. – Rappler.com