Hi and welcome to my Manila travel series! So we’ve explored the gardens and the museums around Rizal Park: what next? Well, there is the Rizal Monument – a memorial dedicated to Jose Rizal, one of the country’s most well-known nationalists who paved the way for Philippine independence with his writings. The memorial stands about 100m from the actual execution site of this Filipino national hero.
The well-kept monument is surrounded by grass and an avenue lined with flags. Visitors are not allowed upclose to the obelisk structure, as it is guarded continuously by the Philippine Marine Corps. If you come at the right time, you might see the changing of the guards !
Constructed in the early 20th century during American occupation, the structure has Rizal in an overcoat holding a book, representing his famous novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The three stars atop the obelisk are said to stand for the three regions in the Phils, namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. There are two figures beside Rizal’s – a mother and her child, and two boys reading to symbolise family and education.
There were park commissioned (?) photographers (because they were all wearing the same vests) at the ready with heavy DSLRs slung across their necks to take photos for visitors. It was kinda redundant though because many tourists took selfies with their own cameras instead.
The monument faces a wide road called Roxas Boulevard. Traffic was heavy but there were no pedestrian crossings so we kinda just ran across lol. There were also horse-drawn carriages trooping up and down the street.
Just across it is the Quirino Grand Stand. The Manila Hostage crisis, in which a disgruntled former national police held a bus full of tourists hostage resulting in eight deaths, happened here in 2010.
Our destination was Manila Ocean Park just nearby.
Opening its doors in 2008, the Philippine’s largest Oceanarium spans across 8,000sq m of space and is divided into different attractions. Entry price is based on the ‘package’ you take – fiancee and I opted for the one with the Sharks & Ray Encounter, Jellyfish, Sea lion show and Night Symphony (water and light) show.
The Sharks and Ray Encounter was an outdoor pool, next to the Amphitheater. Staff periodically held up the rays so that we could pet them. They were soft, slimy and had a texture like jelly.
We didn’t touch the sharks though. Shark skin is hard and you my end up scraping the skin of your fingers off. They were big and some were clustered at the bottom of the pool like they were hanging out.
Entering the oceanarium, we were greeted by a sunny ‘rainforest’ area with trees overhung by tendrils, lots of leafy green plants and giant tanks filled with tropical fish like Arowanas.
In the aquarium, there were loads of fish of all shapes, colours and sizes swimming among the corals. It was a pretty sight 🙂 There were also helpful information placards on the different kinds of marine life.
A highlight of the park is their Buhay na Karagatan (Living Ocean) – a 25-metre long walkway/tunnel with curved acrylic walls that allows visitors to have all-round views of marine life swimming in the tank. It’s like you’re walking underwater through a deep ocean wonderland with shoals of fish, smiling sting rays and sombre sharks gliding above you. 🙂 For special packages, you can even dive inside and swim with the fishes (literally).
Our ticket included admission to the ‘Back of the House’, which is where you get to see what goes on behind the scenes, including equipment used for treating/pumping the water, how they keep specimens healthy, etc.
My favourite part of the oceanarium was the Jellyfish room. Hundreds of these beautiful (but sometimes deadly) creatures floated airily in tanks. Since they’re transparent, they glowed according to the different coloured lights. Classical music played in the background so they seemed like they were pulsing to the beat. Very relaxing to look at 🙂
Hard to believe something that is 99% water can look so… ethereal. Also hard to believe they can kill people. Ah, nature.
It was time for our Sea Lion Show! The outdoor amphitheatre has a stage with a pool where the sea lions dive and do tricks. There are three shows throughout the day.
The sea lions were adorable. Their blubber made them look rubbery and so fat that I just wanted to squeeze them tight! They were very intelligent and could perform tricks like standing up, balancing balls, clapping their flippers together, and even dancing 🙂 The show lasted for about half an hour.
After the sea lion show ended, we still had an evening symphony to catch, so we hung around watching the sun set on Manila bay. It was gorgeous.
There are two symphony shows daily. Because the first show as full, we had to catch the second one. The amphitheater was packed with school kids and screaming children who yelled at everything lol. Playing to a number of songs, the show featured spraying water coupled with light technology to create moving shapes in the air. There were ‘animations’ like beautiful swimming fish, dancing jellyfish, cartoonised mangrove swamps, and more.
The highlight of the night was My Heart will Go On – the fountains spouted up at least five storeys high! They ended the show with a bang with fireworks as the crowd roared, cheered and clapped.
Manila Ocean Park is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city, even though prices can be a bit steep. Allocate at least half a day so that you don’t miss anything – there are many attractions that we didn’t manage to go to like the ‘Penguin’ encounters and glass bottom boat ride.
Useful link here: DIRECTIONS
MANILA OCEAN PARK
666, Behind Quirino Grandstand, Luneta,
Manila, Metro Manila 1000, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 567 7777
Opening hours: 10am – 8pm
Ticket prices are from PHP550 onwards. We took the: Deep Sea Rush 5 package – Oceanarium, Sea Lion Show, Marine Life Habitat, Evening Symphony, Jellies Exhibit (PHP 550)