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People’s Park in the Sky

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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