Last June, my aunt and I went on a trip to Hong Kong. We flew from Butuan to Manila on June 12. Our flight to Hong Kong was on June 13 around 8AM. We have the afternoon of June 12 to spare. What better way to spend than to visit Luneta. It was Independence day after all.
Luneta is the park in Manila where a monument of the Philippine's national hero, Jose Rizal, stands. Almost every town in the Philippines has a Rizal park. Luneta is the mother of all Rizal parks. Luneta was formerly known as Bagumbayan. It is where Jose Rizal was executed by the Spaniards through firing squad.
I have never been to Luneta. My mother used to tell as a child that the Jose Rizal monument has guards. I remember my mother saying, “Why do they have to guard him when he is already dead? It was only just a statue. It is not like they (the Spaniards) can kill him again.” I was amused at her story. I was doing my grade one project on heroes when she told me this. (Papa recorded our conversations on a cassette tape. One day I will convert it to digital format. ) My father, on the other hand, had some riddle in Bisaya (or Ilonggo?) referring to Rizal: “Hantungtung habato, hapilit ha posporo, ha uwanan ha initan, dili hahilantan“. Roughly translated: ‘ On top of the rock, glued on the match. Rain or shine, he will never get sick.”
LUGGAGE & MORE
Because our flight is on 8am the next day, I already told my aunt beforehand that we are going to sleep at the airport. She needed no convincing because my cousin’s house is in Fairview and my aunt knew how far is that place from NAIA Terminal 3. While I was planning for the trip, my only problem is where to leave of our luggage. I can carry my backpack but I do not think my 65-year-old aunt would want to carry her bag while we stroll Luneta. Good thing I came across an article about Luggage & More. It is a luggage storage facility in NAIA terminal 3. For P150, you can leave your small bag for 3 hours; P300 for more than 3 hours up to a day. Large bags have different rates . The facility is tucked in the right wing of the arrival area. Ask an airport personnel for directions. Luggage & More opens at 6am and closes at 11pm. If you have a plane to catch early in the morning and you leave your bags there, make sure to pick them up before they close.
NAIA Loop and LRT
The commuter in me already search the cheapest way to reach Luneta. The airport taxi’s flag down rate is P70. So, that was not an option for the budget travelers like us. Good thing there is the NAIA Loop. It plies from NAIA3 to Pasay Rotunda for P20 per person. Waiting time is longer though. I think we stood in line for 30 minutes. My aunt had some crackers and candies so the wait did not seem long. Besides, we were busy chatting. It was a short trip to Pasay Rotunda. All I knew was that we passed Baclaran area. NAIA loop dropped us at the terminal near Taft MRT station. There is a McDonald’s and Chowking in that area so we picked the latter for lunch. I already researched beforehand the nearest LRT station to Luneta which is the UN Ave station. I already checked google maps and saw that I only need to cross a few streets to get to Luneta.
The Taft MRT station connects to the LRT station. We just had to follow the signs. The fare was P15 per person. When added, our fare from NAIA3 to Luneta was P70 -a steal considering the flag down rate for an airport taxi was P70. I am giving myself a virtual pat on the back.
One probinsiyana (from the province) booboo though: A man standing beside me on the LRT asked me for direction. Uh-oh. I was not prepared how to react. I knew he was from the province like me. He spoke to me in Tagalog with a hint of Bisaya (like me!). Plus, he was carrying a luggage. He asked, while we were approaching the Gil Puyat Station, “Dito ba Buendia?” (Is this Buendia?) . I stared at my ticket. There is no Buendia in the route. So I answered, “Gil Puyat, po“. The man did not get off on that station but he quickly realized his mistake and hurriedly left the train when we reach the next station- before I can say sorry. I should have said, “I don’t know” so he can ask other passengers. Gil Puyat Avenue is formerly named Buendia Avenue. Oops.
The map was right. Luneta was a few steps away from the LRT station. Since it was Independence Day and a Sunday, there were a lot of people in the park. I see families spreading a mat and having a picnic in the park. Mental note: I should do that one in my lifetime.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines showed their wares (hehe power?). I saw people posing for a picture holding some kind of weapon. There were long lines of kids waiting for their free ride in an armored personnel carrier. Cameras clicked on people in different poses in different areas of the military tank. Some posed with the soldiers. If not for the number of people, I would have had my picture taken there, too.
What to see in Luneta?
There is the relief map of the Philippines commissioned by Ferdinand Marcos.
There is a very imposing statue of Lapu-Lapu (the Filipino who killed Magellan in Mactan). While I was looking at the statue, I was thinking, “Lapu-lapu or Dagohoy?” I know. My ignorance showed. I got confused why Lapu-lapu was given a prominent place in the park. When you think about it, Lapu-Lapu is the first Philippine hero. He fought against Spanish invasion. (Dagohoy led the longest revolt against the Spaniards.) He deserved to be immortalized in stone! ( or is that bronze?)
There are beautiful, old buildings near the park. The National Museum is near the park. This is the Department of Tourism Building.
The highlight of being in Luneta is to visit the Rizal Monument. FAIL! My senior citizen companion got tired of all the walking. The weather was warm and sunny. It would have been a perfect time for strolling. There are trees for shade. I even wanted to go Intramuros. As we walked towards the road that will lead to Intramuros, my aunt hesitated. The roads were empty and she was afraid we will get mugged or something. I was telling her, ” Why should we be afraid? This is the Philippines. Our country. You should be afraid tomorrow. We’re going to Hong Kong.” It has been my wish to visit Intramuros but my travel companions before were not as thrilled as I was in visiting there. Neither was my aunt. Hmp! Maybe I should start traveling alone.
Not yet Rizal, not yet. I will visit you one day.
The Mall of Asia
Because of the heat, my aunt wanted to go the nearest mall. After a train and a jeepney ride, we arrived at the Mall of Asia. I told her we should watch a movie. We checked what is showing and none caught her fancy. I wanted to try any 3-D movie but she doesn’t. So, we just roam around the mall and passed by an open area. I was curious so we checked it out. It is the Manila bay!
I was thinking, “This is a good time to experience the sunset!” I wanted to wait for it but my aunt was too tired and wanted to sit down. She wanted to be in an air-conditioned area.
We were sitting on a bench where people gathered. My aunt dozed off while I watched people go about their business. There was Filipino music in the background so I sang along to the ones I knew. When she woke up, we decide to find a place to eat. As we went near to an entertainment area where the music came from, we found out there was a free concert featuring Kuh Ledesma. We looked for a good vantage point and enjoyed the free concert. Henry Sy was there. He was on his wheelchair looking down from the second floor. I did not see his face but I saw the wheelchair as Kuh acknowledged his presence. It did not look like he had many bodyguards. He was watching like regular people.
After we had dinner at Jollibee (Filipino fastfood chain for Independence day), we rode the jeep to the MRT station. I made a mistake of using the pedestrian walkway instead of the LRT station to cross the busy EDSA traffic. It was scary. We were on this metal platform traversing over a very busy highway (EDSA). We could see vehicles in moving fast underneath us. I could feel the walkway vibrating as I took a step. I kept praying that the walkway will not collapse. Thankfully, we reached the NAIA Loop station in one piece.
Another booboo: I thought the drop off point of the bus in the airport is the same place where we took the bus. While quite a number of people got off in the middle of the arrival area where the bus stopped, we stayed on our seats thinking we should stop near the area where we took our exit because the Luggage&More is near that area. There would be less walking for the senior citizen. I saw the confused look of the driver when I asked to be dropped there. As we reach the door where we exited, I realized my mistake. There is only one entrance. The door we used to exit was for exit only. We walked (long walk) again towards the only entrance (where the bus stopped first).
We gathered our luggage and found a good spot were we could spend the night. I thought sleeping at the airport was my novel idea. Nope, there were a lot of people who found a good spot for themselves. A lot of them were sleeping soundly already.