Looking at Metro Manila and its environs from an airplane window is like looking at a mosaic, but as you get closer you see that it’s all made of rusting GI sheets spaced so close together, they almost overlap. Manila continues to grow, but uncontained urban sprawl turned almost every square meter into a mall, an office building, a road, or worse – a shanty. Urban planning, if its existence was ever acknowledged, seemed to have been relegated to the cornermost seat of the back row in terms of priority, and the result is one serious case of congestion. And, unless you’re in a national monument, or in a former military reserve, green spaces are hard to come by.
One notable exception to this though is the Makati CBD (Central Business District). Not the whole of Makati, mind you, but just the CBD. Here a few blocks of green open spaces are still valued as high as, if not more than, the price of real estate. The largest of these “parks” in the CBD is the one enclosed by “the triangle”, the country’s three most prestigious corporate addresses – Ayala Avenue, Paseo De Roxas, and Makati Avenue. For a long time this area was left unattended, to a point that it looked like a mini-forest was growing within the business district. Nothing wrong with that ecologically of course, but the public would not be able to enjoy it.
Fairly recently however, the CBD’s developer started manicuring the place to make it a park where people from all walks of life can enjoy the weekend, or the brief office break. Now called the Ayala Triangle Garden, it has been transformed into a well maintained garden. And, bordered on all sides by towering corporate offices, you could imagine for a second that you’re in KL’s KLCC, or in the parks of Hong Kong.
To make the place a complete, family-friendly (or stressed-office-worker-friendly), leisure destination, they added restaurants in the park. Tucked away on one side, these restaurants were thankfully kept rather discrete, providing people with good food options without ruining the relaxing atmosphere.
The park’s “food section” does have some of the big and “soon to be big” names of the Manila’s food scene. The likes of Amici, Banapple, Kanin Club, Momo Cafe and Chicken Bon Chon are all in attendance, but the star of the show here has got to be the Singaporean favorite, Wee Nam Kee. The crowds that gather in front of the restaurant, waiting for their turn at the tables, already says enough.
Wee Nam Kee serves traditional Malayan-Chinese fare…typical food you would find among hawkers in Singapore or KL, but they are most famous for the Hainanese Chicken Rice. People queue up and wait long minutes (sometimes more than an hour) to get a plate of that succulent chicken, either steamed or roasted, served on rice flavored with chicken stock. It’s addicting, take my word for it.
If you still have some space left for dessert, then the park also has something for your sweet tooth. There’s Golden Spoon’s frozen yoghurts, Banapple’s lovely pastries or Caramia’s creamy gelatos. Your choice may go down to whatever your whim for the day is, but you can hardly go wrong with any of the three.
Overall, the park is one very welcome development for a metropolis that is so sadly devoid of clean open spaces, people tend to treat malls as parks or town squares, doing everything short of laying picnic mats on the floor. Whether you’re looking for a good place to eat, an open space for your kids to play, or simply a place to spend a short office break, the Ayala Triangle Garden reminds us why green open spaces – even in places where a square meter of land costs a fortune – are priceless.