You might think that traveling in a city would be very expensive. Yes, that might be true considering the transportation, food, entrance fees, etc. However, if you are in Manila, there are actually lots of places you can visit for free or with only Php10.00- Php40.00 fees (US$0.20-0.90).
I have been living in Manila for the past five years now, but I only get to visit really nice places here just this year. I can list reasons here but that would sound like I’m only making excuses for missing these beautiful historical places for a long time.
For only P10.00 entrance fee, you can have access and see one of the most beautiful parks in Manila. I went to the park during the holiday in February 2016, I was so bored at home and I wanted to travel somewhere nice but I didn’t have enough money to go out of town, so I went looking online and found this place. The park also served as a regular site for weddings, photo shoots and filming for local movies and TV shows. During my visit there, I was lucky to see one of the TV networks filming in there. There are also several students, families having picnic and several foreign tourists walking inside the park.
Paco Park was built during Spanish colonial period and used to be a cemetery for Spanish aristocrats. Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, was once interred here after his execution on December 30, 1896. I searched for the place where he was once buried when I went there, I found the one with the marker sign RPJ, the letters got me confused and curious so I did a little research on the internet. According to Wikipedia and Inquirer.net, Rizal’s younger sister, Narcissa, bribed the caretaker to mark the site with Rizal’s reverse initial (RPJ) to avoid getting the attention of Spanish authorities who might remove his body there to prevent public veneration. It was also the burial place of three martyr priests, Gomburza (Jose Mariano Gomez, Jose Apolonio Burgos and Jacinto Zamora). The Park is in a circular shape with its thick inner and outer walls. The top of these walls are made into pathways where you can walk around and just enjoy the view. The entrance of the Park led to a lovely fountain and a small domed Catholic Chapel.
I spent about 3 hours in there, after walking around the area, I found a spot on top of the wall where I found comfortable and peaceful just to sit and observe people inside the park. This park is also the best place if you just want to meditate and enjoy the peaceful surrounding.
How to get there:
Paco Park is located in San Marcelino St., Paco, Manila. The easiest ways is to go to Taft Avenue and take a jeepney going to Divisoria (if you’re coming from Pasay) or to Baclaran (if you’re from Divisoria area) then get off at Padre Faura Street. Paco Park is just around 200 meters from there. You can also get there through LRT. Get off at UN station and then walk to Padre Faura Street.
After spending some time at Paco Park, I decided to take a walk to Rizal Park. Yes, it is just walking distance from Paco. Rizal Park (also known as Luneta) is one of the famous places here in the Philippines. It was dedicated to the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. It is one the most visited tourist destinations in Manila by local and foreign tourists alike. This park was also the site where Rizal was executed (you can find the markers not so far from the monument). The bronze and granite monument of Dr. Jose Rizal is not just a landmark but also it’s where his remains were interred after being exhumed from Paco Cemetery. Situated across the monument, is one of the biggest dancing fountains in the country. Many people gathered here especially during Christmas and New Year’s Eve to witness musical fountain show. And the best thing about Rizal Park is you can roam around the place for free.
However, there are several spots within the park where you can enjoy sight-seeing for a minimum fee. One of them is the beautiful Chinese garden, inside is a small manmade lake, gazebos and their really charming pagodas that are decorated with Chinese mythical figures that will make you think you are in one of the old Chinese villages. Next to the Chinese garden is Nayong Pilipino (Filipino Village), which showcases Filipino culture. You can find inside the village, a small Ifugao house, a jeepney, kalesa carriages, and small pond with golden tilapia where you can enjoy fish feeding. Another interesting place is the Children’s Playground, a place specially built for kids and kids at heart. Although I only pass by this place going to the main park, I can see that it’s the kids’ favourite spot in the area.
Below are the fees:
Chinese Garden- Php10.00
Children’s Playground – Php10.00
Nayong Pilipino- Php 30.00 – Php40.00
How to get there:
If you take a jeepney via Taft Avenue, get off at Kalaw Street or tell the driver to drop you off at Rizal Park. Via LRT: get off to U.N station, Kalaw Street is just a few meters away from the LRT station.
One of the destinations in Manila where you can visit for free is the National Museum of the Philippines. I visited the place just recently when I joined the field trip and team building of the Kapwa Kapatid’s (Charity Organization) scholars which I am a regular volunteer. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m and is free of charge to all visitors, both Filipino and foreign. It used to have an entrance fee of Php150.00 but it was waived just this July, 2016.
The National Museum is actually a two separate buildings. Since we were a large group when we went there, we were advised to divide our group into two. Our group went first to the second building which was the museum of the Filipino people. It houses the archaeological and anthropological discoveries/treasures of the Philippines from prehistoric to modern times. The first floor of the building is where you can find a model Ifugao house and the Taxidermy Visible Storage, where you can see different kinds of animal that for me, they almost looked like they were alive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take many photos since it was closed during that time and we could only view it from the outside and the glass wall would just reflect the light whenever I took photos of them.
On the second floor are the exhibits of the pottery trade in the Philippines during pre-colonial era until the galleon (Spanish ship) trade in the Philippines. Some of the earthenwares that were recovered from the sunken galleon, San Diego, were already covered with corals. San Diego was actually made in Cebu during 16th century by Basque, Chinese and Filipino shipbuilders. The miniature replica of the ship is also displayed on the second floor. There are also exhibits of angels, antique ciborium and religious images carved on wood that portray the Christianization of the Philippines during the Spanish era. Included on one of the galleries on the second floor was the Ivory trade. Because most Filipinos were fond of religious objects made of Ivory, it made the Philippines a destination of illegal Ivory trade.
The 3rd floor is where the galleries for Lantakas, small cannon used as a weapon by Filipinos during pre-colonial period. The Kaban ng Lahi(Archaeological Treasures) gallery portrays burial jars and burial practices of ancient Filipinos. The Faith, Tradition and Place: Bangsamoro Art gallery displays the cultural heritage of Islamic culture in Southern Philippines such as colourful clothes, ornate decorations and embellishments, musical instruments and handmade copy of Koran.
The 4th floor galleries display the Ancient traditional Script of the Philippines and the Artistry of Philippine Textiles (Hibla ng Lahi) where samples of silk, cotton, pineapple and abaca fibres are on display. Different varieties of rice are also displayed at the Rice and Climate Change gallery.
After almost two hours, we finally went to the Museum for the National Art which is on the other building. Upon entering the building, the huge statue of the former President Manuel Roxas will be the first one that you will notice. Although my feet and legs were already aching that time, I was still excited because I always wanted to see Juan Luna’s famous masterpiece, the Spoliarium. It was for me the highlight of my visit to the museum. Inside the building were several galleries of famous Filipino national artists like Fernando Amorsolo, Victorio Edades, Diosdado Lorenzo, Vicente Manansala, Carlos V. Francisco, Hernando R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, Manuel Rodriguez, Ang Kiukok, José Joya, Fernando Zobel, Mauro Malang, sculptures of Guillermo Tolentino and many others.
How to get there:
Address: Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila
If you take a jeepney via Taft Avenue, get off at P. Burgos Street or you can tell the driver to drop you off at the National Museum. Via LRT: get off to U.N station, and walk through P. Burgos Street.