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Nature's "Hidden Gem" in Quezon City: La Mesa Ecopark!
Have you ever been to a real "jungle" in the city? How about swimming in a saltwater pool? Well if you're tired of living in the urban jungle it's time to visit La Mesa Ecopark!
I've been living in Quezon City (QC) for way more than a decade but I was only able to visit this public park once. Heck apparently it's more than just a park! 😍
I went there when I was too stressed out at work that I really needed a break or else! Out of the blue I just decided to travel there on my own. Haha. I was too busy at the time and was always working that I felt I had to do something else in my life. 😂 I hated how I didn't have enough time to idle around. (Fast forward to now and we're all mostly at home no thanks to the pandemic.)
What do you think I saw there? Before I tell you all about my experience, I'll give you some info about the place.
Quezon City is the biggest urban area in the National Capital Region (NCR/Metro Manila) of the Philippines. It's no surprise then that it's also where the La Mesa Watershed, the primary source and reservoir of drinking water of millions of people in NCR, is located.
For years the La Mesa Watershed was neglected due to lack of funds, thus the forest was in danger of being lost to illegal loggers/settlers, poachers, etc. In 1999, The Save La Mesa Watershed Project was formed. It was initiated by the ABS-CBN Foundation (with the late managing director Gina Lopez) which created Bantay Kalikasan (Nature Watch). Together with the Quezon City Government and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) they all worked together to rehabilitate and renovate 33 hectares out of the 2,659 hectares of the watershed.
In September 2004, the rehabilitation project was renamed and opened to the public as La Mesa Ecopark. It actually kind of surrounds the very important drinkable water source. No wonder all revenues of this spacious public garden are used to continue the preservation and protection of La Mesa Watershed. Hey these are actually part of the only remaining sizable forest within Metro Manila! And it is also a carbon sink as it absorbs 3% of the total carbon dioxide in NCR. How about that huh?
On March 5, 2011 its swimming pool complex was inaugurated to attract more revenue in preserving and protecting the La Mesa Watershed. It has an olympic size pool and two smaller saltwater pools! Too bad we still can't swim in it because of this COVID-19 situation!!! 😠
But wait, to fully appreciate the amazing ecopark, find out more about the watershed in this video by the ABS-CBN Foundation. The language is in Filipino but you can still see some English captions and beautiful views on the screen so I believe it's still good for everyone to watch.
Let me show you a map so you'll know there's plenty of things to enjoy there! I only spent an hour inside and seeing this afterwards made me realize I haven't even explored half of the place! 😱😂
You can do the following fun activities:
However as announced in its official Facebook Page, only jogging, walking and meditation from 6 am to 12 nn are allowed now due to the pandemic. A small gathering of less than 10 people can also meet inside but all the amenities are not available to the public, including the pools, etc. ☹️
For the latest update, you can also check the QC Government park webpage.
Anyway, let's go back to the past shall we? 2 years ago was the first time I went to this QC park. As usual I didn't read too much about it before going there. Of course I did check on how to get to the area! 😆 It's fairly easy considering I already live inside this city. Apparently there are jeepneys passing by the street going to the place.
On March 3, 2019 I finally went there to check it out. Actually my main reason for going was to swim in the saltwater pool. Hahaha. I was really itching to go to the beach but since those are too far I went to the closest thing I could get to instead.
I only had one long jeepney ride from near where I live via the route going to Fairview. To be sure I'd get there, I asked the driver to kindly drop me off at Winston Street which is the road nearest the ecopark entrance. It took us around 30 minutes or so to get there I think.
Funny but I was the only one left in the jeepney when we were near my drop off point. Perhaps most people didn't go there or I might have ridden a jeep that was not really going that far? 🤔🤔🤔 Well the driver didn't tell me anything, only that he will bring me there even if I was the only passenger. 😅
What the heck, he even tried to ask for additional payment saying it was a special trip since I was the only one left. I didn't think he was joking so I said I could have gotten off and rode another jeepney if he had told me earlier. In the end he drove up to Winston St. and voila. 😊
Hah, I really felt like a tourist in my own city. 😂 I even saw the MRT-7 (train) being constructed. It's still unfinished up to now though. The new train line hasn't opened yet.
Anyway I rode a tricycle next. (I didn't research how much it would cost me. I just went there with maybe P300 or less on me.) If you're curious to know about my fare cost, the jeepney ride was P22. Tricycle ride was a special trip because I'm the only passenger: P50 or around $1. Not sure how much it is now since the pandemic.
Once the MRT-7 is finished, it would probably be faster to get there. Instead of riding a jeepney, people will ride the train and then a tricycle. This is for those who don't use private vehicles nor hire a taxi/Grab.
So as I was saying... at the entrance I saw this. Oh yeah, I was finally at La Mesa Ecopark!
How much did I pay to get in? Only P50! These days it is only P40, maybe because you won't be able to do much inside? I dunno.
So what did I see there? Let me just show you some of the minimally edited pictures I took and then you can watch my travel video below. I would have videoed the entire exploration but I wanted to savor the place with little interruption. Haha.
(WARNING: Pics overload, unless you haven't been to the place or you love anything plant related. Hehe. If you'd like to watch the video instead you can click here then scroll up a bit.)
First off, I got a skin stamp as proof!
When you get inside there are obviously plenty of trees. Everywhere you look are endemic plants of all sizes!
Guess what, there's also a first aid station. Nice. And of course more trees all around. You will feel dwarfed by nature here.
And yes let's not forget the purpose of my visit. Unfortunately I wasn't able to swim because the pool was open until 4pm only. I got there like 10 to 15 minutes before closing time. Awwww. Sad I can only take pics and vids since it was already almost closed. Later you can see inside when you watch my travel video.
Anyway since I wasn't able to swim I just explored the place. Here's the guide post at the middle part of the park. 😁 Well at least I think it's in the middle. Haha.
Although I appreciate nature, it's sad to see not all areas inside are well taken cared of. Look at the state of the Koi Pond and Lotus Pond.
Even the signages are in a sad and sorry state.
Perhaps they don't have enough funds to maintain it? I have no idea. Remember this was 2 years ago so I don't know if things have improved since then.
Aside from those two, I have no complaints. Maybe other people have little complaints too? I mean look, lots of people were enjoying their picnic.
Let's just enjoy the view from higher up in the Shell Flower Terrace shall we?
Ah I don't want to post too many pictures now. I think just a few more will do. Let's go back down.
From the terrace you can see a body of water, as you can see in the pic above. I think that's where people can ride a boat or something. Not sure though... If you look at the map I think this is the fishing lagoon. Take a closer look here.
There are definitely plenty of things to see you know. If you're a student or professional botanist, biologist and all around nature lover, this will be heaven for you. Look there's even some kind of mushroom. Who knows what this is?
As you can see, I saw plenty of things but not the entirety of it. I don't want to put too many pictures so just watch my mobile video compilation instead. Some of the clips get dark but I assure you it was a sunny and lovely afternoon. Enjoy! 😊
Remember, the income generated by the park goes directly to the funds for the preservation and protection of the La Mesa Watershed, the only potable water source in Metro Manila. I hope we Filipinos and foreign park visitors can still drop by the area whenever we can to provide support. Of course we should not destroy or hurt any of the plants or animals there. We should always clean as we go.
We can also donate and take part in the tree planting programs or reforestation initiative of Bantay Kalikasan. I don't think the eco-tours are still available because of the quarantine situation. For more info, you can check this infographic and the announcement below then proceed to inquire through the park's Facebook Page.
Oh wait there's more! Here's another informative video mostly in English, with subtitles too.
Now do you know why it is a "hidden gem"? If we preserve nature we will also help save ourselves from illnesses and natural or man-made calamities. 😊
Have you ever been here before? What can you say after seeing all of the above? I hope you learned a lot about this wonderful place too.