My brother gave me a voucher for a two-day stay at Hotel H20, the only hotel within the Manila Ocean Park complex. I booked for a Tuesday night’s stay with my mom. Getting there from Eastwood took about an hour and a half by dealing with moderate traffic and relying heavily on the Google map I downloaded earlier that morning.
We dropped the car at the valet and made our way to the main entrance. It was somehow inconvenient since you had to pass by the ticket booth, a bar, and some food stalls before reaching the real hotel entrance. We learned that they were amending the surrounding structures so that an elevator can be added to take guests directly to the hotel lobby from the valet area. Many schools had their field trip that day, and we were always surrounded by children, parents, and tour guides.
We got an Aqua room, which meant that our room’s main feature would be the wall aquarium. Other rooms faced either the Manila bay or the amphitheater, which allowed guests to view sea lion shows and the fountain display without having to pay for additional fees. But as a guest for the two days, we had unlimited pool access and a chance to watch the sea lion show behind the scenes too.
Features such as colossal aquariums, souvenir stores, shark shows, a fish spa, glass boat rides, and a museum could be seen at the Ocean Park. I hoped that the museum would be interactive enough for more children to enjoy and not just ignore and simply pass by.
After checking out what was featured in the ocean park, we walked to Quirino Grandstand, the site of the infamous hostage taking last August 2010. A lot of tour buses were parked and there were a few sari-sari stores situated at the left side of the grandstand. I kept on seeing teenagers practicing dance routines and some people surviving the day by playing music for spare change.
We crossed the recently typhoon devastated Roxas Boulevard to get to Rizal Park. I finally managed to set foot on the park that honored our national hero. Almost every tourist must visit the memorial that signified kilometer zero in the Philippine map. You must check out the park map firsthand, and be prepared to bring small bills to pay if ever you want to enter special areas such as the Japanese garden. Wear comfortable shoes if you opt to walk instead of taking the slow train that maneuvered around the park.
I was confused due to the fact that you had to pay twenty pesos to enter the place where Jose Rizal was executed. The park was jampacked with random people, from chess players to commercial photographers, and from solo joggers to families having a picnic in view of the dancing water show. Canoodling couples was a common sight, especially around the Heidelberg drinking fountain. Guards roamed the park constantly to ensure the safety of visitors. As of writing this post, I discovered that I lost a lot of photographs of Rizal Park because of unknown reasons. Too bad, but you must visit it yourself for that authentic Philippine tour.
There were plenty of establishments at the ground floor of the ocean park so we grabbed some takeaway burgers from Wendy’s. We were scheduled for a hot bed treatment at Zenyu eco-spa within the hotel. It was certainly a horrific thought being stuck for an hour in a very warm and darkly illuminated room for the purpose of sweating profusely. We had to sign some waivers after a spa staff member kindly elaborated the procedure. I was glad that my mom was with me or else I could’ve gone crazy and claustrophobic, even though the room could hold up to four people at a time.
In the evening, Jonver, a close friend, dropped by the hotel. Mom was already set to sleep, so we just conquered the night by walking along sandbagged Roxas Boulevard from Quirino Grandstand to Malate. I’m telling you, we could’ve counted kilometers with that endurance walk. We rewarded ourselves to wanton noodle soup at David’s Tea House right across the Church of Malate.
I’ve never been to Malate at that hour of night. The streets were full of homeless persons scavenging trash bins for food. It was disheartening to see how Manila turned out to be after it’s past glory days.
We took a cab back to the hotel and went around the theme park for a while. There was an eerie silence throughout, entirely different from this morning’s chaotic field trip scenario. At these moments, everyone must have been preparing for another heavy day. My friend went home and I indulged in a peaceful slumber.
After breakfast, I took a swim at the hotel pool. We found out that the hotel shared the pool with the whole theme park. That meant, there was not direct path from the hotel to the pool, and you had to make your way through food stalls, the ticket booth, and a bar in order to reach the swimming pool.
Nevertheless, we were delighted with our stay at the Manila Ocean Park and Hotel H2O. It was clearly still fixing itself from the past typhoon, but it has potential to become one of Manila’s favorite family recreation and relaxation destinations.Hotel H2O http://www.hotelh2o.com/ Manila Ocean Park http://www.manilaoceanpark.com/ Luneta, Manila, Philippines