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As Metro Manila suffers from a serious lack of green space, Rizal Park is a most-beloved tropical oasis. This is where locals flock together to go for a stroll, practise sports, sing and enjoy picnics. Back in colonial times, the wealthy elite would come here after their Sunday visit to the cathedral in Intramuros and parade through the Chinese Garden of ‘Luneta’, as the park was then called.
Not only is Rizal Park Manila’s green lung, it is also an important historic location: this is where freedom fighter José Rizal was executed on 30 December 1896, after his imprisonment in a dungeon in Fort Santiago. His martyrdom and death sparked the beginning of the Philippine Revolution, which eventually brought an end to more than 3 centuries of Spanish rule. Rizal is still revered as the national hero of the Philippines and a museum inside the fort keeps his memory alive. The impressive Rizal Monument in the park is guarded by sentries in full uniform.
Rizal Park is the largest city park in Asia and stretches all the way from Manila Ocean Park along the city wall of Intramuros to the campus of the Technological University of the Philippines. 54 hectares of picnic meadows, ornamental gardens, ponds with fountains, monuments and a parade ground where Philippine presidents address the people. The park also features a Chinese Garden with romantic bridges across a pond, and a tasteful Japanese Garden with a grand entrance gate and small pagodas. An ambitious (and controversial) master plan provided a much-needed overhaul: the National Museum has been reopened and the buildings in the park have been renovated. In addition to a new visitors centre, there are also several restaurants, shops and boutique hotels.
“Rizal Park stretches from the parade ground to the university campus: 54 hectares of picnic meadows and ornamental gardens”
Situated around Rizal Park are some of Manila’s most interesting attractions. The National Museum displays Philippine art from the 18th century until today, including the enormous painting ‘Spoliarium’ by Juan Luna. The adjacent Museum of the Filipino People houses archaeological and anthropological collections. The Planetarium lets you peer into the starlit sky and the Oceanarium reveals the secrets of the underwater world. The bronze diorama next to the José Rizal Monument contains the remains of the national hero and depicts the dramatic final scenes of his life. Golf fans can play a round on the intriguing 18-hole golf course next to the city wall.