By Chickie R Locsin, VERA Files
Coming out of political doldrums, Nayong Pilipino is now again a sprawling showcase of what is beautiful about the Filipinos and the Philippines.
“No other facility in the country offers such a wide spectrum of the country’s rich heritage nor an interactive experience in learning its various facets, “ boasts Nayong Pilipino Executive Director Jun Anota.
Nayong Pilipino, built from scratch in 1969 through the patronage of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, is on its fourth product cycle in almost 50 years.
After 32 years of operation, in 2001, Asia’s first theme park was forced to close its doors and was removed from its original site near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport I.
In 2006 President Gloria M Arroyo gave Nayong Pilipino a new home in Clark as a major attraction of the Centennial Expo; thereafter it once again reverted into “sleep mode.”
In March 2012, the Aquino administration breathed new life into Nayong Pilipino with a new Memorandum of Agreement between Clark Development Corporation and the Nayong Piilpino Foundation.
Armed with fresh funding, Anota worked against the clock to landscape the grounds , refurbish and construct new structures, and after 30 months the park was operational.
By 2014, a new Nayong Pilipino museum was inaugurated, thus fulfilling Anota’s mission to showcase the richness of Philippine heritage and to create jobs.
“One can learn about the Philippines in just three hours: the richness of its culture, the depth of its history, and its success in the field of orchidology,” Anota says.
The main exhibits of Nayong Pilipino Clark Expo situated in its six hectare sprawl are the
- Replicas of Kalinga, Ifugao, Aeta and Maranao Villages
- Bigger than life-size sculptures of Philippine legends Malakas at Maganda, Maria Sinukuan and Lakan Manaul
- Replicas of the houses of Dr Jose Rizal, Apolinario Mabini and Gen Emilio Aguinaldo, and the Barasoain Church
- Visitors are entertained with a scintillating 45-minute cultural show performed in the Nayong Pilipino Clark Expo Theatre by an inspired group of home grown dancers and rondalla musicians. Regular shows are at 9,11 and 2 PM.
Most visitors no longer have a vivid recollection of the original Nayong Pilipino so comparisons between the old and the new have become moot. Those who have been to the old NP take note that it was a larger facility and they miss the replicas of Mayon Volcano, the Chocolate Hills and other ecological tourist destinations.
A new feature of NP is the Orchidarium which showcases a fabulous collection of 130 thousand species of ornamental plants, of which 28 are new varieties of phalaenopsis (12) and dandrobiums (16) developed by the NPF’s orchidologists. Visitors are treated to a documentary on how NPF propagates these orchids, and offers an interactive program which demonstrates actual pollination of orchids while allowing visitors to participate in the process.
An amazing attraction on its own, the recently inaugurated Museo ng Nayon owns an extensive collection of around 1300 pieces of tribal weaves, of which 65 are displayed in a permanent exhibit. The collection was started in the 1960’s and by 1992-193 the second batch of museum pieces was purchased byAnota, who believes that with the tribal weaving skills now on the decline, there are very few museum pieces left in the market.
He speaks with great pride of this exhibit of tribal garments and weaves, including those of the T’Boli, Bilaan, Yakan, Mansaka and Bagobo. He cites that musa textiles or abaca were in abundance even before the Westerners came to our shores. He proudly notes that “While Westerners were wearing animal skins, our people wore garments.”
In the Museo, there are replicas of various costumes which visitors are taught to wear. Within the museum complex, there is also an exhibit of dye trees: achuete and benkuro (red), duhat and purple katuray (purple), guava (green) and white katuray (yellow) which were used by the early Filipinos on their weaves.
Despite the dwindling air traffic in Clark, Nayong Pilipino continues to attract large numbers of foreign tourists, mostly Australians, Koreans, Chinese and tourists from the former Soviet Union countries. It is a favorite entertainment destination for the Luzon market.
“Nayong Pilipino now attracts as many as 35,000-45,000 visitors monthly during its peak season from September to March,” Anota reports.
A quick check with Trip Advisor, the world’s largest travel site that offers trusted travel advice based on feedback from real travellers , shows that 50 percent of visitors voted Nayong Pilipino number one of the eight attractions in Clark Freeport.
Visitors of various inclinations and interests may enjoy all the cultural attractions at anti-inflation prices of Php 150 for adults and Php 100 for children.
Anota, has fought tooth and nail for the survival and long-term success of Nayong Pilipino. Despite its and cyclical financial reversals, he has accepted a second term as champion for this heritage showcase.
He is the moving spirit behind a staff of 140 that have beaten the odds by restoring the NP exhibits and attractions in record time to make sure that the powers-that-be would not have time to rethink their pledge of support. Anota, lawyer, would-be priest and agriculturist declares unequivocably :“People who love their heritage are more prosperous. “
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)