Rizal Park is expansive and a relief from the outside.
It was here, Rizal Park, where the kalesa dropped me off after a tour of Intramuros.
Rizal Park or Luneta Park as it is also known is huge, I was surprised at how big it is. Now just to clear up the name of the park. It was initially called Lunette as it was a cleared area, in the shape of a small moon, outside Intramuros. This Lunette or Luneta Park was created so the Spanish, who were safely inside Intramuros, could see any attackers coming and defend themselves.
It was latter know as Rizal Park in honour of the countries national hero, Dr Jose Rizal.
Okay we have now sorted out the name thing, lets move on.
Rizal Park is a place where Filipinos can do what they love most and that is getting together as a family unit. On a Sunday Rizal Park is full of people and I mean full! Mostly just relaxing, picnicking, playing games on the expansive lawns and generally just enjoying each other's company. Now if you are here early in the morning you will find joggers enjoying the early morning and people doing tai-chi.
There is an amazing amount of things to do and see in Rizal Park, for starters there is all the open spaces and treed areas for hanging out, then you have the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, the historical statues and monuments, a light and sound theatre, fountains and water pieces a plenty. Not to mention the stadium, Orchidarium, Museum, restaurants and more. Let me catch my breath!
You can kind of divide Rizal Park up into three areas. The top area, which borders Taft Avenue contains the Department of Tourism Building and National Museum. Directly in front of the Department of Tourism Building is a giant statue of Lapu-Lapu. Lapu-Lapu was the Philippines first freedom fighter, he killed Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu. Lapu Lapu's close rival in 1521, Rajah Humabon, sided with Magellan to punish Lapu-Lapu for not recognising Spain as there ruler, what Magellan did not allow for was the poor access he had to attack and the ferocity of Lapu-Lapu and his warriors. The death of Magellan sent the Spanish home for quite some time. Needless to say Lapu Lapu deservedly became a national hero.
The middle area or second area of Rizal Park is the largest by far. It is in a rectangular shape with lawns running down the centre with treed areas to the sides. It is here that you will find the Chinese & Japanese Gardens, numerous fountains, Orchidarium, Rizal's Execution Spot, Open Air Stage and the Rizal Memorial.
This is one of the most photographed sites in Rizal Park, it is the monument to Dr Jose Rizal. It was his execution that sparked revolution and the Filipino people stirred.
In respect of his execution, a 24 hour honour guard stands to attention beside his monument. At the back of the Rizal Monument you can find an engraving of his most famous poem, Mi Ultimo Adios. Prior to Jose Rizal's execution in December 1898, he was locked in a prison cell inside Fort Santiago, it was here that he wrote the now famous poem.
Just to the side of the Rizal Monument is where he was executed.
In the clearing is a statue enactment of his final seconds before his life was taken from him by firing squad.
Another interesting little fact is the flag pole here at the Rizal Monument is the zero kilometer flag pole. This is the starting spot where all other geographical landmarks are taken from. So you want to know how far it is to Batangas, this is the start marker or zero kilometer marker. Just in case you were wondering Batangas is 110km south of Manila.
Worth seeing in Rizal Park is the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, these are still in the middle section of the park. They were built to promote friendship and tolerance between the countries.
Now from the Rizal Monument you cross Roxas Boulevard to the third or last section of Rizal Park.
It is in here that Rizal Park fronts Manila Bay. It is a great spot to view the famous Manila Bay Sunsets and is an obvious spot for young and not so young lovers.
This third area also houses the Quirio Grandstand. For President of the Philippines, the Quirino Grandstand is the place you want to be when the votes have stopped being counted, because the Quirino Stadium is where the President traditionally make their first speech to the nation and take oath. The Quirino Grandstand also hosts many rally's, both political and religious, if something of import is happening then this is normally where the people will be.
If you want to know what else to see in Manila have a look here.