The wedding party started assembling at Paco Park, and Eric and I took that as our cue to leave. It wasn’t long since my last visit to Luneta, but I wanted to visit again to see the gardens that were closed during Good Friday. Eric wanted to see the new Kilometer Zero marker, and we made that our first stop.
Similar to our previous visit, Jose Rizal’s Monument was the highlight and starting point of most visitors. Along with the handful of Filipino families having their pictures taken with this famous landmark are the busloads of Korean and Japanese tourists. After a quick photo session, we walked away from where the tour groups are headed. The Artist’s Haven, which I was most looking forward to was still closed, so we went to check out the Chinese Garden instead.
I know I should’nt compare, but it’s hard not to. The only Chinese Garden I’ve been to was the one in Sydney. I loved it tremendously; it was very tranquil inside. The Chinese Garden in Manila tried very hard to have all the elements of a Chinese Garden. However, probably due to our climate, some of the flora wouldn’t thrive in Manila. Also, its location prety much kills the mood. The Manila Chinese Garden in Luneta was almost next to the busy roads so you can hear the traffic. It was also situated right next to the Open Air Auditorium. Just as we were about to leave, the crew next door (for there was going to be a function of some sort) decided to test out their sound system, and Shaggy’s raggae beat filled the air. Then again, for only Php 5.00, I really shouldn’t complain and compare. It turns out that the Chinese Garden wasn’t so bad; the Japanese Garden was worse. Now, I haven’t been to Japan or to any Japanese garden, but I’m pretty sure they don’t include a yellow pond/lagoon. Like the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden was right next to the street, so good luck finding Zen there.
It was getting pretty late and we were both getting hungry. We decided to check out Agrifina Circle, where the Orchidarium, Lapu-Lapu’s statue and the Department of Tourism was. Agrifina Circle has a special place in my memories. When I was still working for the travel magazine, I would always go to the DOT office to attend Press Conferences and other DOT events. Agrifina Circle and Orchidarium was also featured in one of my unforgettable trips for work.
Unfortunately, the Orchidarium was closed, for an indefinite period of time (a shame, really). Lapu-Lapu was there, as usual. But I tell you, there was this one time that he wasn’t! And that was just a couple of months after I took a photo of him standing in that very spot.
Eric and I made our way to Taft Avenue to catch a jeep going to Divisoria. Alighting in front of the Binondo Church, we made a beeline for Dong Bei Restaurant on Nueva Street (Yuchengco was the name in the street sign). Sharing a plate of fresh dumplings and a bowl of “handiwork” noodles, it was a perfect end to a great afternoon spent in Manila.
Of course, that didn’t end there. We continued walking along Ongpin street to Sta. Cruz, then walked on to Quiapo where we went our seperate ways — Eric to the LRT station, and me to ride the jeep bound for Proj. 8.