Thursday, November 29, 2007

Revisiting the Manila Zoo

I have been to this place like centuries ago and all I can remember is there was an elephant, a lion, a tiger, some snakes and crocodiles horses and monkeys and birds. But the most that lingered in my lowly memory is that it was a yucky place I did not even want to sit anywhere – and I was young then supposedly unconcerned of the dirt, grime or smell wherever I was.

Lately, a friend told me he saw some personality mention the Manila Zoo on TV; that it was kind of refurbished and now fine to visit. In short it was either being advertised or endorsed or both (as if those words differ on TV!). So the kaladkarin in me ticked again and lo… we went there just this afternoon! That’s right, just still a few hours ago – meaning I was there this very day!

Purpose: to check if it was really what was being described on TV as seen and heard by my friend so that we could have something to tell friends and family if it was okay to herd the children to this almost forgotten urban getaway… The Manila Zoo!

Going there!
This is Manila and even with all the “Ped Xing” signs and manicured sidewalks, we still cannot discount that things could go awry anytime anywhere in this city. Thus, we decided not to bring a car as the good old LRT seemed to be a better option so there was only ourselves to take care of. And we even decided to visit at noon as we thought there would most certainly be just a few people in the zoo. We hopped to Quirino Station and walked our way the (about) two or three blocks to Manila Zoo. There are pedicabs right at the foot of the Quirino Ave Station offering rides to the zoo or even beyond to the Harrison Plaza, but we knew the zoo entrance was just near so we opted to walk and catch glimpses of the vicinity.

See?! Just a few steps from the MRT Station I already had a new realization! As you walk westwards along Quirino Ave. going towards the zoo, the other side (right side) of the avenue is BPI. Not your Banco De Las Islas Filipinas but the BPI as in Bureau of Plant Industry! Oh that’s why its concrete fence is peppered with colorful paintings and expressions about the green world and our “inang kalikasan”! What does that bureau do for us? Malay ko! I just know now that its offices are there hehe!

The triangular block “opposite” the zoo is still a park cum children’s playground as it has been years ago. But you can see traces that it has been upgraded and ridded of many of the little shacks that sold just about anything. And yes, playground as it is now (with newly painted swings, slides and other child things) there are still the little eyesores that could again become big in the near future. Like what? Well, in this playground, at 1PM children do come to play even with some of their parents armed with digicams and videocams. But alas, at the very same time there are huddles of older people drinking gin or beer right on the children’s play areas. Yes too it abounds with ambulant vendors of just about everything. Oh, by the side of the basketball court, a woman was busy washing her family’s clothes and oblivious of whoever may have been watching her (like us hehe). Further south going towards the Harrison Plaza mall are “official” stalls erected by the government to be an area for vendors to display and sell their wares. Instead, at about 1:30PM we see not things for sale but men in their various stages of sleep or slumber! They made the godforsaken place a slumber joint! Gosh! Anyway, you, your children or your vehicles won’t probably be going near them… so let us let them be. And let’s go inside the zoo, shall we?!

Entering the Manila Zoo
On foot or by car, you all enter the very same entrance to the Manila Zoo. There is only one such entrance if you’re the “paying public” anyway! That is along M. Adriatico St., just a few steps from Quirino Avenue. Parking spaces are right before the entrance gate. We were happily surprised that this place was rather “bustling” at 1:30PM on a Sunday. We saw all kinds of vehicles parked. The sight of three buses made us look at each other as if to say “uh-oh, we’re in with a lot of foreign tourists or school children” – and that made us a bit excited, for to us, it meant this was a place safe enough to bring kids or foreigners by the busloads!

Oh, there were even two “blue-plated” parked cars which made one of my companions ask “embassy folks come here?” I jokingly replied “honey, it’s the yaya and the driver of your embassy folks dating in this place during their “day-off”! Joke as it was, I was terribly wrong (and more of that later)! Our eyebrows flitted up to the clouds at the sight of a red-plated vehicle parked in this place on a Sunday afternoon. So our jokes revolved on “it was probably the barangay captain escorting the blue-plated cars” and “those are used by the zoo officials” and “that is probably a car from the budget management and they need to see this place on a Sunday” and so on hehehe! Unfortunately, at the back of this red-plated FX was an excursion or a picnic in progress. Yep, they were at the parking lot, but were all busy devouring food from some Kalderos and Tupperwares of kanin and ulam laid out on the rear floor of the vehicle! So I thought it was just either another illiterate government official who thought he/she had the government’s vehicles at his/her family’s disposal any minute of the year OR another pompous (therefore also illiterate hehe) government official who thought those red plates are part of their perks. Ahhh, let’s just go enter the place, shall we?!

Okay now, the big entrance still has that arch-like structure as if to pronounce “enter here”. Unlike at the Albay Park & Wildlife, this main (and only) entrance has no big gate that can be closed at night. But don’t ya dare, there are guards and policemen right here. Oh to your left is an air-conditioned booth with about four windows and this is where you buy your tickets. How much? P40 for adults, P20 for children if you are not from the city of Manila and P20 for adults, P10 for children if you are a resident of that city. How do they know? I did not ask anymore but just paid P40 for I sure know am not a resident of Manila! Well, they’ll probably ask for proof like your land title or residence certificate hehe! Oh, Manilans or not, 2 years olds or younger enter free.

Let’s dwell a little bit more on this entrance thing. There are guide-rails in front of all those ticket booths but people don’t know where to enter and where to exit. So I had quick fun watching visitors bump into each other as they approached or left the tellers. Ang babaw ko! Upon payment you will be issued a ticket just like in the old movie houses of yesteryears. The ticket is either colored orange or yellow about 1.0”X0.5” or something like that. Then you walk about 5 steps to a group of young looking (and old) ladies armed with a huge plastic trash bag who will get your ticket, tear it into two and dump both parts into that trash bag! I tried asking for my torn ticket to bring home as souvenir and the strict reply was NO! Then the guards will frisk you and pretend to rummage amongst your belongings as if looking for a bomb. Jusko!

Let’s philosophize (again)… If I managed this entrance gate, why would I be issuing tickets when after five short steps I will also collect them tickets. The reply could be, so that anyone who enters will have something to show as proof that they paid the entrance fee, right? But where is the poor visitor’s proof right after he has passed through these ladies? NONE. In fact, I would not be surprised if these ladies accost anyone inside and drive them out because they have not paid the entrance fee. Di ba? Oh government, thine ways are ultra-modern hehehe! Of course I have in my mind a better solution to this ridiculous ceremony but, like in the office, I get paid for my ideas whe he he he!

Inside the Manila Zoo
Oh it’s cleaner now than when I last sat foot on this place some eons ago! Most of the cages are painted anew and the railings are rather new. Upon entry, like majority of the visitors would headed following the path to the right. Why? Well, probably because we are “normal” people hehe! I read from some department store study somewhere that most people would generally walk towards the right upon entering a place. Did you know that? It probably has something to do with their being right-handed! So if you see someone heading to the left, they’re probably left-handed or deviants ahh hehehe! Okay, the zoo, the zoo!

A few steps from the entrance is the crowd drawer, the lone and solitary elephant. Am not sure if this was that same elephant I saw ages ago, but he/she seemed still young and looked sad. There is just an expression in the eyes and the face and bodily movements of this poor animal that told me he/she was lonely. Or maybe I was just hallucinating! On this visit, the animal was just there standing and leaning on the wall. I could see that its eyes would usually react and follow people who were either taking pictures with their flashes on or those who were carrying food and eating them in the open. When coaxed, this poor thing would sluggishly react. He/She made feel pity!

Good thing there were big noisy birds atop a tree right above this pachyderm. So it caught our attention and we watched them birds for a while. I asked a zoo cleaner if those birds belonged to the zoo. The answer was affirmative and that they were just let free for the zoo keepers knew they would stay in the vicinity or come back if they ever went gliding to nearby Harrison Plaza for some groceries hehe! I was certain those birds were not crows or ravens. They were something else and had grayish plumage. Then we walked past the elephant and saw that behind it is a house (ok building) that seems to be the offices or laboratories of the many photographers inside this zoo. We said no need to go near that house as the animals in there are dangerous in that they charge you dearly for pictures hehehe!

Next and still nearby is the expansive block called The Manila Zoo Reptile House. The signage is aging and almost unreadable but for some reason I still saw it and even took a picture of it. There is a good merry mix of reptilian animals here. They are all in glass walled cages and easy to spot. There are lizards, iguanas, snakes of all sizes etc., Be sure to go around this rectangular block as all sides have animals on display.

Next to the reptile house is a little make-shift pond with a lot of the native turtles in this country but are rarely seen anywhere anymore. Thanks to “urbanity” and “development” At least here you can see them freely moving about (within the little pond that is) in their numbers – probably about 40 or 50. Crowd drawer esp for the little ones. Everyone laughed when a little girl being carried by its father shouted “mama, ayan pa meron ipis”! The mother replied with “anak, di yan ipis… turtle yan.. pagong”! This cute innocent girl is in the picture but am not telling which one hehe!

After the turtles, still on the right side of the lean pathway are about three or four more open-air enclosures that house alligators and crocodiles. Old as I am, I still cannot easily distinguish what a croc is versus what a gator is. I just know I don’t wanna go near them nor play with them hehe! We were not able to spend a long time watching these animals as there were too many people inching their way for a closer look. And we always had to give way to children pushing their way to view those monsters! Plus, its not too shady in these parts as the trees are sparse.

Across the path from the turtles, crocs and gators is an expansive area where you see deer of various sizes and ages. Or were those antelopes? I can’t easily identify them as there was no signage that introduced who these are. Probably those signs are at the other end of this wide area. I did notice two or thee of those animals had their horns (or are they called antlers?) cut-off. Did not even see any one of them who sported a full head with the horn (or antler, whatever).

As this is a wide open space, this is where you easily see proof that the zoo has been upgraded or refurbished. Look at the fences and other structures, they’re rather new – and that extends all the way to the horses, goats, sheep, lamas and other animals. Funny that if you take pictures of these animals at this vantage point, the background would be an imposing Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas building beyond those trees! This is the widest area for animals that just roam and graze around and there are even little water fountains in there for the animals to probably have a realistic sense of nature! Sosyal sila! The other side of this perimeter is an elevated walkway with park benches for a top view of the animals. A nice promenade for people too!

The wild pigs are the smelliest aside from the fact that kids don’t like their looks! Then you would wonder why the Carabaos (or are those Tamaraws) have such a small area to while away their boring life sentences in this zoo hehehe! There should even be a mud puddle for them like they’re used to doing in a natural environment. Then there is the other crowd drawer that children go wild about – watching the hippopotamus! Across the road still on this elevated area, the tigers were taking their siestas so there was no good view of them even with the children coaxing and shouting at them as their rest areas are rather far from where people are. Oh well!

Backtracking a bit from this central and circular area of the four-legged land animals there is a little house near the horses and it contains a clean (as of now) rest room!

Then there is what I call the “Monkey Town”. Various cages of various kinds of our cousin monkeys in their various states or attitudes can be seen here to the delight of young and old folks alike! Monkeys or macaques whatever, I had no time to understand them. Why? Because the little colored signs with pictures of the animals have already faded with the elements that they’re not anymore readable. So we just joined watching adults and children alike monkeying around with the monkeys. You’d wonder who the true monkeys in these raucous encounters were!

At one cage a restless grey monkey (pink face and pink butt) kept moving about so people were having a hard time to focus on him with their cameras. This particular monkey seemed to be fond of (or probably mad at) children. Anytime the little tykes muttered anything, this monkey was sure to react and jump at the side of the cage nearest to those children shouting or giggling. I thought he was doing either of two things like the monkey himself was teasing the children or he was ready to fight irritated at the teasing. Another of his kind, probably family member was just sitting by the grills and looking at all of us. His eyes seemed to be begging and sometimes he would stretch his arms outside of the grills if there were people who had food. True enough when someone tossed a peanut, this monkey skillfully caught it with his two hands and immediately ate the nut! And everybody who had peanuts or corn bits (cornik?) started tossing those to this monkey. Interestingly, if he did not catch a peanut, he would run, pick it from the ground and remove sand/dirt from it before popping it into his mouth! He has hygiene! There was even a time this monkey robbed a peanut on his belly – just like children who would rub candy on their shirts after picking them from the floor hehehe!

Another monkey cage had something like a family of 6 animals. And they looked to be the most common monkey seen in this country, whenever there is! The biggest of them all was obviously the father in this pack. And there was a baby monkey. They were all on their toes and alert at what people might dole out or toss to them. Corn bits, peanuts whatever, these monkeys seem to be too hungry and even greedy. When one monkey catches something the bigger monkeys would go chasing him even if the food was already in its mouth. So you get the picture? The biggest monkey of the six dominated the front grills so he could catch solo all the food being tossed in by people. But the better monkeys (people) would usually throw their peanuts further into to cage to the delight of the other smaller monkeys. And this big guy would go chasing them even biting them. That made people laugh at this kind of attitude – which they all probably realize to be a human instinct hehehe!

Then there was another old monkey (he looked old anyway) who seemed to be hungry too but at the same time lazy! He was just in the front of the cage sitting and looking at us seemingly in wait for anything to be tossed to him. How lazy this monkey was? Well, when someone throws anything at him, he catches it with its mouth. If he misses, he doesn’t bother to go get it from the ground but instead look back to the humans mindful of who will throw something to him next! A man threw in an unopened pack of snacks (Chippy). Surely this aged monkey caught it with his hands, but he just examined it, and then even had the strength to throw it back to the crowd. The same man threw the same unopened snack to the big monkey in that cage of six and to everyone’s amazement, this big monkey opened the container with its hands and teeth – just like little children do! Golly!

Finally, there is a separate special big cage for a big guy, an orangutan. He/She is solitary in that big cage and looked like he/she was lonely. Okay, maybe I was also dreaming or hallucinating but I thought its face evoked loneliness. The animal was just by the grills sitting idly until some girls tried talking to him and showing him food. He/She at least stood and looking at the girls extended his/her hand out of the cage as if saying please give it to me and most everyone sighed saying “aaaahhhhh” for indeed you’ll feel pity at that gesture. As if to pacify the animal, one lady exclaimed “bawal, hindi pwede”. These scene looked like the lady was explaining something to a child so that the child won’t cry. Oh my heart!

Orangutan did not budge yet, it went looking for something and picked a long stem that is half of a coconut frond. He/She then extended the frond to the girls as if to say “put the food in here so I can get it”! One man held the other end of that frond attempting to play with the animal. But food was probably more important, so with the other hand, he/she pointed to the girl carrying and eating chips then placed his/her pointing finger in the mouth. Oh my, everyone’s heart was breaking, I was sure of that!

Moving back up to the right side of the entrance gate, there is a big aviary. Oh “aviaries” I should say. There are I think about 4 or 5 different big cages with birds of all kinds. The technique here is if the canopy or ceiling of the cage is high, go look up to that level as there are and there will be birds of different kinds at those heights. It starts with a big and circular aviary with a lot of birds inside. This is supposedly the very first attraction in the zoo if you headed left from the entrance gate!

Am not just sure if this first aviary is not too crowded since I felt it is. I thought that was fine for my viewing pleasure – more so for my camera – but all of a sudden I thought this aviary must have been too cramped with many species and many individual birds hanging out all in one place. Am not sure as I don’t know about birds and aviaries, but I just thought if I were one of those birds, every minute must have been a grueling competition for space, perch, food, water, faux-pool, faux-pond, etc., Then again, I was just a mere visitor so I enjoyed being able to view many birds in one confine. Sorry birdies (if ever you have a chance to read this blog), I don’t know about your needs! Let’s just hope the zoo keepers in there know what they are doing!

In one of the blocks of cages, there would be birds alone in a cage or group of birds in one cage. Again, I am not sure how those are qualified hehe! Like I was literally pissing a noisy crow who kept wailing with its constant “aaaarrrk” sound as I teased it and I didn’t know if it was in pain, hungry or something. But that bird had such a big cage and there were only two of them black birds in there – the other bird was not making any sound! In another cage of the same size was something like 8 owls that were all too silent and oblivious of the crowd in front of their cage. They were just too still without a sound I even heard a child ask her mom if those were real birds. I knew from previous zoo visits elsewhere that these are owls with that characteristic motionless stance as if they were statues and with some even standing on just one leg – as they sleep the day off since they are nocturnal!

Then there was this corner cage of about the same size that contained something like seven brown eagles (or are they hawks?) with white polka dots all over their feathered bodies. They have yellow and black eyes and stand at about a foot or a few inches taller. Mighty birds and they consumed my time. Why? Well, almost all of them were just perched on a dead tree branch or standing still on the cement floor except for two of them that seemed to have quite an event of their lives. And the act of these two such birds caught my curiosity that I took more time ogling at this cage than I have intended to. Undoubtedly, this scene became one of the highlights of my visit! Let’s describe the event in more detail.

And, birdwatchers, bird lovers, zoologist, biologist, ornithologists and other people in the know reading this… please educate us on what this “act” is. The “act” is really interesting and anyone would get curious what those birds were trying to tell each other! Here we go:

On reaching this cage as I immediately took aim to shoot the birds just perched on the dead tree-branch nearest the grills, I could already hear one of them belting out a shrill-type sound that seemed to me it was either begging for food or begging to be set free. I really thought that was just normal in bird cages. However, some wild fluttering of wings and the sometimes staccato calls of that bird sound directed my attention to the ground where two of them were in some kind of a confrontation – WHICH, I SWEAR, WAS THE FIRST TIME I SAW BEING DONE BY BIRDS OF ANY SPECIES! Oh, so that pleading begging calls came from one of them.

Were they fighting? Well, I don’t know yet (as of this writing) but this was a weird scene. One bird (the upper hand) was standing precisely on the feet of the other bird (the underdog or should I say the “underbird”). It just stood there and it was not pecking on the underdog bird. Imagine somebody in front of you with his right foot standing on your left foot while his left foot is firmly planted on your right foot. And whenever you tried to move he would not budge but still firmly standing on your feet. That was the scene. The poor bird was defenseless as it could not stand even if it flapped its wings hard on the other bird. This poor bird’s feathers on the nape were even all spreading erect like that of a peacock. And this scenario did not just take a few moments. They were in that struggling stance for the entire duration that I was watching them – until I just thought I had enough and moved on. Some locals and foreigners were there also watching that curious event and I hope anyone of the will have seen after how long the poor bird was freed in that locked-down position!

Moving on to the other side of this block of bird cages was a loner of a bird that looked to me like the Samar Hornbill. Or is it Luzon Hornbill or Mindoro Hornbill or Tarictic? Whatever! Curiosly since this bird did not look naughty to me I kind of said hello to it and poked the lens of my camera in the grill to just about a few inches of it. Instead of the bird pecking at my lens (which I almost expected) it just stood there looking at me by twisting and craning its neck. It even had to use its other eye as if to make sure it had a clear vision of who I am! I don’t know why, I just caught myself saying “how are you birdie?” and stayed there for a while as we gazed at each other. I thought its black feathers on the wings looked like big fish scales. Then I moved on to the front of the cage and oh my goodness I was so surprised it attempted to follow me and flew to the branch inside the cage nearest where I was. I was a bit touched and we had another “gazing at each other” encounter. This bird seemed to know me. Then I caught myself again saying “kumusta ka… are you happy here?”! And it just stood there looking at me. Hmm, have I seen or have I been with this bird somewhere? No I can’t recall.

As I went on to move away from that cage, the bird flew to cling on the grills as if trying to follow me and I knew my heart was already crushing. Then I heard behind me a Caucasian husband telling his wife and kid “this is Philippine-endemic but sadly endangered… for all we know this could be the last of this specie standing alive”. I felt bad on hearing/learning that and could not anymore describe what I felt. And the bird was still looking at me. Why?! Was I a bird in my previous life? Or do I look like a bird? Have I and this bird known each other sometime ago somewhere? Ah…!

Next to that hornbill was another cage with a sole occupant, this time an aloof multi colored parrot (or is it?) with an extremely long tail. I called on it but it just stayed way inside farthest from my viewing pleasure. Had to zoom so that the image is blurred. I stayed a while wondering how this parrot can have such multi-colored plumage.

Next of these solo birds was a cage with a singular and weird looking hornbill that has an enormous beak about twice the size of its head! This one hornbill was hyperactive gnawing at the grills of its cage. Sometimes it would cling on the wire mesh with its beak as if it was another foot while it moved up or down its cage. Interesting bird and very bright red beak. But it did not care if I was there calling on it or watching it. It just kept to its own activity with sporadic glances to check if I was a threat or just mere nuisance!

Next cage was a common-looking parrot busy attending to its feathers as if grooming itself. But this one is a bit more social! On realizing that I was there watching it and aiming my camera, it even stood straight as if to pose. Wow! I jokingly said, “thank you for posing Mr. Parrot”! I don’t know if it was an answer but it muttered a muffed “aaark”, and then proceeded to tending its feathers with its beak!

Then there were some immaculately white and noisy cockatoos that seemed to be ripping everything in their cage to pieces. There were also some weird-looking but cute brown ducks that somehow reminded me of the teletubbies characters! Then there was the big big big ostritch roaming its expansive enclosure and who went near people if it thought they were there to give food!

Now now… enough of the birds! After this bird area you see the “lake” and am not sure if it is man-made or natural! Oh yes, this is the boating area where folks could go rent and paddle along. There is a viewing deck if you just want to watch them boat riders or just want to take pictures or even just hang around with your family and friends to picnic. The place is surprisingly clean. Even the bridge has a new look! And am happy to note that the crowd is not your typecasted “C Market” as it is a mix of A, B, C… D, E, F, G, etc! Notable there are foreigners here and there and they come even with their babies in strollers.

Crossing the bridge, there are some food stalls, restaurants actually, where those who didn’t bring their own “baon” can buy just about everything from sandwiches to TAPSILOG and the ever popular C2. Oops, I don’t think they serve beer or alcoholic beverages here. Oh hey, I observed that the little man-made island within the boating area has birds both water and air borne! And they’re not just your simple maya kalapati or pato ha?! Some of those birds are quite uncommon on the daily metropolis scenery. So I think those birds are the “trusted ones” – those who will definitely come back to the zoo even if they go out to Quiapo, Divisoria or Baclaran, Ayala or The Fort from time to time! The ducks and their cousins are naturally by the water’s edge while the big flyers are high up on the trees “free as a bird”!

Attractions in this zoo are not just all the animals by the way. This is also a park for just about everyone in the family. Thus the rest areas and picnic nooks and the park benches and tables scattered everywhere. Trash bins are strategically located in almost every corner and there are janitors constantly roving the place.

Then there is that fabled fountain area where all kids who have been there will surely remember for a long time! It’s nothing but a rectangular piece of artwork where black and white tiles are placed alternately to form what you might call a giant chess board. There is a scattering of holes from the ground from where the water spurts directly going up or in various directions to the amazement of the kids and their parents. As it is just an open ground without fences, many of the kids wouldn’t be able to resist but try to catch those water spurts. At first they’d just want to touch it as the water comes by. Soon enough, you’ll just be surprised your little tyke is already drenching! Many of these kids would even bring plastic cups and position them on top of the holes so that when the water comes out those plastic cups go flying off with the water. Child’s play yes, but an attraction for many, just the same!

As you roam around this area, you’d chance upon a nipa hut with a concrete base that seems to be standing on the lake. And just across it is a hanging bridge. I went to the front entrance of the nipa hut and realized it was closed. By closely looking at it, the house seems to be being readied to become some kind of a little museum or display area – whatever! But you’d get curious as I was on how to get to that hanging bridge by the edge of the lake. And I found it!

The Kinder Zoo
Going back from the lake/fountain area towards the exit/entrance, you chance upon the “Kinder Zoo” and this is probably the best place in the area. The main attraction inside Manila Zoo as of now, I must insist! This kinder zoo has its own entrance (and of course its own entrance fee). The one thing good about this zoo inside the zoo is that whatever you see (meaning any animal) you can touch! It’s a petting zoo! And the kids and kids at heart will truly have fun!

At the entrance, on a table is a piglet. It’s big enough so little kids may not be able to carry it anymore but its small enough to still fit on two square tables placed beside each other! This pig must be tamed as it just lies there oblivious of the crowds and the people who touch or caress it. Its clean and has does not smell of a pig sty!

Not even a meter away from the piglet, and still by the middle of the entrance path are two white cockatoos with beautiful yellow feathers on their head as if an accent, perched on a tree branch. They’re also just standing there and they’re not tied or restrained. They’re just there free and sometime murmuring or even talking in a language only they probably understand! But when you stretch your arm near their feet, they’ll readily oblige and step unto you for that exciting photo-op! You can have the two birds stand or cling on to any part of your body then have your pictures taken. Just position them near their perch and they readily hop back to the branch. Then from time to time, they do that thing they most often do – and that is gnawing at the tree branch they’re perching on!

We’re still by the entrance and there is yet another attraction. A big and long yellow snake is in a cage just beside the cockatoos. Its handler (a zookeeper) will readily lift the snake out of its cage and draper it on your neck or on your hands also for photo-op. fun to watch that some kids are eager to do the act while some others including their mothers and yayas step back giggling in fright! The snake yellow color is shiny that make it all too attractive.

Moving inwards on this kinder zoo, you encounter a small pond full of brightly colored koi fishes. They swim in a rush towards you soon as they realized you are approaching them. They expect you to throw in some little morsels of food. And kids will have fun how these fishes would scrimmage even if you just dropped a leaf. But they seem to genuinely like corn (cornik) and the chips!

Nearby to the koi pond is a big butterfly garden complete with plants and flowers and the big cage has nets all over and with crawling vines. The entrances doors to this walk-in paradise are also fitted with nets to keep them butterflies from straying out into the world. But alas, sa dami ng sinabi ko, during this visit I did not see a single butterfly nor a pupa or larva!

Then there is the hanging bridge! Whoa! Even adults do get a bit uneasy walking this bridge to the other side. I heard someone said he felt dizzy. The bridge is a series of wooden planks tied together with a lot of ropes. The “railings” are also meshes of ropes that it would be a miracle if anyone fell to the waters! Just the same, its not really an easy “walk in the park”. When I stepped on a plank that seemed to be rather old and a bit decayed, I asked a zoo employee (who happened to have passed by) if it won’t break anytime soon. Then a secret was revealed with him saying “its okay sir, meron yero yan sa ilalim”. Oh so, this is really child-proof! The metal sheets under each plank would actually be supporting them even if the would broke! Then again, while some children could zoom running the entire length of this swinging bridge, many other children and adults would be on a crawl!

After crossing the bridge, there are more! There are more birds and snakes and other animals that everyone can touch or hold and caress or have their photos taken with. There are caged animals that seem to be being cured of illnesses or broken wings or legs. And there is man-made tunnel where reptiles and insects roam freely for everyone to see and encounter. There is another big and high cage where a lot of kinds of peacocks are kept. Then there is a cage of different types of chickens – most of them midget in size compared to the manok that we see daily.

There are also goats and seep – a lot of them actually that are allowed to freely roam the entire zoo. However, they keep to the front of their big “cuadra” as the leaves and other eatables are strewn in that area. Any child can pick on them leaves and feed them to the goats and the sheep point-blank. Some children were even being assisted by zoo keepers to ride on some of the animals. A funny sight occurs here every afternoon. The zoo personnel block the entrance to the “cuadra” so that sheep and goats can’t go inside if only to ensure that they stay outside to entertain guests! However, when the zookeepers start preparing feeds on their respective feeding boxes (inside the cuadra), all animals will be in a mad panic to try to get in leaving you the visitors behind hehe! Some would jump, others would squeeze themselves in little crevices of the fence and some even bang the entrance door just to be able to get in! Oh what a sight! By the way, there is also a carabao-looking animal there. Is it a buffalo?

Then there are big yellow-shelled land turtles that although kept in a garden with pegs, are from time to time allowed to roam around the little paths of the kinder zoo. When you are around with little tykes, the zookeepers will flex their muscles to lift the heavy turtles out of the garden so that your children can sit or ride on their backs while you take their pictures!

There is a cage of a lot of midget looking cute little pigs too! The zookeeper assigned there told me those were all adults even if they looked small and cute like pugs! They are another type of pig not common to this country. Although one or two will go near people, these pigs are more interested in snoozing or doing mock-fights with each other which is a sight to behold. They’re not allowed outside of their cage because they’ll ruin the plants and other fixtures with their snouts!

And there is loner mouse-deer in its own cage. He seems lonely and not very much approachable. A timid type really!

But the biggest attraction in this kinder zoo are the two towering ostriches about 7 to 8 feet tall. Even I had a realization here. Who thought that these birds are wild and can stomp or peck at people with their big beaks? All of us, right? But these two giant birds are different. When you are around, the zookeeper would just open the entrance to their big cuadra then call on them as if they were people. Then they do come out and walk with you by the cemented paths. The zookeeper would usually lift kids one-by-one to ride on the necks of these birds to the delight of the parent! Well, for the adults, you can stand beside any ostrich, wrap your arm around its neck and have your photograph taken. The keepers can even ask those birds to kneel or lie low on the ground! Oh ostrich!

Too many things more! And when you get tired, you go out to the same entrance you came in only to find that the cute pig on the table and the cockatoos and the snake are still there regaling people with their mere presence!

So, won’t you see the Manila Zoo again?


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