A tour of Manila is not complete without a visit to Rizal Park. Named after the country’s national hero Jose Rizal, the park is one of the very few ‘green lungs’ in the congested city of Manila.
Located at the northern end of Roxas Boulevard and overlooking Manila Bay, the park was the site of historical events such as the execution of Rizal in 1896, the official declaration of Philippine independence from US rule in 1946 and in more recent times the favored endpoint of political rallies and propaganda (think of the military and cultural parades organised by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos).
For the average Pinoy this park is a favorite site to hang and laze around and get accosted by orange robe-clad Hare Krishnas, Bible preachers, witness countless family picnics, spy on love birds or ogle at the busloads of Korean and Japanese tourists uttering ‘Jose Rizar’ and pointing their camera flashes at Rizal’s bronze bust.
Before the era of air-conditioned shopping malls, Rizal Park is the main rendezvous point for Metro Manilans and schoolchildren skipping their classes. There is a Japanese and Chinese gardens in the park, the Quirino Granstand and a central fountain that used to add some magic to the park.
Aside from its historical import, Rizal Park should inspire future city administrators and planners in Metro Manila to build more parks and less commercial edifices and complexes. Metro Manilans certainly don’t need another mega-mall or LRT station.
But at the rate fat and juicy commissions from commercial developers are being doled out to prompt and attract City Hall approval, the inspiration from Rizal Park for more ‘green lungs’ may remain as elusive as the personal dreams of Jose Rizal.
Mabuhay ang Rizal Park!