I haven’t always been a fan of wildlife parks and zoos.
For one, it can get really hot especially in midday. The heat irritates the skin, and it’s almost impossible to appreciate the sights. Second, I pity most animals that are not in their natural habitat. The baby horses or baby cubs that are not with their parents just irks me. Not to mention, most parks and zoos for this matter are not maintained well: there are trash everywhere and the place where the animals sleep and eat are not well kept. The kids running around are just annoying, and do not make the scenery at all appealing.
I also never understood the necessity of these parks; what does it mean to keep these animals up for viewing? One reason could be this: since we, people, could not go to their habitat, they are brought to ours.
However, everything changed when I got a tour around Manila Ocean Park’s Oceanarium.
It’s quite an effort to get to the place because there were no jeepneys around the area. There were only kalesas, taxis and pedicabs. We (my mother and I) were coming from Las Pinas City, so we took a bus and stopped at Rizal Park. Since the place was right at the back of Intramuros, we had no choice but to take a taxi to the MOP. When we got there, I saw a lot of school buses and private owned cars. There was also a long line of taxis, just waiting outside of the gates of the Park. For them, every person is worth asking, “Boss, taxi? Saan po ba?” It meant business because they had no other competition, except for the horses and the pedicabs. (You have to consider the long road from Rizal Park to the Park.)
Located just behind Intramuros, the Manila Ocean Park boasts of its shows like dancing fountains, a live penguin show, their collection of jellyfishes and sharks. The tourists can even take a quick dive in the water to swim with the big sharks (with enough safety suits, of course). There are also restaurants, souvenir shops, bargain finds, and food stalls found around the Manila Ocean Park vicinity. There’s this quaint all-Filipino made shop that sells bags, anting-anting necklaces and anito-themed furniture and ornaments. It was also selling little charms, pouches, even Filipino weapons (the balisong I saw was scary) and the infamous barrel-man statute.
It was already past 5 p.m. when we got there, so we were only able to catch the selling of the Oceanarium tickets. I would have loved to see the Dancing Jellies (or so they are called, hahaha) but it was getting late and the ride home would be difficult. With the 400-peso ticket to the Oceanarium, you can stay inside for as long as you want, because once you exit, you won’t be allowed to re-enter.
The Oceanarium is a marine life exhibit that holds almost 5000 varieties of marine creatures from around 300 species, that is indigenous to South-east Asia and the Philippines. It is divided into six sections, each pertaining to the type of water flow the showcased fishes are found: Agos, Bahura, Laot, Buhay na Karagatan, Kalaliman, and Pating. The sections are named this way to create a connection between land and sea; note that we go from the shallow Agos to the depths of the sea Pating. Out of the six sections, I enjoyed the Laot and Buhay na Karagatan exhibit the most. The place was surreal and the fishes all looked very welcoming and ready for a photo op.
My favorite parts
- Meeting Dory and Nemo
- Seeing baby sharks!!!!!!! Na nasa egg pa lang sila. It was both creepy and glorious and just amazing
- Watching seahorses grab each other’s tail and neck
- Some fishes evaded the camera, while some are attention-whores
- THE STINGRAYS. they looked so ugly when you watch them from above
- there was this display, it was supposedly a tank, and it only had barnacles. it was amazing because it looked so vintage and old.
- The corals are looooove
- The pieces inside the big aquariums were like little snippets of what’s inside Titanic. It was like Atlantis in there
What’s interesting to note about the area is that you can tell the social class of the people that come and go in the MOP. Most, if not all, come from the middle and upper class. Considering the rate at which the Park charges for its attractions, it’s easy to say that this park is only for those who can afford it, compared to the zoos and parks in Manila.
Also, the Manila Ocean Park not only caters to kids who are easily fascinated by glob-globbing fishes of the sea. During our tour, I saw middle aged people, and even older, who seem to be having fun sight-seeing around the place. There were also kids who I believe shouldn’t be there because they can be so rowdy, they just keep on running from one section to the next, without looking at the big aquariums. It was a place for the young and old, the student- and working-class — everyone is its audience.
What I liked most about the Manila Ocean Park is that it debunked my dislike for parks and zoos. First, the atmosphere and the place itself was very classy and well kept. It was air-conditioned, and the ornaments and plants — everything! — suited very well with the displays. Second, the fishes on display seem to be in their natural habitat and are in good condition. You can tell that the fishes loved the attention they were getting, and that they are healthy and happy. (Though, there is still that tinge of sadness, upon realizing that they are far away from their fish family.) Lastly, the place was very clean and organized. The crowd, although a lot of people were coming and going, was managed very well (I believe) because the place itself was very conducive for sight-seeing and appreciation of the marine wild life.
As a child, I never had the will to learn how to swim. I loved the water, I loved the beach, but I never really tried swimming in the depths of the sea because I was afraid of drowning in the dark unknown. But upon seeing the fishes in the Oceanarium, I felt the sudden urgency to learn how to swim — just so I could swim with this beautiful creatures. I want to see them in their natural habitat, I want to see them where they truly belong.
Maria Emanuelle Tagudina