When In Manila…’WALK THIS WAY!‘ Yes, walk your way to Carlos Celdran‘s world-famous tour of ‘Intramuros’ in Manila. Celdran gives guided tours of the old walled city of Manila, the Intramuros, and people throng to him, following him like he is the ‘Pied Piper’ of the Philippines !! He sings the National anthem of the Philippines with his hand on his heart (and boy, he’s a pretty good singer!). The tour begins….
All of us in the tour group of about thirty, marveled at his eloquence, sophistication, knowledge of history and that satiric-comic wit that laced every sentence. Is CARLOS CELDRAN just a tour guide ? He was pure entertainment from 3 Pm to 7 ! We walked when he walked, looked when he showed, stopped when he stopped, listened when he talked, ate when he gave. We were mesmerized, in short. And what was our man selling— a Filipino’s own version of his land’s history! Beauty!
Like the mythological Proteus, the sea-god who could change to any form, Carlos Celdran has the theatric ability to create a scene of Philippine history from pre-Hispanic 1500s to this date — just all by himself and his little sling bag, a microphone and a boom-box!
Even his attire is a statement on Pinoy culture. Carlos rolls the sleeves of his ‘Barong‘ : a shirt that’s a cross between a south-east asian shirt the Kurta (with its light embroidery and pastel hues) and a Western formal shirt (collars and cuffs and buttons). This Barong-clad Filipino pulls out of his bag one of his several hats and morphs into a five act play!
It seems that the walls of Intramuros are speaking through him– Fort Santiago, Rizal Shrine, River Pasig, Ateneo University, the skyline above the ruins left by the second world-war come alive with distant echoes from Manila’s heterogenous past.
Carlos is a social activist pushing for the Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines (a controversial topic in the Catholic Christian context of Philippine’s socio-political fabric), he’s also a performing artist and an entrepreneur. But it is in his tours that he comes across at his pithiest best. Everything else he does seems an off-shoot of his complete identification with his country.
When you meet Carlos Celdran at his tour, you feel that Manila belongs to him. There is an undeniable, uncanny familiarity between the moss-covered stone walls of Santiago and this boy as he hollers “SECULARRRRR!!! ” to remind the present day Philippines of its aspiration and identity. In fact, there is a lot of social responsibility attached to such actions. I am surprised at his perkiness, the nip in his every statement. And he is such a regular guy– not very tall or short, not very thin or fat, not very Spanish or Filipino! Unless you see him perform at his tour…you might pass him by.
Just as you might pass Manila…enjoying yet finding faults with it…without appreciating the quintessential saga of the Philippines and its capital city. Carlos could be held erroneous, biased, politically motivated…. And over the years we might see him a little sullied by his success and endorsements. But for now.. he is still Sterling.
An ardent lover of his country who breaks his own heart as he admits the downsides of being a Filipino, and breaks a foreigner’s heart when he points at the inequities met out to his beloved homeland by the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese and the Chinese. A romantic-pragmatist who sews those wounds by praising the incidental benefits of being influenced and espoused by the invaders.
When I stepped out of this charmed ‘regression’ session with my group of tourists from all over the world, we were all suddenly thrown into the present Circa 2011– cars on the streets, traffic on the way out of Intramuros. To jam-packed Manila roads, enormous billboards and faces that looked an admix of Asian-Caucasian, Chinese, Korean and Indian, American ;)
This variety that never made sense before Carlos— made sense now. That Filipinos are like ‘HALO-HALO‘ – a mix-mix Filipino dessert- of all the cultures that set foot on its shore. That’s right– on Carlos Celdran treats his guests to the local chocolates, and ends the WALK THIS WAY tour by serving the yummiest Halo-Halo in town to ALL !
His Tita passes around a menu of Pinoy restaurant nearby, which is a perfect way of ending the tour.
CELDRAN’s Other Tours:
The CORREGIDOR ISLAND Tour which included a ferry ride, music , food and other cool stuff
And LIVING LA VI DA IMELDA: Celebrating the famous/infamous controversial figure of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines with 800 pairs of shoes and enormous wealth and character besides!
For the latest information on the rates and the dates of Celdran Tours, contact his secretary, email him or visit his blog
Carlos is not a guide, he is a Pied Piper Activist at the forefront of a Pinoy Rennaisance happening right here, right now. So don’t miss Carlos Celdran’s city tours When in Manila.