Amidst the concrete jungle that is Metro Manila, isn’t it refreshing to still find green open spaces filled with trees and greeneries? While the majority of the capital region is slowly succumbing to urban decay, some secluded spots usually hidden from the public eye are still thriving in their own ecosystem.
And with the pandemic teaching us to adopt protocols in the new normal such as practicing social distancing from one another and avoiding crowded areas, there’s no better time to appreciate and preserve the city’s last green lungs than now.
When it’s finally safe again to go out in the open, here are some of the public parks and secluded greeneries you could visit for a quick nature fix in the city.
This botanical garden located within the confines of the University of the Philippines Diliman is a 22-hectare protected forest area. Established in 1948 by the Department of Agriculture, this man-made forest has served as a rich breeding ground of exotic and endangered plants that have also become beneficial for the studies of UP students.
There are currently 600 informal settlers living within the Arboretrum. Plans to build a P19-billion facility of the Philippine General Hospital are also in place. But nevertheless, you could still go to this area for a quick visit. Just inform the guards at the checkpoint of your intentions.
Marikina River Park
This natural landmark is a 220-hectare that stretches along an 11-kilometer portion of the river banks, extending from the villages of San Roque to Calumpang. Since 1993, this area has become a go-to spot for joggers, campers, and bikers. This urban riverside park also houses a sports complex and a mall.
Just a reminder: be careful when going to this area during typhoon season. There are countless incidents when the area was completely inundated by the raging floodwater from the river, such as during the Ondoy onslaught in 2009 and the recent Typhoon Ulysses in 2020.
La Mesa Dam Ecopark
This area is not a secret to many. However, due to its location in the northeastern-most part of Metro Manila, near North Caloocan and Fairview—or “far view,” as they say, it’s quite a challenge to visit this area, especially now that the construction of MRT-7 is in full swing. But on a good day, the La Mesa Dam Reservoir or Ecopark is a relaxing getaway for your tired soul. From its soothing fields of endless greens to the calming nature breeze, you’d almost forget that you’re still within NCR.
Once the NCR Plus reverts to the general community quarantine (GCQ) guidelines, 100 visitors will be allowed to visit the La Mesa Ecopark and 50 for La Mesa Watershed. You could go running, hiking, and biking within its vicinity. If you’re quite frugal, worry not, the P40 entrance fee is surely within your budget. Just keep in mind that the allowed visitors are only those aged 18 to 65.
This area is one prime example of how nature and urban areas can peacefully coexist. Filinvest City was established in the city of Muntinlupa in 1995. Although it is situated right in the middle of towering skyscrapers and a bustling metropolis, it has managed to evolve and adapt to the growing need for green spaces. Proof of this is the areas like Garden City and its three major parks namely—Spectrum Linear Park, Central Park, and Creekside Park.
Central Park? Yes, you heard it right, but this is not that one from New York, this one is our very own tropical version completely lined up with trees and landscaped with man-made rivers. The beautiful contrast of towering buildings and plain greeneries make this place a conducive area to find your zen, your yin and yang, and your mental health stability.
The Quezon City Circle, or formally referred to as Quezon Memorial Circle, is a 27-hectare national park located right within that iconic elliptical road in Quezon City that branches out to our usual traffic roadblocks namely Commonwealth Avenue, North Avenue, Quezon Avenue, and Kalayaan Avenue. Who would have thought that despite being sandwiched by these bustling highways, you’d find an urban forest that protects the tomb of the late president Manuel L. Quezon?
Aside from the concrete landmarks like the 66-meter mausoleum of Quezon, the QCX museum, and a future station of the MRT-7 transit, this gem would still considerably serve its purpose as a haven of different plant species. As you come out of the underpass, you’d be greeted by stalls of plant sellers. If you’re a plantito or plantita, this spot could definitely be your favorite place to unwind. If by chance you feel the need to work out, there’s outdoor gym equipment scattered around the area.
Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area
This 175-hectare sanctuary is comprised of two reserve islands — the Freedom Island and Long Island, which are both hotspots for migratory birds from China, Japan, and Russia. Almost 41 species of birds make this their temporary habitat.
But the catch is, you can’t really step on this island unless you ask for a permit from the local government. However, you can make a stop and park your car outside the service road and cross the overpass. But still, the most you could do is to marvel at the site from a distance. Nevertheless, it’s still enough to admire the beauty of this natural sight, especially for something that’s so near in an urban area.
Arroceros Forest Park
Known as the ‘Last Lung’ of Manila, this 2.2-hectare park right between the districts of Quiapo, San Miguel, and Ermita is home to 10 bird species, over 8,000 plants, and 3,000 trees from 61 varieties. On February 27, Manila mayor Isko Moreno signed an ordinance to make this protected area a permanent forest park. This means a P1-million budget will be set aside for the improvement of the park. Stricter measures will also be imposed, particularly on maintaining the cleanliness of the vicinity. Cutting trees, dumping waste, and any excavation activity would be strictly penalized.
To access the area, you may proceed to the entrance near Universidad de Manila, just a few meters from SM Manila and Manila City Hall. Be sure to arrive there early in the morning and not later than 3 pm so you would enjoy the serene forest vibes.
Not too far from Arroceros Park is this newly inaugurated garden between the Manila Metropolitan Theatre, Post Office, and just a few meters from the Manila City Hall. Previously a dilapidated area often dumped with junk, human feces, and sometimes frequented by informal settlers, this area of Ermita is now almost unrecognizable from its previous state. As the name suggests, “Hidden Garden,” it’s not really hidden to be honest since it’s pretty much recognizable from afar, especially now that it is blooming with various flowers and plant species. At nighttime, it resembles a remote tropical island getaway illuminating with bright lamp lights.
As of now, you couldn’t park your cars here. But a quick stroll around the vicinity would provide a quick breath of fresh air. If you want to get cozy and chat with your friends, there’s a tiny coffee shop inside the area where you could relax while admiring the beauty of the surroundings.
Have you visited any of these places? Tell us about it in the comments!