As a child, what comes to my mind when asked about Malabon is the perennial flooding and the famous city landmark –Malabon Zoo. This private zoo within the city has been a favorite destination during grade school field trips.
The zoo is located along Gov. W. Pascual Street just behind the public schoolhouse, 30 yards away from the bustling commercial district in Monumento (Bonifacio Monument). From within its walls, one can hear the calls of raucous birds and animal cries resounding from deep within Barrio Potrero.
The idea of putting up a zoo in the heart of Malabon was inspired on how smog-filled and factory-ridden now industrial city was once a wilderness teeming with flora and fauna. Owner and visionary Manny Tongco realized that at the rate lands are being developed into commercial and residential areas, there would soon be no habitat left for animals except zoos.
While the mission of Malabon Zoo is to educate the Filipino children about wildlife so that they will be aware of its important role in their lives, thereby assuring the long-term security of the forest and the animals that live in it, Manny and his team of caretakers devote themselves educating the public, especially the young, on the importance of conserving wildlife.
At the well-maintained grounds of the Malabon Zoo, it is not unusual to see a caretaker taking a tiger cub for a leisure stroll or an orangutan in diapers cuddled by children. On a busy day, the bear cat perches on the shoulder on another caretaker. At times, the heavy python is carried around a caretaker’s neck or twines a small snake around his forearm.
While children and adults alike peered at the lions and tigers lazing in cages a mere two feet away and waited transfixed for the 12-foot Indian python to swallow its dinner of a whole chicken, placards and friendly signs near the animal cages speak of the beauty of nature and the need to preserve its balance.
Of course, there are regular monkeys and crocodiles, iguana, wild boars and birds of various plumage. Also from the dwindling herds from Palawan is a herd of Philippine deer.
From India are the Royal Bengal Tigers and Indian pythons, from Africa a lion and smart orangutan from Borneo. Within the depths of a six-foot-deep murky pond swim South American arapaima, the largest of all freshwater fishes.
Many of the animals at Malabon Zoo have now bred young ones in captivity.