I’VE BEEN hearing a lot of good things about La Mesa Ecological Park (Eco-park) so a few weeks back, when my family decided to go, I was excited to finally get the chance to see the park for myself.

On our way there, as we drove through the polluted streets of Quezon City, my excitement waned and I started having doubts. In 2005, research conducted by the World Health Organization revealed that the air in Metro Manila is one of the top five dirtiest in the world. How can a park as beautiful as people say it is, survive in such a polluted place?

The park is hidden in the East Fairview Subdivision in Novaliches, Quezon City, adjacent to the La Mesa Dam Watershed, the primary source of Metro Manila’s water supply. My doubts were immediately put to rest as we entered the park and were surrounded by an abundance of huge trees and lush vegetation.

For a very affordable entrance fee, visitors can have access to clean tables and chairs, grilling and fishing areas, bike rentals, beautiful trekking trails, a butterfly pavilion, and most especially serene areas where they can relax, rest, and commune with nature.

The park also has the only saltwater swimming pool in Metro Manila open for public use. According to experts, saltwater pools are healthier than ordinary pools because they don’t contain chlorine.

A joint project by the Quezon City government, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewage System, the Bantay Kalikasan Foundation, and other private institutions, the park, previously a neglected area, was created to enhance the environmental consciousness Metro Manila residents.

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One good thing that I observed was that the park visitors really made an effort to maintain the cleanliness of the park. I thought to myself, if people can respect their environment and dispose of their wastes properly inside the park, why can’t they carry that attitude when they leave the park?

In a city as polluted and chaotic as Metro Manila, there is a need for us to recognize and support efforts like the creation of the Eco-park to promote environmental awareness.

The Eco-park is a reassuring escape that we can run to when the hustle and bustle of the city becomes too overwhelming. It reminds us about the beauty of nature and how there is a need for us to protect and care for it, now more than ever.

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