Words by Patricia Chong
Luneta Park is easily one of the most famous spots in Metro Manila—if not for its historical importance, then for the fact that it’s always been a favorite for those looking for a day out with the family. At a little over 16 hectares, there’s plenty of it to explore, even without heading to nearby Intramuros. These are just some of the things you can do in just one day:
Take a walk in the park. Beyond the iconic Rizal Monument at Kilometer Zero, you can learn more about our national hero through the beautiful statues of lights and sounds complex The Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal. Statues and markers of Lapu-Lapu, San Lorenzo Ruiz, the Battle of Manila, and GomBurZa can also be found throughout the park, along with an impressive relief map of the Philippines. If you’d rather just enjoy the lush trees and plants, though, there are at least four separate gardens to relax in—two of which are designed after ones found in China and Japan.
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Visit a museum. There are five museums right in the area, four of which are part of the National Museum complex (which means you can explore them free of charge). You can go see the works of acclaimed Filipino artists like Felix Hidalgo, Jose Joya, and Fernando Amorsolo—not to mention Juan Luna’s famous Spoliarium—at the National Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum of Anthropology exhibits historical artifacts from all over the country, while the Planetarium has daily full-dome shows that take you right out into space. The newest of the four is National Museum of Natural History, a beautifully restored building exhibiting the Philippines’ diverse flora and fauna. And if you’ve got kids, Museo Pambata’s hands-on exhibits are the perfect place for them to learn.
Catch movies from around the world. Just a quick walk down Kalaw, the Metro Manila Cinematheque is an excellent showcase of not just international films and documentaries, but also works from local directors and producers. That’s everything from French arthouse flicks to last year’s Cinemalaya awardees to even restored classics—and you can check out their screening schedules on their Facebook.
Explore the wonders of the sea. Just beyond Quirino Grandstand, the country’s first world-class marine theme park is offering some good fun for all ages. Manila Ocean Park’s Oceanarium is home to 14,000 marine creatures from around 277 species, all indigenous to the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Beyond that, you can go on encounters with sharks and rays, penguins, and even sea lions. Their lights and fountains show isn’t to be missed, either!
Step into a hundred year old hotel. There will never be anything quite like the grandeur of Manila Hotel’s lobby, which often makes one feel they’ve fallen right into another time. The lobby’s signature capiz chandeliers and American colonial architecture are already an attraction in themselves for fans of design, but if you feel like splurging a little, the lounge’s halo-halo and bibingka are excellent.
Watch the sunset. There’s a reason why sunsets along Manila Bay are still cherished by those who go out to see them. A quick detour south along Roxas Boulevard and to the baywalk gets you a magnificent view. Find a spot to sit and watch the ships along the water cast in fiery oranges and reds. And when the day’s over, and you’re hungry from all that walking, some barbecue and java rice at the original Aristocrat is bound to hit the spot.
Featured image from Wikimedia Commons