Having more roads and buildings is often noted as a major sign of urban development. While there’s some truth to this, these shouldn’t be the sole focus of improving cities. River esplanades in the Philippines are a reminder that there are other beneficial infrastructures to put up.
Definition of River Esplanade
You may be wondering what a river esplanade is and how it’s benefiting people. An esplanade is an extensive and even open space right next to a body of water. It’s mainly intended for walking. In essence, it’s a lateral promenade that’s on riverbanks, lakesides, and coastlines. Originally though, these were right outside fortress or city walls.
Roads and bridges near bodies of water may also have sidewalks that the pedestrians may use for strolling or crossing. Unlike promenades though, these footpaths aren’t designed for one to slow down or pause. As they’re narrow, there isn’t much space for extra artistic designs.
On esplanades, pedestrians and motorists can stop by. It’s one of the few places in urban areas where no one is expected to keep on moving, rushing, or spending much money. Despite having crowds every once in a while, these remain among the peaceful public areas in cities.
Significance of Esplanades in the Old Times
These waterfront promenades aren’t modern inventions. Their old versions were constructed centuries ago.
In Victorian times, esplanades were valuable among the elite. After all, these were where they strutted to be seen. They flaunted their stylish outfits or went around with their popular acquaintances. Spending time in such a place was considered a status symbol.
Over time, people from all walks of life flock to these promenades. Going there is also more of a form of relaxation, not as a means to enhance one’s reputation.
For centuries though, these paved walkways have been serving as safe routes for people passing by bodies of water. Because they’re leveled and covered with concrete, they remain firm when you step on them despite the waves that may be reaching the shores or riverbanks. Another importance of esplanades, both in the old and modern times, is that they help prevent water from reaching the main roads.
Features of Esplanades
Like a typical park in the middle of a city or town, an esplanade has paved walkways. It’s not surrounded by a fence though. Instead, railings are often placed on its side that faces the water. There’s also a barrier between it and the major road on the other side.
It may feature greenery as well. It could be a strip of grassy land or a series of palm trees. Some waterfront promenades have plant boxes filled with native ornamentals. Others have gardens that incorporate colorful blooms and foliage.
The most notable though is the cultivation or preservation of mangroves in the area. These mangroves can weaken tidal waves before they can even reach riverbanks or coastlines.
While meant for strolling, an esplanade may have benches, too. Some of these are even accompanied by sheds. However, it’s normal to see some people simply sitting on the grasses, curbs, stairs, or the concrete barrier at the edge of the park.
Streetlights are also there for evening strolls and events. Speakers are added in some lampposts. Some speakers are blended into the landscape. For additional safety, a few police officers or watchmen survey the place at night.
Some esplanades have simple designs though. They may only have paved walkways, railings, and streetlights. Instead of mangroves, seawall separates the pavement and the body of water next to it.
On the other side of these parks could be major roads and buildings. These contrast the peacefulness that the sea and sky radiate.
Whether they’re elaborate or minimalist, locals and tourists alike frequent these waterfront parks. The Doha Corniche, Tel Aviv Promenade, and Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade are among the popular examples. In Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Singapore have prominent promenades in Penang and downtown Singapore respectively.
Filipinos don’t have to go overseas to find one though. There are river esplanades in the Philippines, too. They’re also picturesque like the ones you can visit abroad.
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River Esplanades in the Philippines
As an archipelago, the country has many bodies of water. This means there are many places where esplanades could be built. These are indeed constructed in some cities.
There’s no doubt that the Baywalk is the most well-known of them all. Over the years, the two-kilometer promenade earned a reputation for being a site for viewing sunsets and for jogging. Hanging out next to Manila Bay won’t be complete without dining in one of the nearby restaurants. Or you can simply buy a snack from street vendors.
2. Dipolog Sunset Boulevard
Dipolog Sunset Boulevard is another example. Facing the Miputak River in Zamboanga Del Norte, this esplanade boasts minimal visual distractions so visitors can enjoy the sight of the setting or rising sun. It has two major landmarks: the Punta Corro (a Christian cross erected in 1905) and the Explore Dipolog signage. When on this boulevard, you can also head to the nearby watchtower.
3. Paseo del Mar
Also in the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Paseo del Mar delights visitors with its seascape spectacle. It forms part of the so-called Fort Pilar, formerly known as Zamboanga Fortress. After being a military defense fortress, it’s not operating as a museum.
4. Iloilo River Esplanade
Colors, lines, shapes, and patterns abound in the Iloilo River Esplanade. Elaborate gardens can be found in the said waterfront promenade. You can expect palm trees in the area. But what sets it apart is the inclusion of fire trees and plenty of ornamental plants. While it also follows a river, it’s not totally a straight line in form. As the longest park in the country, visiting this often forms part of an Iloilo trip itinerary.
5. The Iligan City Mandulog River Esplanade
The Iligan City Mandulog River Esplanade is among the newest on this list. While quite new, it’s one of the first waterfront parks in Mindanao. Aside from being opened last July 2021, it’s noteworthy for its red cement bricks. It also has glass shades that cover benches and plant boxes. Visitors and motorists can stop under these when the rain or the sun’s heat becomes unbearable.
Because of their popularity among locals and travelers alike, there are plans to expand some of these river esplanades in the Philippines. Some of them are made up of several promenades. Iloilo Esplanade, for example, is actually a total of 10 esplanades.
Development of Esplanades in the Philippines
Roads, schools, and health centers are among the infrastructures that local governments often prioritize. However, political will prompts some local officials to go the extra mile by providing public areas for recreational activities.
The Iloilo River and Mandulog River esplanades are examples of what LGUs in the Philippines can do if they want to ensure a more livable city. In this kind of city, residents have the option to walk and bike, not just drive or ride. In a way, this lessens the carbon footprints of visitors.
Uses of River Esplanades
Esplanades benefit Filipinos in direct and indirect ways. Locals and tourists can treat these as areas for recreational activities. These could be as simple as walking, jogging, or biking. With the inclusion of skating rinks in some of these parks, visitors have a new form of having fun in the said places.
You can go solo and read a book. Another option is to chill with your significant other, friends, or family. Walking your dog is a popular activity here as well.
Couples and families can have picnics on esplanades. You can bring your own food or buy it from the shops nearby.
Dance groups can practice here. It’s also a site for fitness buffs to do their workouts or Zumba dance sessions. Some musicians carry out busking in these public places.
Visitors take photos and videos of themselves and/or the seascape while on these promenades. Expect teens and teens-at-heart to record themselves grooving, with the river as their background. Amateur photographers and videographers practice their craft here, too. Professionals also come here to do their photoshoots for couples, celebrants, and pageant candidates among others.
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If you want, you can hang out here and watch. You can enjoy street performances if there are. No one will also judge you if you will simply watch from your phone.
These serve as venues for various events as well. Small outdoor concerts could be done here. Some even organize fairs and contests here. Parades and rallies for different causes may start or end in these parks, too. Promenades could also be a silent witness to wedding proposals.
Before the covid-19 pandemic, Filipinos and foreigners flock to the Baywalk and watch fireworks display during New Year’s Eve and the then-annual pyro-musical competition. Meanwhile, in Mindanao, Dipolog Sunset Boulevard is the venue for the P'gsalabuk Festival. The said event is celebrated every year, starting from the third week of April to the fourth Saturday of May.
These could be used as a meeting point among friends or the destination themselves. As promenades, these could also be walkways from one tourist spot to another.
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In the Baywalk, for example, visitors can head to the SM Mall of Asia and ride the MOA Eye before or after some sightseeing. If you’re in Zamboanga City, you can roam around the well-manicured gardens of Fort Pilar. Aside from that, you may also pray in front of the Our Lady of the Pillar shrine, admire the Sanctuary’s bells, and chill along the Paseo del Mar promenade.
With a nearby museum, a trip to the aforementioned esplanade can also turn out to be educational. In Iloilo Esplanade, the presence of mangroves could inspire others to plant more of them along the shores.
Several monuments and memorials may also be found in promenades. Overseas, like in Singapore’s Esplanade Park, visitors can head to the Tan Kim Seng Fountain and the Former Indian National Army Monument. As for the Esplanade in Malaysia, travelers can find the Penang War Memorial.
Esplanades’ Impact on Industries
For LGUs, these esplanades are a huge boost to their tourism industry. To provide convenience and generate taxes, they allot areas for restaurants, souvenir shops, and other establishments.
In the shops near river esplanades in the Philippines, locals can promote their popular dishes and hand-made crafts. These mean work opportunities, too. These alone affect various industries in the area.
Photo from Iloilo City Government’s Facebook Page
What is a river esplanade to the real estate industry? Since the 1800s, such destination has been playing a role in making adjacent properties more marketable. In France, the Promenade de la Croisette and the Promenade des Anglais have been boosting the value of properties in nearby areas in Cannes and Nice respectively. The same thing has been happening to those near Lungomare in Trieste, Italy.
After all, an esplanade makes a town or city seem a more livable place. Imagine you don’t have to get out of the urban jungle to get a view of the sea. (In Iligan City Mandulog River Esplanade, you can even look at the mountains beyond the river.) As a result, more investors and professionals are likely to transfer to the area.
This leads to an increase in demand for real estate properties therein. Due to high demand, prices of houses and lots are bound to rise. Such happened with the nearby properties after the construction of the Iloilo River Esplanade.
As an owner, you have the option to sell your property and expect a great return. You may also open it up for short-term or long-term leases. If your property is near parks and other tourist spots, you may choose transients or set up a store. Long-term tenants are better if your home is within a short distance of a business district.
Lessandra understands how priceless a great community is. As such, we provide housing options that are within peaceful and safe neighborhoods. These come with exclusive access to amenities, too.
Additionally, these are in or near thriving towns and cities. If you want to experience the upsides of living in a city with an esplanade as one of its features, check out Lessandra Grove. Aside from being located within the master-planned development of Vista land, it is also only a short drive away from Iloilo city. Finding your dream property is easy with Lessandra Groves quality, maaliwalas, and affordable house and lot offerings.
Lessandra Blog is a compilation of lifestyle, community, and home-related articles. For real estate investment and tips on how to buy house and lots in the Philippines, visit Lessandra’s Lifestyle and Home Investments section. To know more about quality and affordable house and lots in the Philippines, give the property listing section a visit. Live in best, live in Lessandra.