Antarctica NatGeo Thrills for P300

Article excerpt

MANILA, Philippines -- In the late 1940s, the unpolluted skies were always blue and the distant mountain ranges of eastern Rizal Province were clearly visible from our barrio Pulanglupa. Our pre-school gang, with no travel experience beyond the towns bordering ours, thought those were the snow-clad peaks of America which we were familiar with only through Hollywood movies shown in the urine-smelling, non-airconditioned movie house in Paranaque.

We all dreamed of getting there and rolling in the snow, in the land of pretty painted women and handsome gallant men. A foreign land always meant snow, not vast sandy deserts or plains planted to greenery as far as the eye can see.

Only many decades later did I realize that my generation's enchantment with snow continues to live in the hearts of millions of Filipinos. Thousands of Metro Manilans paid hefty sums to spend minutes in a cavern-like warehouse outfitted to house a Chinese Winter Wonderland complete with palaces and pagodas carved out of solid ice. Everyone came out rosy-cheeked from the freezing temperature inside the exhibit, where each breath floated out of their mouths like dense winter fog.

Antarctica for P300 - An exhibit that opened Saturday at the Luneta, right behind the Quirino Grandstand, dwarfs all the past winter experience exhibits in the Philippines. The Manila Ocean Park's newest attraction - "Trails to Antarctica: The Penguin Quest"- brings all members of the family closer to the coldest and most desolate place on earth.

Entering the exhibit is like taking a journey to the frozen, windswept continent at the bottom of the world, a land of glittering ice, majestic peaks and dazzling beauty. Antarctica, the only continent with no indigenous population, is a haven for migratory birds, whales, seals and other marine animals.

There are four parts to the new attractions. "Trails to Antarctica" features a walk through exhibit where you can learn more about the frozen continent. The second is an ice slide for a once-in-a-lifetime ride for all ages. A typical snow village, perfect backdrop for souvenir photographs, illustrates the abodes and lifestyle of people in an entirely different climate zone. And the most exciting of all, an encounter with packs of Humboldt penguins.

All these for only P300 per person, discounted for senior citizens and free admission for children shorter than two feet. For customers' comfort, winter coats are provided free of charge.

Education, information - The "Discovering Antarctica" exhibit traces the early beginnings of Antarctica, its rich and diverse wildlife, breathtaking sceneries, its significance to scientific research and illustrates the continent's role in unlocking what lies ahead for humanity and the entire planet. …