There was a time a long time ago when the mere mention of Manila Zoo made me feel giddy with excitement. I have committed to memory a childhood picture where I was happily posing in front of a peacock pheasant. Simple joy!
I hail from the province and a trip to Manila used to be so special. What I didn't realize until I had children is that I was lucky to have grown up a probinsyana - to have the fields, vast expanse of free space and hills as my playground. To have flowers to pluck, leaves to gather, dragonflies to catch, trees to climb, free fresh fruits to eat. My kids aren't as lucky. That's why a trip close to nature is a treat for our children.
We brought the kids to Manila Zoo yesterday, as reward to our pre-schooler for winning the Interbranch science quiz bee in school. He loves animals and was happy to see the elephant, the birds, the tigers and the crocodiles. He was indifferent to the smell and the dilapidated look of the zoo.
I don't know if Manila Zoo has been grossly neglected since I was a kid. But my memory of the place is that of something surreal and magical. Not smelly, dilapidated and poorly maintained. Umarte lang ba ako nang tumanda?
The Philippine/ Manila government can do better. The zoo is supposed to be a piece of paradise in the urban jungle. I hope it will be better taken cared of. Good thing the kids only care about the animals and are not yet conscious of aesthetics and what-not. They enjoyed the brief visit nonetheless.