The past few months have been a busy one for me for personal reasons. At the same time, the political atmosphere leading to the elections last May 9 was a stressful period to say the least. So it was an opportune time to unwind and get back to urban roaming with a visit to another reborn Manila landmark, the Manila Zoo.
I wouldn’t delve much about its history since we have already talked about during this roamer’s last visit almost 11 years ago. Indeed, it was that long of a time since the last visit. And suffice to say, a lot has happened since then, especially during the last 3 years.
The impetus of this transformation was, ironically, the closure of the zoo in January 2019 by then Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada for an indefinite period due to untreated sewage from the zoo that made its way to the Manila Bay which was in the midst of rehabilitation at the time. Despite the closure, the animals were still being taken care of the by the city government and volunteers and Estrada promised to rehabilitate the zoo, despite fears that the zoo will be permanently closed.
The plans were temporarily put on hold as 2019 was an election year. During that election, Estrada was defeated in his reelection bid by his one-time vice mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso. Despite this, “Yorme” Isko promised to push through with the zoo’s redevelopment.
However, as plans were being made for this project by early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country and put this and many other plans to a screeching halt, especially during the first 3 months when much of the country was placed under extreme quarantine restrictions. Despite this, the Manila Zoo rehabilitation plan proceeded as soon as restrictions were somewhat eased, with a groundbreaking held in July that year.
The project would cost at around P1.7 billion and the major works would take more than a year to complete. Finally, the zoo was ”reopened” on December 30, 2021 though not immediately to the public. For the first few months, it served as a COVIC-19 vaccination site for Manila’s minors before it was opened to the public in March this year.
While there are still many facilities that are still not yet open to the public, one can see the extent of the work that was done that it is unrecognizable for someone like this roamer who last visited the zoo over a decade ago. From the kidde cringe aesthetics it had over a decade ago, the zoo now sports a more contemporary, minimalistic look, with neutral colors and bamboo-inspired design that provides a modern, native look. It makes the zoo look more pleasant to see and helps give the impression that the animals there are in their natural habitat.
Another good addition to the zoo are the seating spaces in some sections which gives the public a place to relax while watching the animals. At the very least, it minimizes the crowding in those place which cause some heavy traffic, though that is not always the case.
If anything, the new look of Manila Zoo shows how limited the space it currently has, given the small space allotted for the botanical garden, not to mention the queue of people lining up to see some sections of the zoo already causing heavy traffic around the areas. There is also limited open space for one to enjoy the traditional picnics at the zoo.
Still, the new Manila Zoo is a welcome rebirth for a beloved Manila landmark and it will be very interesting to see what is next store once the remaining works in the zoo are done.
At this time of writing, entrance to the Manila Zoo is free but it is only for a limited time. Which is why there are a lot of people visiting the zoo than usual. Because I cannot fully recommend visiting the zoo at this time if the crowds are a problem.
Acknowledgements as well to Wikipedia and the Department of Tourism, Culture, and Arts of Manila