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LUNETA : A destination, not a landmark-2
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Mary Anne R. Conde
Date: 2001-03-19
 
Central section

After reaching the central section, the first attraction on you right would be the Japanese Garden, which is a gift of the Japanese government to Manila and has a tranquil atmosphere perfect for meditation.



In the middle of the park is the Central Lagoon, which has dancing fountains that can soar up to 80 feet high. Around the lagoon is the Gallery of Heroes or Heroes Promenade. This pays tribute to national heroes such as Marcelo H. del Pilar, Apolinario Mabini, and Sultan Kudarat.



Nearby is the Open Air auditorium where free concerts and plays are held. Next to it is the Chess Plaza, built in 1976 in commemoration of the chess match between grandmasters Garri Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.



After that is the Chinese Garden with its lagoon, pavilion and exotic carps Ė all gifts from the Filipino-Chinese community. The pavilion is especially to be noted because of its intricate architecture. The atmosphere there is peaceful and the silence is music to your ears. You could almost imagine being in a garden in Ancient China.



Next to the garden is the Mi Ultimo Adios or Rizalís last farewell engraved in marble. During the day, you pay a R10 entrance fee to this area. In the evening the fee is R50 and includes a light and sound show. The show is held every Wednesday to Sunday at 7-7:30 p.m. for the Tagalog version and 8-8:30 p.m. for the English version.



There are several life-sized bronze statues depicting scenes of Rizalís life. The most impressive is the tableau that captures Rizalís death by firing squad. At the foot of the statue is a steel tablet marking the exact spot where the hero died on Dec. 30 1896.

The central and western portions of the park are separated by another major thoroughfare, Roxas Boulevard.



Just before crossing, you will first encounter the Rizal Monument, which is the centerpiece of the whole park. The monument was designed by Dr. Richard Kissling of Zurich, Switzerland and contains the remains of Rizal. During national holidays, wreaths are laid in his honor. All day two guards stand at attention at the monument.



Another interesting feature of this area is the 31-meter flagpole with the only Philippine Flag allowed to fly at all times, regardless of weather. The pole is considered as kilometer zero or the point of reference for land travel throughout the island of Luzon. It was also the site of the Declaration of Independence from American rule on July 4, 1946.





Western section

When you get to the western section, you will be greeted by the wide lawn of Quirino Grandstand. As a child I remember rolling or chasing my cousins barefoot on the grass. We also had our family picnics there, even during the evenings when we could also stargaze.



At the end of Rizal Park is Quirino Grandstand, which is the site of many official state functions such as Independence Day rites and Presidential Inaugurations.



There also are two historic structures on either side of the western section: the Manila Hotel on the right and the Army Navy Club on the left.



The Army Navy Club, established by the Americans in 1898, was frequented by personalities such as Admiral Dewey and General MacArthur. It was used as an evacuation center until it was bombed and burned. Reconstruction was completed in 1950. Today it is managed by the Philippine Armed Forces.



Meanwhile, the Manila Hotel is one of the finest luxury hotels in the Orient. Years ago, it was the second home of General MacArthur and his family.



And finally, to cap off your walking tour, enjoy the cool sea breeze at the Breakwater or edge of Manila Bay. You could spend the rest of the afternoon perched on the low, red-brick wall and stare into the endless expanse of sea and sky.



In the late afternoon you could ride one of the motorboats docked there. For P40 you could get at a 45-minute ride going to the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex. You could get a ride shortly before dusk and get a front row seat to the spectacular sunset, which Manila Bay is known for.





Where to eat

Iím sure that all the walking you do to reach the far end of the park is bound to make you hungry. If you decide to eat out, there are a number of restaurants near the grandstand. These range from food stalls to fine dine establishments. I recommend the Sea Food Wharf which has a wide variety of food preparations from fresh, exotic seafood to all-time favorites. The prices are fair (around P100/order, good for two people) and the taste is well-worth the trip.



But, of course, another option is to bring your own food and dine al fresco in the gardens or picnic grounds.



(Reprinted from Cruising Magazine, March 2001 issue)



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