Green parks are a rarity in the megasprawl of concrete, metal and asphalt that we love-hatingly call Manila. Paco Park is affirmatively an oasis in the metropolis. Built during the 1700s as the municipal cemetery for aristocratic families, you will see rows of empty niches along its concentric walls shaded by old acacia and frangipani trees where cooing pigeons perch and prosper. Later on, this small cemetery became a quarantine for victims of a cholera epidemic and a storage place for ammunition during the Japanese invasion.
A cenotaph with a white crucifix marks the place where national hero Jose Rizal was buried after he was executed in Luneta, bearing the cryptic acronym RPJ. The Gomburza priests– Mario Gomez, José Burgos and Jacinto Zamora– were also laid to rest here, after their execution for allegedly participating in the 1872 uprising.
The walled circle of stone and foliage now has a brighter mood. It is a favorite setting for garden weddings, classical concerts and moony lovers, much like Intramuros. One can easily walk around the weathered walls in minutes, perfect for a Sunday afternoon getaway (or a little tryst, perhaps). The centerpiece of the park is a chapel in honor of St. Pancratius, fronted by an unpretentious fountain. A concert is held here every week on Friday nights.
To get to Paco Park, go down UN Avenue LRT station (P15) and ride a pedicab (P20) or simply walk along General Luna St. until you reach the park. Entrance free is P5.00 per person.