Three decades. Or more. That’s my estimate of how long it has been since I went to Manila’s most popular park, Rizal Park, a.k.a. Luneta.
Oh sure, I always pass by Roxas Boulevard and see Luneta from my car. Several times I’ve stayed in Manila Hotel and saw Luneta from our windows. But to really go there and walk its paths? Three decades.
You ask why? Well, I had that common hang-up that public parks, especially Luneta, were full of not-so-nice elements: litter, dirty toilets, beggars, holduppers, carnappers, etc, etc, etc.
I’m glad our Arnis Master, Cris Pasindo, decided to bring our group there. He said that all Arnis practitioners would benefit from a visit to Luneta. So at 7 o’clock in the morning two Sundays ago, we all went there: seven arnisadors, 15 Arnis kids, and their parents.
I tell you. I was surprised! What was supposed to be a two-hour outing became an almost whole day affair because we enjoyed it so much!
- There was ample parking in the park’s periphery.
- Joggers, runners, aerobic groups, tai chi practitioners, martial artists, and other sporty people who were there gave a vibe of health and fitness
- The park was clean. Yes! Of course, there were plastic wrappers lying here and there but there were no heaps of rotting garbage as I expected. I was so surprised that I asked the woman sweeping the grounds, “Has it always been this clean in Luneta or only after President Erap became mayor?” She looked genuinely surprised by my question and quickly replied “Dati pa po.” (It has always been clean). Oh, okay. Maybe I asked the wrong person but…okay! Luneta is clean!
- If you need to go, the toilets are clean. At least the one I went to was. (You just have to pay Php 5 (USD 0.10) to enter)
- Security guards are aplenty. You see them all over.
- There were no homeless people sleeping in the park. I saw some in Baywalk, Roxas Boulevard, but in Luneta, none.
- At 7 AM, the fountain at the center of the park was dancing full blast. Fantastic.
- And then the most spectacular of all, a 30-foot brass statue of Lapulapu (see below).
So what did we do there?
1. We practiced Arnis, basking in the morning sunlight and fresh air ( fresh as fresh could be in the middle of a busy city). Much better than always inhaling mall airconditioning. 🙂
2. We had bonding time.
3. Master Cris gave a short history lesson about Lapulapu and then we all had a pictorial in front of his monument.
4. We remembered our national hero, Jose Rizal.
4. We observed different Arnis classes. There are at least five around Luneta.
5. We met Arnis grandmasters, humble in look and demeanor but oh, treasures of Arnis skills and knowledge
6. The children did an impromptu exhibition.
The grandmasters were warm, articulate, and full of wisdom that we wanted to prolong the privilege of being with them. So at around 12:30 PM we all went to Mang Inasal and over hot tamarind soup, grilled chicken, and lots of rice, we were treated to stories about Arnis. Very, very interesting! We felt like insiders in the intriguing world of Arnis during the 70’s.
Since most of us still had to go to Sunday worship, at 3:30 PM we had to part ways. It was a great day. We were very grateful.
So my friends, when in Manila, stop by Luneta. You just might have a pleasant, educational, memorable time as we had.
From around the web:
- The Philippines 2011 – every given Sunday / Wingchunarnis. Talks about some Arnis groups in Luneta.
- Luneta, Manila / Virtual Tourist. Briefly describes some interesting things in Luneta.
- News archives: Department of Tourism unveils Lapulapu monument in Luneta / Lakbay Pilipinas 2004