Have you ever heard the phrase “Parang naglalakad sa Luneta”? In Filipino context it means that you are leisurely walking or taking your sweet time, much attributed to the Sunday activities that go on around Luneta. In the presence of various malls and establishments all over the city, you would think that Luneta, basically a park, would not attract many visitors. Much to my surprise, my visit proved quite the opposite.
It was Sunday morning and I decided to join my aunt and uncle in their weekly run around Luneta Park. This was at first mostly because I wanted to spend time with them, but I also found this as a great opportunity to expose myself to activities the older generations of Filipino families used to do in the absence of places such as the ever-popular SM Malls. One would think that in modern times people would be more attracted to stay indoors, especially with the Philippine weather nowadays, but that morning I saw an innumerable number of people participating in all sorts of outdoor activities. Being as curious as I was, I asked my aunt and uncle various questions about all the activities I saw and naturally they were delighted to tour me around, to show me why they enjoy their weekly visits so much.
First, we went around the park’s perimeter. People of all ages crowded through the entire area. Parts of the main road were blocked off to make way for kalesas, bikers, joggers and walkers with their families friends and dogs. Dogs of all sizes and breeds ran with their owners, from Chihuahuas to Chowchows to the common askal. They explained to me that the people jogging around were mostly the same ones they would see every week. Even if I was not a regular, people were friendly and warm, smiling or waving as they passed or the occasional “excuse me” of joggers who made it a point to sound respectful and almost cheery even as they asked people to make way for them.
After our jog around the perimeter, we walked through the gardens and walked by the water features around the park. Here there were old men practicing Tai-Chi, various individuals practicing forms of martial arts and there were even free Zumba and Yoga offered to the public. In the grass areas there were families picnicking, children playing and couples resting. I was surprisedand actually refreshed to see that old-time fun had not died with the sprouting of large establishments and invention of forever changing gadgets and electronics. Lots of food stalls were available on the sidewalks and food was cheap and at the same time delicious. Not exactly the highest quality of breakfast food, but it went very well with the Sunday parksetting.
There were even side attractions like private gardens that required a small entrance fee. We ended up choosing this one Japanese garden to look at, paying a reasonable amount of 10 pesos per person for entrance. I noticed that the guard and the owners were very pleasant and welcoming towards us and were both pleased that we had chosen to visit their garden. The garden looked very old, though it was very well maintained. There were a handful of visitors aside from us whoenjoyed strolling through the bridges and pathways of the elegant garden. Each visitor as well was very cheerful and very easy-going as they smiled in acknowledgement when our paths met.
Lastly, we went to see the actual monument. I honestly thought that the monument was an attraction that lost popularity through time. I was proven very wrong of course. There were still many families, teenagers and even small children gathering around the monument, taking pictures and watching it from behind the metal chain barriers.
Spending Sunday morning at Luneta became a lot more meaningful to me than I originally expected. Though it may seem silly, I honestly felt that participating in the daily activities of the park helped me get in touch with my national roots. Not only was I able to pay tribute to our national hero, Rizal, by visiting his monument, I was also able to refresh myself on Filipino culture and values through the encounters I had that day. Filipinos are indeed very hospitable as seen through the warmness of even people who are complete strangers to one another. There was also a level of respectfulness between all the people I was able to interact with in the duration of that morning. Family is also of very high importance. Fathers and mothers show much affection to their children and siblings enjoy playing together. There is also a great appreciation of food, whether it is food brought from home for picnics or bought in the food stalls or from street vendors passing by.
Though I have read essays on Luneta and various oral accounts, especially from my grade school teachers, the experience firsthand is really something else. It is not something that can be fully experienced through words or a story, but only through being at the place itself and participating in all the activities. I had lots of fun and very much enjoyed being toured around by people who were regulars, who knew the best food stalls, best spot to watch the water feature show, and basically who knew what would be most enjoyable. They really helped me to appreciate the simplicity of what weekend life should be, meaning easy-going but at the same time fun. Though this report requires only one visit, I am sure to go back and though this essay says much about what goes on in Luneta, I highly encourage you to experience it for yourselves and experience what words cannot do justice.
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