THE City of Parañaque turns twenty today. And it marks its milestone, basking in the glow of an urban renewal that now positions it as a premiere city of Metro Manila.
City Mayor admits that long ago, Parañaque was a place more popular for send-offs – for international travelers, on Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 1; and for the dearly departed, at its famed memorial park. The city, he says, was referred to as a “bedroom community,” a residential enclave.
Today though, the gateway to and from the Philippines has been reinvented as a destination in itself —a business, tourism and entertainment capital that locals and travelers alike can now stay at, for a variety of reasons.
According to Mayor Edwin Olivarez, the multi-faceted urban renewal of Parañaque City is manifest in the following areas:
• Sucat Road, now a notable address, with businesses, malls, schools and restaurants lining it;
• Aguirre Avenue, the much-visited proponent of specialty restaurants, featuring an eclectic mix of European, Asian, and Filipino cuisine;
• The South Luzon Expressway Service Road, now dotted with well-appointed housing hubs, located alongside large multinational and Filipino firms;
• The Manila Bay reclamation area, with the Macapagal and Bradco Avenues, and Entertainment City—emergent and expansive cross-sections of business, entertainment, retail and residential developments, currently dominated by SM’s Mall of Asia, Conrad Hotel; casinos City of Dreams, Okada, and Solaire (to be joined soon by Resorts World and another Ayala mall); and a scatter of office buildings.
The mayor also spoke of upcoming projects including the Southwest Integrated Terminal for buses, the extension of the light rail transit (LRT) line from Baclaran to Cavite, plus new office buildings planned at the old Casino Filipino complex property by NAIA Terminal 1.
The rise of Parañaque comes as Metro Manila contends with congestion at its traditional central business districts. The city’s new hubs offer much-needed alternatives to businesses, workers, customers, and residents alike—who wish to escape the traffic, without necessarily heading much further south.
The benefits are now apparent: jobs and revenues have surged for the people and city.
The emergence of Parañaque as a premier city is the result of careful planning—a must for the mayor, who also views growth from the a diverse, multi-faceted perspective of real estate broker, businessman, and champion athlete, stints he all went through before entering the realm of public service. He also benefits from having a front-row view to Parañaque’s governance, with his father having served as Mayor as well.
Yet even as it celebrates two decades of cityhood and basks in its new prominence, Parañaque does well not to lose sight of its proud and storied heritage, which goes back to over four centuries as a municipality.
It celebrates its soul in its food, music (the city is proud of its place as hotbed for Pinoy hip-hop)—and in faith.
Parañaque has long been associated with religion, even when it was still a young municipality. Its famous cathedral, St. Andrew, was established in 1580 by the Augustinian missionaries. The city is likewise home to the gatherings of the popular El Shaddai Catholic movement. And every Wednesday, over 500,000 devotees flock to the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, popularly known as Baclaran Church, to attend Mass and Novena prayers.
A devout Catholic and regular Mass-goer at Baclaran, Mayor Olivarez is tapping into this afinity as well, to promote faith-related tourism and pilgrimages in his city’s churches—which, already regularly attract visitors from here and abroad.
Parañaque’s 20th anniversary is indeed a coming-out party for the Philippines’ emergent premier city. It basks in the recognition and the revelry, ready and raring to welcome present and future opportunities—even as remains anchored on its soul, celebrated and shaped by its people and their history.
Happy Anniversary, Parañaque!
PHOTOS BY RUSSELL PALMA