Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Balara Children's Park: Accidents Waiting to Happen

(I have written this post after an encounter with a Children's Park from Hell.  The Balara Children's Park is a nightmare and when I mistakenly brought my kid there, I found dozens of children playing in the park -- unmindful of the many hazards that could maim or kill them.  The thing is, I could just decide not to take my kid to this park again and that would be that.  But I think walking away without letting others know about the dangers this park pose to children would be irresponsible. I am still trying to find out who manages this park and if I do find out, I'll definitely lodge a complaint against them to compel them to fix it up. Metro Manila should have better parks and in fact, it should have more parks than malls. )

I am a father of a very energetic four year old and our weekend thing is to go to one park or another within Metro Manila so that he can run around as much as he wants.

The thing is, I could really just fork over P 250.00 for two or three hours of play in those giant, padded hamster cages you see in malls, but I think parks are much more healthier for kids.  The fresh air, trees, contact with grass and earth seems healthier than being caged up inside a climate controlled mall where you are essentially breathing everybody else's air.

Padded hamster cages look safer and they are, but sometimes I suspect that the guys who run them don't really clean all the surfaces properly.  All it really takes is for one kid with a cold to run around the jungle gym and you can count on bringing home a kid with the sniffles.  And let me tell you, it's not fun being up all night because your kid can't sleep with a stuffy nose or worse.  (The biggest scare I had was when I heard my kid wheezing after his cold caused some congestion in his lungs, a sure sign of an oncoming bout with pneumonia -- I was told.)

Anyway, when I scout around for parks to bring my kid to on weekends, i usually look at a couple of things.
  1. There should be a fence around the park and just one entrance/exit point. My biggest fear whenever I bring my kid to a park is (1) he may stray off somewhere when I am not looking and (2) a stranger may just lead him by the hand out of the park.  
  2. The play area should have smooth, level ground.  No holes, no stray rocks or stones, no steep banks or inclines.  There should be nothing sticking out of the ground that could cause a visit to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
  3. The equipment in the play area should be well maintained.  The slides, see-saws, and what-have-you should be well maintained (meaning it shouldn't be on the verge of collapsing, there should be no moving joint that where limbs or fingers can get caught, no sharp corners, etcetera)
  4. There should be a comfort room nearby and at least a food kiosk.
These are four basic things and I am sure there are more things a cautious parent can add to the checklist, like perhaps a security guard or park attendant, a clinic, or whatever else.

So far, the best park I've taken my kid to (and this is why we visit it regularly) is the Marikina Sports Plaza.

It has a padded track, clean rest rooms, a small area where you can get some food and water, a corner where there are massage therapists, and yes, a small play area for kids.

Although the park is huge, there aren't a lot of hidden corners around the track area and I can let my kid run around without any fear of losing sight of him.  There are one or two areas with potential hazards, but it's easy enough to keep my kid from these areas.

One great thing about the park is the huge soccer field which has been fenced off.  When there aren't people playing soccer, this is where I let my kid run around without fear of runners or cyclists bumping into him. (By the way, unlike in Amoranto or the UP Diliman Circumferential Road, the Marikina Sports Plaza doesn't allow cyclists to mix with runners.  This actually makes it safer for everyone.)

While the Marikina Sports Plaza is great, there are times when it gets kind of old and that's when we look for other parks to romp around in.

A few months ago, I got called for a job interview at Manila Water's head quarters in Balara, Diliman, Quezon City.

Location map of Balara Children's Park

I arrived quite early for the job interview and so I decided to drive around the huge water filtration complex. After making my way down through a winding road, I spotted a small children's park near what used to be a water tower.  There was a sign that said, "Wind Mill Park" and off in one area was a concrete replica of a windmill, which I found a bit kitschy but not really all that bad.

Having just caught a glimpse of the park from the roadside as I drove by, I wasn't able to really inspect the park for the four things on my list of must haves.

Anyway, it was about two months later when I decided to bring my kid to the park and it was about two or three minutes too late when I discovered the horrible, horrible state it was in.  But it was just too late to yank my kid out of the park and so I had to let him romp around a bit lest I provoke him into a tantrum.

The Wind Mill Park and the Children's Park are actually two small parks separated by a chain link fence.

The Wind Mill Park has one entrance and one exit, so, it seemed like a good place to let my kid run around in.  However, there were a few things that I didn't like.

The picture below is actually of fountain in the middle of the park, but it seems the fountain's pump is either broken or non-existent, so the space where the water should be is empty.

Now the thing is, when it rains, the fountain's basin doesn't drain completely and ends up collecting water -- which in a few hours after the rain starts becoming stagnant -- a breeding place for dengue fever carrying mosquitoes.

The adjoining Children's Park isn't a whole lot better and in fact, is much worse.  If only our judicial system were up to smack, we could probably expect several lawsuits to have been filed against either MWSS, Manila Water, Maynilad or even the Quezon City Government for not maintaining the park because it is strewn with so many child hazards.

I'd like to bring your attention to "Exhibit A", a slide that is now one giant potato slicer/dicer.  The slide hasn't been cordoned off so that kids can't climb up it and slide down.  And even if it were, a kid could still trip over the bottom of the slide and get badly cut by the rusty, sharp edges of the slide.

Then I notice most of the see-saws not only had missing handles, but the post where the handle should be has been left jutting out -- just waiting to poke a kid in the chest.

There were a few other hazards in the park which I wasn't able to take picture of because I had to keep a close watch on my kid.  But let me just point them out.

1. There is an unlocked gate just near a play area which leads directly into the street where cars go whizzing by.

2. There are numerous ledges around the park that aren't fenced off, where kids could just tip over or fall off.

3. Lots of places where there are puddles of stagnant water.

4. No restroom.

5. No park attendant or security guard.


Dp_nuguid said...

If your child gets injured, they'll blame you. And if you try to point out how it's their responsibility to keep the park safe, they'll say they don't have the budget. It's a lose-lose situation. You're better off bringing your child to places where you have to pay. At least they can't give the excuse of not being able to afford to maintain the place. 

Paul Farol said...

Dp, yes I can just bring my kid to a park that is safe.  But you see, the reason why this country is messed up is because there aren't enough people who actually do something to correct the bad things they encounter.  I am going to try and do my part with this park, I just have to get through a couple of projects first.

Newtangna said...

Well... you might be interested to know that Manila Water, your prospective employer, is the organization responsible to maintain the Balara Park...  

Beckmaglente said...

i agree with Paul.. what about those people who can't afford to pay for their family bonding weekend?of course their only destination would be the park, for it is free..i guess the government should do at least their part to construct whatever the dangers the park might cause,make safety precautions or whatever. They have to always consider the safeness of the place especially for it is a public place.

Val Escobarte said...

nd park yan  spark n yan sa hazard para sa mga bata kawawa naman cla kung nd aayusin yung munti nilang paraiso....

Blue said...

There should be maintenance fund for the parks too. Most likely they are maintained by the local government from where the park is located. The people have the right to complain about it for after all, we are paying the maintenance men out of our tax.

Paul Farol said...

It's probably a good thing that I didn't accept their job offer.

Ricoberting said...

what hapeen to the balara childrens park i can not see  hire

ram antonio said...

My suggestion to that, instead of sharing aloud that this issue needs to be brought up..why not create a simple group/organization that will fund and fully utilize this park, in the first place its not just your son who'll benefit in this park..there are also some people who will definitely support you in your agenda..I am sorry, I don't have against to you or to anyone else's opinion and way of venting socio issues, I'm just trying to say that there are a lot of things that the government need to prioritize first, instead of rebuilding this park, governing must think first how to end poverty or atleast provide a 1:50 classroom ratio so that everyone will be able to learn in the most convenient way; provide shelter to THOSE CHILDREN WHO CAN'T EVEN AFFORD TO PLAY IN THE PARK BECAUSE THEY NEED TO WORK IN THEIR VERY YOUNG AGE SO THEY'LL EAT FOR THE DAY...this are the most crucial dreaded thing needs to be addressed first. Try to DO WHAT YOU CAN DO TO YOUR COUNTRY NOT ASK WHAT DO THEY NEED TO DO..

God bless our country, God Bless Us all!

Paul Farol said...


Thank you for taking the time to write a comment on this blog.I agree that perhaps the people who frequent the park should take the first steps to have the park's equipment.

The Balara park, I am told, is under the management of Manila Water and I have already e-mailed a friend about it.

So far, no action has been undertaken.

Action by the Manila Water Company shouldn't cost the government anything at all and more over, if the government should be involved, it would be the local government -- in this case the Quezon City Government.

I believe in priorities too. 

I agree that the 1 to 50 student to teacher/classroom ratio in our public schools should be remedied.  But it doesn't mean that other problems cannot be brought to light and acted upon.We have a government that has 1.5 million employees and a 1.3 Trillion Peso budget.  Do you mean it cannot spare any resources because it is too busy building schools?

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