The New Manila Zoo had a soft opening on Dec. 30 with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna in attendance. They toured the nearly five-hectare facility, known as the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden.
Mayor Isko noted that “99.9 percent of the works” had already been completed and animals had been taken to their areas for the soft opening.
“Ang ganda-ganda! Nakaka-proud talaga! Dati ang baho-baho dito (It’s so nice. I’m so proud. It used to stink a lot here). This is one for the books. Para kang nasa Japan. Para kang nasa Jurassic Park. Sisiguruhin ko sa inyo, pati foreigner pupunta dito (It’s like you’re in Japan, or you’re at Jurassic Park. I’m sure even foreign tourists would come here),” Moreno gushed after a tour of the modernized facility. “Matutuwa ang mga lola ko. Mga senior citizen, pwede ng i-drive mga apo nila. Ang laki eh (My grandmothers would love it here. There grandkids can drive them around the zoo. It’s so big)!”
The redeveloped facility is a fulfillment of Moreno’s dream of competing with the world-famous Singapore Zoo, which has been a favorite attraction among local and foreign tourists.
Having undergone no major renovation since it opened in July, 1959, the new Manila Zoo now boasts of new and exciting facilities that include world-class animal enclosures, especially for Mali the elephant, which are surrounded by transparent glass where visitors can get up close to the animals.
Elevated viewing decks around the enclosures are also in place. There is also the Animal Museum, Botanical Garden, and the Butterfly Garden with its own viewing loft, and separate enclosures for Philippine endemic animals and birds.
The enclosures and facilities are intersected by wide, elevated pathways where visitors can see the animals and other sights while going around the zoo. Amenities include drinking fountains, souvenir shops, food stalls, a new parking area, and clean, spacious restrooms with stalls for persons with disabilities (PWDs).
The zoo is also well-lighted and night visitors will be treated to the attractions of several dancing fountains and mini-falls around the zoo’s lagoon. More important, the New Manila Zoo even has its own state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant.
Mayor Isko wanted the families of around 1,300 workers to be the VIP guests for the soft opening as a tribute to their hard work and ingenuity in creating a facility that is “at par with the world’s best zoological and botanical gardens.” The Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate also ordered free food and drinks for the workers and their families.
Mayor Isko is also expecting an influx of local and foreign tourists to the City Hall’s iconic clock tower once all the renovations are finished and the view deck is opened to the public.
The Manila City Hall is considered the Philippines’ own version of London’s “Big Ben.” Moreno said improvements were done to the historic clock tower as part of the local city government’s efforts to make it one of Manila’s premier attractions. He was accompanied by city engineer Armand Andres during his recent inspection of the clock tower.
The 47-year-old presidential aspirant said the Manila City Hall clock tower can be compared to that of the Old Post Office and Clock Tower located in Washington, D.C., explaining that his visit to a Washington D.C. post office, the highest in the district, was what inspired him to make Manila’s clock tower a prime tourist attraction. He also instructed the renovation team to put up information boards about the history of Manila so that visitors might also learn of the city’s very rich history. A space will also be reserved for painters and other artists to showcase their works as well as the history of the giant clock and tower.
An iconic trademark of Manila and of its city hall, the clock tower was designed by Antonio Toledo. It was unveiled in the 1930s. Being the largest clock tower in the Philippines, the hexagon-shaped tower has one red-faced clock placed on its three facets.
Looming east of Intramuros, the neoclassical city hall building is distinguished by an attractive clock tower that is beautifully illuminated at night. It was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in 1946.
The bells that are located within the tower make a sound to mark breaktime for Manila City Hall employees. The bells ring again at the closing of each business day. City Hall clock tower would each show different times.