Steeped in history and lush in greenery, Paco Park in Manila City boasts of gardens and an open-air amphitheater that have set the stage for many occasions—from some of the defining moments in Philippine history to present-day weddings, concerts, musicals, and exhibits. From a cemetery for wealthy families during the Spanish times, the park is now a recreational garden where tourists watch Filipino eskrima (stick martial arts) practitioners hone their traditional fighting skills.
Paco Park’s historic Chapel of Saint Pancratius (Photo by Shubert Ciencia)
Built in the late 1700s, the 4,000-square-meter park was where national heroes Jose Rizal and Gomburza were interred before their remains were transferred to Bagumbayan (present-day Luneta Park). Throughout its history, the park has also served as the final resting places of cholera epidemic victims, as an ammunition depot of the Japanese of WWII, and as an ‘80s cultural venue commissioned by then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Some of the original Spanish-time tombstones, as well as the circular Spanish fort of the Chapel of Saint Pancratius, are still well-preserved inside the park.
Every Friday, at sunset, the park comes alive with “Paco Park Presents,” which features musical presentations by both local and international artists and chorales. Occasionally, the park’s open-air auditorium also presents free screenings of classic Filipino films, usually on a weekend.
Likewise, almost every weekend, the park’s Gantimpala Theater stages free plays written by the national hero, Jose Rizal. If you are lucky, you might also be able to watch free ballet performances or see a visual arts exhibit during a visit.
Fees and opening hours
The park is open daily except Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is free to visit the park and to see its live performances, except for wedding receptions and other private functions.
If you want to take arnis or eskrima lessons, try Arnis Combat Kiathson System Philippines based in Paco Park (mobile number: +632916-425-3540, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
How to get there
Paco Park is along General Luna Street in Manila City. The best way to get there is through riding a taxi from anywhere in Manila. You may also ride a jeepney passing through Taft Avenue, get off in Escoda Street, and walk your way to the park.