Children’s playground and urban garden at Rizal Park

Rizal Park in Ermita, Manila, isn’t just a beautiful public green space, it played a big part in Philippine history as well.

Formerly called Luneta National Park, his was where not only National Hero Jose Rizal was executed by firing squad in 1896, but also where, 24 years earlier, Mariano Gomez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (collectively known as GomBurZa), three priests accused of plotting against the Spanish colonist government, were executed via garrote.

The Park’s most famous attraction is the Rizal monument, which also houses his remains.

The Rizal monument, which also houses Jose Rizal’s remains, is the most famous structure in Rizal Park.

There is also a marker that commemorates GomBurZa’s deaths.

The marker that commemorates GomBurZa’s martyrdom and marks the spot of their execution.

A highly affecting yet little known attraction lies behind a seemingly nondescript wall. One turns the corner and comes face to face with the Diorama of Rizal’s Martyrdom, life-sized sculptures depicting Rizal’s death. The effect is quite jarring, especially if you’re not expecting it. Pre-pandemic, the area hosted nightly light shows that told the story of Rizal’s martyrdom.

Photos do not do justice to the Diorama of Rizal’s Martyrdom. It has to be seen in person.

The Park is home to many attractions that include several themed gardens, an orchidarium, an open air theatre, and a children’s playground, which is really what this post is about.

Located in the southeastern corner of the Park, the Children’s Playground was built during the Marcos era. Renovated in 2011, it used to charge an entrance fee until it was recently made free of charge.

The Children’s Playground in Rizal Park is like a time capsule that takes you back to the 60s.

Walk inside and you feel like you’ve gone back in time. It’s got a very 60s vibe, complete with Brutalist structures and cement sculptures of animals doing strange things. Take a look:

Rizal Park is also home to 3,497 trees comprising 112 species, as of 2015. One of these is the rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta), known for its multi-colored bark. It’s native to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea and is the only eucalyptus tree that grows in rainforests.

The rainbow eucalyptus, or rainbow tree, is a tall rainforest tree endemic to the Philippines. It’s known for its multi-colored trunk.

The real reason I was in the Park was to visit its newly opened urban garden and take a peek at its rice garden, which has been around for more than a decade. Both are open to the public (when the Park is open, fo course), and tours can be arranged with Park management for educational purposes.

As of this writing, I’m not sure when public spaces will be open to the public but when they do, Rizal Park is a must-visit. The Park spans 50 hectares and is mostly open air, so ventilation and social distancing shouldn’t be problems. It isn’t just about the Rizal monument, but about so many other things as well, including a whimsical playground that can bring you straight back to the 60s.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.