People’s Park in the Sky

A palace in the sky, shrouded in mist.

People’s Park In The Sky is a peculiar attraction located about 60 kilometers south of Manila in Tagaytay, a popular leisure destination in the province of Cavite in the Philippines. Perched on top of Mount Sungay at an elevation of 709 meters, the highest point on the northern rim of the immense Taal Caldera, it was originally planned to be a palace suitable for state visits during the kleptocratic reign of Ferdinand Marcos. Construction began in 1979 with a drastic leveling of the mountaintop, which previously reached 759 meters, but ground to a halt with increasing civic unrest and the cancellation of Ronald Reagan’s state visit in 1983. Following the People Power Revolution of 1986 the unfinished mansion was transformed into a public park and monument to the greed, corruption, and excess of the Marcos era.

The sign shrouded in fog.
A lonely bench on the upper floors of the People’s Park.
Wandering through the mist and gloom.
Ruins in the misty sky.
Not much left of this rusty staircase but I still went for a look.
The secret reflecting pool at the top of the main structure.
A rusty spiral.
Reflective illusions.
The upper floors are vaguely reminiscent of a first-person shooter.
Lost architecture on the rim of the volcano.
Losing memories, bit by bit.

I had no idea what to expect when I visited the People’s Park in late 2015 but it was still surprising to see so many people there, wandering around and snapping photos, shopping for pasalubong (souvenirs), picnicking, or singing karaoke in the clouds. There’s a ticket booth at the entrance where everyone pays a small fee but I’m not entirely sure how that money is spent. Everything is falling apart inside the park—but then again, the entire place is basically a ruin.

It is somewhat difficult to imagine what this mansion was supposed to look like.
An abandoned castle in the sky.
What remains in the fog.
Cellular tower at the highest point.
The radar station, disappearing.
The PAGASA doppler radar station in Tagaytay.
Tracking the motion of Typhoon Lando.

People’s Park is also home to a PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration) doppler weather radar station. I happened to visit not long after the passage of Typhoon Lando (known as Typhoon Koppu to the rest of the world) and was intrigued to find a map charting its motions just inside the tower. Access to the weather station is normally restricted but the attendant allowed me to take a quick picture of the map after I expressed my interest in all things climatological.

This is a restricted area!
Another forbidden entrance.
Grimy doorways to unknown quarters.
Write your name in the moss.
Some places we are not meant to go.
Please keep this park clean. I’ve never seen Chinese characters written like this before.
A poster showing the sign when it was new. Compare this with the photograph that appears near the bottom of the post.
Utterly bazaar: the souvenir shops located in the base of the crumbling mansion.
A place for public events and maybe even weddings?
Disaster tourism in the Philippines.

The park is also home to the Shrine of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love, which predates the construction of the mansion by several years. Apparently workers attempted to dynamite the outcrop the shrine is located on several times but were unsuccessful—which exhibits all the signs of a classic apocryphal tale. Whether it’s true or not the shrine is certainly a popular feature of the park.

Transmitting near and far.
The park also has a small shrine.
A peek inside the shrine at the People’s Park.
A break in the clouds affords another view of the unfinished mansion.

Wandering around in the endless fog was plenty of fun, particularly when strong winds swept across the mountaintop, spattering everyone with water droplets, but I was glad to wait around long enough for a break in the clouds. The view from the top is truly extraordinary and apparently you can see all the way to Manila on a clear day. I saw none of that, of course, but it was good enough to catch a glimpse of the hilly terrain just beyond the mist.

The sun breaking through the clouds at Mount Sungay.
Lost in a sea of clouds at the People’s Park in the Sky. This was one of only a few moments of relative clarity during my visit to the site.
The broken sign that greets visitors to the People’s Park. Not exactly as advertised!
People’s Park in the Sky from below. The jeepneys will give you a lift up the hill for a small fee.

Naturally this picturesque ruin has attracted a great deal of attention from travel bloggers and the like; if you’re in search of more practical information (i.e. costs and how to get there, which I typically don’t cover) have a look here, here, here, and here. For more of my own work from the Philippines