This is cheating a little bit because I didn’t actually plan on doing this. But The Tactless Child’s class was going on a field trip and each kid needed a chaperone. So I went. And since it’s something new (and my tita reminded me yesterday that a post was overdue, hi Tita C), I thought this could count as my week 25 thing.
We had to be at the Tactless Child’s school by 7:30 a.m. This was the big hurdle of the day – getting up early. I’d had just two hours of sleep the night before because I had to finish a cover story for a magazine; and waking up early is not The Tactless Child’s favorite thing to do. It took a couple of gentle nudges, a few threats, and a big tug at her feet before she crawled out of bed. It was a good thing we lived just 15 minutes from her school.
We were going to Manila Zoo, Pizza Hut, and Seri Fantasy World at the Manila Ocean Park. It was The Tactless Child’s first time on a bus and, apparently, it was a new experience for many of her classmates as well. Getting seated aboard the bus, they screamed each other’s names like long-lost friends, as if they weren’t together just five seconds before boarding. The Tactless Child got the window seat, as did every other kid on the bus. “Wow, look at that jeep! Wow, a bike! Wow, a car!” You’d have thought these kids were kept in cages at home.
I’d hoped for a short nap on the bus ride to the zoo but as soon as the bus rolled, a girl with chipped red nails and carrying a microphone stepped up to the aisle and introduced herself. She was going to be our guide, she said. (I didn’t realize we needed guiding.) She began her spiel by saying, “Hello.” Then after a few seconds, “Hi.” And then, “Hello.” It was going to be a loooong ride.
Anyway, thankfully, we arrived at the zoo before our guide finished talking about rules on the bus. We got off and immediately, it was as if a flock of little chattery birds surrounded us. It was actually The Tactless Child and her classmates, all talking and squealing at once. For the rest of the field trip, this would be our background song.
Right by the entrance was the elephant – all alone. It looked really sad (or as sad as elephants can look) and bored. It was hanging around outside its enclosure but when we walked up to it, it showed us its rear end then went back inside. We must have been too noisy. I don’t know how exactly to take care of elephants, but I’m pretty sure it was not how Manila Zoo was doing it – all alone (don’t elephants travel in a group?), surrounded by cement walls and floors, with no trees to tear down with their trunks. In fact, I generally don’t agree with zoos, keeping animals away from their natural habitat, stripping them of their dignity. But I knew I couldn’t think like that if I was going to enjoy the trip with The Tactless Child, so I sacked my hippie ideals temporarily and walked on.
Next up were the statue-like alligators. “They’re dead! They’re dead!” the kids screamed. Until we saw one devouring a baby goat. We could see all four feet and the head still sticking out of the alligator’s mouth. With one snap of the alligator’s powerful jaws, we heard the crack of bone and the goat was gone. Mother Nature at work.
There were zebras, a white horse, and three sheep who stood side by side, motionless, until we left. Their enclosure was sprawling, which was good. It was filled with grass, trees, a bahay kubo (for the sheep?) and a stable. The birds – a hornbill, a couple of owls, some other birds whose names I don’t remember – were in a cluster of dirty cages. The floors were wet, and the birds had a single perch to rest on.
The monkeys looked like they were the happiest animals in the zoo. They stayed in the pen where the lions used to be.(The lions were gone. Died, said one of the groundsmen when I asked, obviously before he could think of a more press-friendly way to say it. The giraffes were gone, too.) And despite the sign saying, “Do Not Feed the Animals”, there were bananas, crackers, chips, and all sorts of food obviously tossed in by non-reading visitors. Two monkeys started to mate as soon as we walked up to them. “Ano ginagawa nila, Mommy?” (“What are they doing?”) one of the girls asked. “Ah, wala. Naglalaro lang,” the mom stammered. (“Nothing. They’re just playing.”) Heehee, never heard it described that way before.
The big attraction for kids at the zoo was the Kinder Zoo, where the animals were supposed to roam freely and anyone could touch them. One petrified turtle got dropped on its shell, a baby alligator’s tail got stepped on, and they all ignored the animal I was most fascinated with: a black pig who was so fat that its belly was one centimeter from the ground when the pig was standing up.
As if to make up for the dismal state of the animals (and such a few animals there were), there was a zipline and wall-climbing area by the exit. Nice save.
At Pizza Hut, the girls made their own pizzas, which the parents gobbled up (because they weren’t cheese pizzas) in the bus. By the time we made it to Manila Ocean Park, the parents were almost done in, walking on pure will power. But the girls were still going strong. We were whisked through a room full of mirrors (which was pretty cool), a room full of trick art (which was even more cool. You just need a camera to see the effect), an indoor playground (which gave the parents some time to sink to the floor and rest their weary old legs), and a 3D theater (where we watched a Korean-produced short film about the flight of birds. Pretty cool, too).
It was a good field trip. Well-planned. And the girls had a fantastic time. I had fun, too. But my legs are happy it happens just once a year.