A Pocket of a Forest

By: Dylan Afuang
March 05, 2019

Photo from the internet.

Amid the urban sprawl that is Manila, a “pocket of a forest” named the Arroceros Park was opened and brought wonders of forests to the city folks in 1993.

In the form of the canopy of lush greenery, fresh air, and the sense of seclusion and isolation, the gem hidden in the middle of tall buildings was created to be the perfect breathing space to relax the afternoon away in.

Located at the foot of the Quezon Bridge en route to Quiapo, the old Metropolitan Theater, behind the Park and Ride bus station, and tucked almost underneath the bridge of the LRT Line 1, it’s easy to miss this little park.

With little to no attention given to one’s surroundings while going to the nearby mall, one could entirely miss an amazing experience.

So, for a change, why not take a hike in this ‘forest,’ so to speak? Surely there is something more to do in this city than roaming around in one of its many malls. Many can vouch for the feel-good factor of this alternative activity when visiting the park.

Known as the Arroceros Forest Park, it is home to 61 species of trees and 8,000 kinds of plants.

Taking a walk along the narrow paths spread about the property, one can immediately feel like being in a real forest in a far-away mountain – tall trees serving as an umbrella to shield people against the harmful heat of the sun, fresh air that could lift people’s feelings up, and the sense of calmness enveloping through the trees.

Everything considered, the biggest luxury the park affords is its location – there’s no longer a need to go out of the town surrounded by nature, the forest serves as a cooler breeze in the middle of the city.

Under the red balete, bagras, bitaog, narra, and molave trees, a sense of peace and seclusion is saved by a few park caretakers chatting, and children playing on the side of the park that overlooks the Pasig River.

As the trees thicken further along the park, imagination kicks into overdrive. What if a snake suddenly crawls out of the bushes and bite me? What if there is a loony waiting for his chance to shock me behind that tree? What if there is an at-large mugger using the Arroceros as a hideout?

However, as the thoughts go down a scarier route – the rumble of the LRT train passing by and the sound of the vehicles’ engines climbing the Quezon bride reels one back in the magic of the park. Noises that aren’t either disruptive or annoying, but fades as white noise to the wonder of the little haven.

Park benches and tables are along the pathways, a perfect picnic spot with friends and family. However, there’s no canteen inside the grounds, so the next option is to bring your own food. It can also serve as a place to read a book and drown in its quiet solitude.

It will be such a shame to see Arroceros be closed to make way for one of the things that contribute to the thickening urban sprawl— condominiums. Some of the trees that are in danger of being cut were planted by students for their NSTP classes, so a park caretaker said.

Maybe the Arroceros Forest Park can be saved if the city government would see more people visiting the park—or maybe making it a venue for ‘forest-bathing.’

(First published on The LANCE's Jan-Feb 2019 Issue)