Star City is the longest-running, free-standing amusement park within the Manila metropolis.
Unlike the itinerant “country fairs” that pop up for a week or two during a district or town “fiesta” and the flea markets with rides that come alive only during the Christmas season, Star City has become a year-round, weekday and weekend affair.
Star City sprawls, in typically unplanned Filipino fashion, over 35,000 square meters, about one-fourth the size of HK Disneyland and with as many rides (21 in all).
In addition, there is the obligatory House of Horrors (“Gabi ng Lagim” or “Night of Evil” in Pilipino) and five other arcades, five more game stations (including a set of stationary rides for the little ones), and two theaters.
On their own, the “Star” and “Aliw” (amusement) theaters would be enough reason to drop in.
They have hosted foreign singers like Dionne Warwick, Stephen Bishop, Sergio Mendez, and Toto to audiences of 3,000 at a time. Most times, the playbill rotates ballet, circus acts and magic shows.
Star City certainly has room for growth as it is located within what is familiarly known as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP, the local opera house) reclamation complex, a huge tract of land reclaimed starting in the late 1960s.
The reclamation eventually grew to take up half the famed Manila Bay frontage of the metropolis, spanning the cities of Manila and Pasay but occupied by fewer than two dozen buildings all told.
Aside from the CCP, there is the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), a Product Design and Development Center, the Folk Arts Theater, Philippine Center for International Trade and Exhibitions (PHILCITE), the Sofitel Philippine Plaza hotel, Manila Film Center, the World Trade Center, the Philippine Senate and the Mall of Asia, third largest in the world.
Unlike Singapore’s Marina Bay reclamation, the entire area has vast expanses of grassy areas to welcome a marathoner and a grid of roads that could take a Formula One race with room to spare.
For now, it is already a distinct achievement that Star City has remained viable since breaking away 17 years ago, in 1991, from the annual Toys and Gifts Fair.
In the beginning, people flocked to Star City mainly to do their Christmas shopping and along the way, give there children some holiday fun.
The rest of the year, Star City basically hibernated. But when a private group took over, imported a handful of interesting rides and professionalized marketing, Star City came into its own.
The various possibilities for adventure, fun, thrills and fantasy ensure that local residents look forward to the next “excursion” out to the bay for family or groups of friends. For visitors who fly in, it helps that the entire complex fronts Roxas Boulevard, a direct route from the domestic and international airports.
What is there to do in Star City?
The premier attraction is probably the “Zyklone Loop”, a roller coaster. It was the first in-country to feature a 360-degree loop, two of them in fact.
For the faint hearted probably the majority of everyone who goes, just staring at its sheer height and experiencing vicariously the screams of the riders as they careen down a 60-degree drop and negotiate sharp turns around Star City is well worth the price of admission, thank you very much!
Riders and watchers alike look on in open-mouthed wonder as the car teeters at the peak of the loop before dropping yet again to a constant 60 k’s.
As private enterprise, Star City has learned to ride the crest of popular shows and box office hits.
When the “Jurassic Park” movie series was released in the 1990s, for example, the company was quick to assemble an arcade with moving dinosaurs, thick foliage, live snakes and the continuous din of animal roars at high volume.
Add a headhunter tribe chasing you to the mix and the sight of both children and adults running out the exit soon became a familiar, if not hilarious, sight.
For some reason, the most popular ride is “Wild River”.
Passengers sit on dugouts that seem to rise atop a hill and fall rapidly down a water slide. Folks enjoy this ride most, especially when the boat lands after soaring downwards, because water splashes everywhere.
With all the attractions Star City offers, this amusement park truly takes everybody away from their humdrum lives and gives them something to look forward to once in a while.
It gives each Filipino a grand adventure without having to leave the city, an affordable and conveniently accessible day of fun.