BALARA: REVIVED ICON OF THE 50s

BALARADiliman, Quezon City, June 7, 2003
-- After decades
of neglect, Balara's recreational facilities are finally
getting a much-deserved facelift. Located adjacent to
UP Diliman, the Balara Filters Park will try to regain
its lost glory by featuring its old architecture, and by
providing an alternative lifestyle venue within Metro Manila.

The Balara Filters Park (Balara Park) was originally built
from 1949 to 1959. It was first opened to the public in 1953
and since large malls did not exist at that time, it easily
became the area's premiere family weekends destination. 
Its public pools were full of people trying to escape the
summer heat and it became the envy of other countries in the region.

The Manila Water Company Inc. (Manila Water) now operates the Balara Park
after winning the bid for the MWSS's East Zone in 1997. The recreational
facilities are actually situated in a 60-hectare property, along with two
huge filtration plants, administrative buildings, and the housing
facilities of Manila Water employees who are on call 24 hours a day. It
actually treats 1,600 million liters of water daily in the Balara Park and
distributes these to three million residents and thousands of businesses
and industries in the East Zone.

The Balara Park has six main amenities namely the Children's Park, the
Pedro Tobias Park, the Escoda Hall, the Windmill Park, the picnic grove and
the swimming pools. However, the most notable of these are the Escoda Hall,
the swimming pools, and their surrounding amenities.

The Escoda Hall is a stately heirloom from the past. Its imposing green and
white structure looms next to the big swimming pools amid a backdrop of
greenery.  The grand hall sits on a piece of property a few meters below a
bending road and its impressive structure captivates and awes the onlooker
with its large symmetrical Southeast Asian motif roof, designed by the
Manosa brothers.

Although the design of the roof remains, some modifications were
undertaken. The original tile-like asbestos roofing was replaced by
corrugated steel roofing. To allow the circulation of air the roof was made
high and contained large air passages covered by 220 circular patterns,
which were originally made of rattan but were recently replaced with steel
rings.  Down below, the tiles had to be replaced with contemporary designs
since the original tiles, with its dimensions and design, proved to be very
difficult to find.

There are three large swimming pools next to the Escoda Hall. The biggest
of the three is the T-shaped adult pool with the top end of the letter "T"
facing the hall. On either side of the adult pool are two rectangular
children's pools.  Together, the three would seem like one enormous
swimming pool with partitions. This facility is currently being used by
organizations like the Boy Scouts of the Philippines to train members in
swimming and rescue.

Perpendicular to the Escoda Hall and just to the left of the swimming pool
is the elegantly designed Orosa Social Hall. This hall was once the venue
of many social dances and parties in the past, and the original structure
seems to be in good shape. It is a hall with a glazed stone floor,
surrounded by ornately designed white iron bars and covered by the original
asbestos tile roofing painted green.

Near the pool entrance and opposite the Escoda Hall stands the bathhouse
once referred to by the Americans as the "Widow's Walk." The two floor
original concrete structure had a walled first floor and an open porch on
the second floor. It was believed that the Americans who gave the bathhouse
its name came from whaling communities and the structure reminded them of
the building by the pier where the wives of sea captains awaited their
loved onessome of whom never returned.

Then, just a few steps away from the swimming pools, visitors will find the
amphitheater where celebrities and legendary artists from bygone eras, like
Atang dela Rama, have performed. Today, it stands as a mute witness to
great performances of the past along with the large trees that surround it.

Other points of interest in the Balara Park would include the art deco
buildings and employee housing units built by public works engineers and
architects who were very much influenced by pre-war designs. Most of all,
the lush trees found in the sprawling park is enough to bring relaxation to
any weary visitor.

On April 25, 2003, the Manila Water formally unveiled the restored grandeur
of Balara Park. Although the park has not been made immediately opened to
the public, Manila Water executives promised to make the park available to
all as soon as the traffic rerouting plan inside the park is finalized. (By
Lawrence Chin, Manila Times)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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