Rizal Park is clearly the most popular tourist spot in the city of Manila. The park, which is most commonly referred to by its old name, Luneta, is visited by thousands of local and international tourists every month.
Here are three reasons why people come to Luneta:
One, to pay homage to Dr. Jose Rizal, national hero of the Philippines
Many regard Jose Rizal as the greatest Filipino that ever lived. He was a painter, linguist, poet, novelist, orator, statesman, physician, surgeon and a nationalist. His academic excellence as a young man brought him to several countries in Europe where he learned about democracy and independence. He then dedicated all his writings to his country and countrymen, which as a result fueled a number of nationalistic movements that eventually led to the toppling of the Spanish tyranny.
The Philippines was a colony of Spain for more than three centuries, and it was Rizal’s passion and nationalism that began the end of Spanish rule.
Rizal was executed by the Spanish via firing squad on December 30, 1896 at Bagumbayan. The place was later named Luneta Park, which is now aptly called Rizal Park. The heart of Rizal Park is a bronze statue and monument of the national hero. It stands just a few meters away from where Rizal was executed.
Guards take turns to make sure the monument is guarded 24/7, but it is more for honor of Rizal than to safeguard it from any harm or danger. The scheduled changing of guards is watched by people and has become one of the reasons why people come to see the monument.
The second reason people go to the park is to relax and have fun with the family
Children love to run around the wide open area within Rizal Park. There are not many nature parks in Manila. The most common places that children and families go to are modern malls that are normally overcrowded with shoppers, moviegoers and bystanders.
Ten hectares of the 22-hectare Rizal Park is an open field where children can run around, play or simply stroll with their families. It is perfect for friends and lovers to while away time talking and relaxing. In one corner of the park is a children’s playground that is highlighted by huge, colorful dinosaur statues.
The third reason to visit the park is to enjoy the many attractions within and surrounding the park
Around the Park are important national landmarks such as the Department of Tourism, National Museum and Quirino Grandstand, which is along the Manila Bay. Also nearby are Manila Hotel, Intramuros, Fort Santiago, the Gallery of National Heroes, and San Lorenzo Ruiz Plaza. (Lorenzo Ruiz is the first and only Filipino saint venerated by the Catholic Church.) Other nearby attractions are the Central Lagoon, Chinese Garden, Planetarium, Rizal Park Library, Chess Plaza, Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion, the Flower Clock, and Japanese Garden.
Besides Rizal Shrine and the children’s playground, inside the park are a statue of Lapu-Lapu, a Muslim chieftain considered as the Philippines’ first hero, and the 31-meter-high Philippine flagpole. The flagpole is “kilometer zero” since all the cities around Manila are measured from it.
Also inside the park are gardens, plazas, historical markers, an observatory, an open-air concert hall, an art gallery, a light-and-sound theatre, fountains, restaurants, food kiosks, and a giant relief map of the Philippines that may be viewed from an elevated platform.
Manila residents cannot be truly called “Manileños” if they have not seen or visited Rizal Park. It is very accessible by everyone on board a jeepney or taxi. Every jeepney driver, taxi driver, and Manila resident knows where it is.