Balara’s Hidden Park

Quezon City

Whenever one hears the mention of the place called Balara (or, more formally, Matandang Balara), it evokes either of the two things: being the area right across the University of the Philippines Diliman Campus and being the center of the metropolis’ waterworks authority. Even in the current setup where Metro Manila’s waterworks administration is divided between Maynilad Water Services Inc. in the western portion and Manila Water Company in the eastern part, both companies as well as the government body that oversees them, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) are still based in the Balara compound.

Inscribed at the top of the gate of the Balara compound is the initials NWSA, which stands for the National Waterworks and Sewerage System Authority, the forerunner of today’s MWSS

Then there is its lesser known landmark, though long-beloved by the people who have become familiar with this place. Located within the MWSS complex is a hidden oasis of sorts known as the Balara Filters Park.

The beginnings of the park coincided with the area’s development in the 1930s as part of the greater waterworks system that would service what is now Metro Manila and surrounding areas. To be specific, Balara was designated to be the site of the system’s filtration and treatment facility where the water coming from the La Mesa Dam would be “treated” of unwanted elements before it ends up at every households in the metropolis and surrounding areas being served.

It wouldn’t be until the 1950s when the park would be expanded and developed further, with the addition of facilities such as an ampitheater, playground, picnic area, and, most notably, a swimming pool. Owing to the rich greenery from the trees, the elevated topography and the winding road that reminded one of Baguio, Balara Filters Park became a popular destination especially among those living nearby in the city.

However, the park was closed down during the 1970s for reasons the Urban Roamer has yet to find out. It was a lengthy closure too as it lasted for about 20-some years. As a result, the park fell into that state of decay and neglect that we have come to be sadly familiar with here in the metropolis.

The park reopened in 1997. But by then, things have changed. For one, the old waterworks authority that oversaw the metropolis’ water supply devolved into an oversight agency as the administration was given to the two concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water. In addition, Manila Water was given as well the administration of the Balara Filters Park which it proceeded to do with the help of the Quezon City Government.

At the very least, the old swimming pool and club houses at the park became operational again and has served as a venue for various public and private gatherings in recent years. And in all fairness, the pool and the club houses is very well-maintained. Then again, they should be considering where it is located and who is operating it.

Sadly, not all of the park is as well-maintained as the pool. Some areas in the park sadly are still neglected and are in dire need of a “fix” so to speak. While the Urban Roamer gets that the pool was and still is the primary attraction of the park, the other portions need some renovation at the very least.

That being said, Balara Filters Park is one place worth a visit, not only as a place to cool down especially during summer, but also as an interesting landmark that is both preserved and neglected at the same time. One can only hope that those neglected portions of the park would get their due attention soon.

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