MANILA, Philippines - The nearly 200-year-old Rizal Park in the City of Manila, popularly referred to as "Luneta," is regaining its old glory. On many special occasions, Manilans as well as promenaders from other cities and towns of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, gather at the park to relax, unwind, stroll around, do some tai-chi, spend time with families and friends. The park has been brightened up. It is free for everybody; no entrance fee is required to enjoy the park's varied attractions.
This year, the 22-hectare Rizal Park is getting a facelift with energy-saving lamps and closed circuit TV cameras as new fixtures. The plans include a free wi-fi zone, repair of underground drainage, and construction of underground parking. The drinking fountain donated by Heidelberg, Germany - where Rizal wrote the last chapter of his masterpiece Noli Me Tangere - will be revived to serve as centerpiece of a planned Noli Me Tangere Garden.
Besides the Rizal Shrine and a children's playground, Rizal Park has a statue of Lapu-Lapu, the country's first hero, and a 31-meter-high Philippine flagpole, called "kilometer zero," because it is where the distances of towns and cities in Luzon are measured from.
The flagpole is in front of the Rizal monument, where foreign leaders hold wreath-laying ceremonies during state visits. It is where Manuel A. Roxas, first President of the Third Philippine Republic, was sworn in on July 4, 1946. From the Rizal monument, one can see Quirino Grandstand, San Lorenzo Ruiz Plaza, Manila Bay, and the Philippine Historic Landmark Manila Hotel.
A visit to Manila is not complete without enjoying the attractions of present-day Rizal Park such as a dancing fountain, an Orchidarium, a Butterfly Pavilion, the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the National Museum of the Filipino People, the Planetarium, Oceanarium, light and sound theater, a giant Philippine map, an open-air auditorium, a chess plaza, and Palaruang Pambata or Children's Playground. The sunset on Manila Bay provides an inspiring backdrop for visitors appreciating nature's wonders. MABUHAY!