Why are there no temples in Manila? If Spain ruled the Philippines for three centuries, how come no one speaks Spanish? Why is Manila so chaotic? And why do Filipinos love their malls?
If these are just some of the questions you’ve wondered about Manila, expect the Walk This Way Tour to shed some light and more.
Photos for WhenInManila.com by Mark Tating and Junko Flores
Say what you will about Carlos Celdran, but the guy knows his history. His specialty? Intramuros, of course, where the last 15 years of his tour-slash-performance art piece, “Walk This Way” has taken place, delighting audiences of all types: Fil-Ams visiting the homeland, hip backpackers, impressionable students, young, old, local, foreign, and everyone else in between.
Carlos is unafraid to be polarizing, as the internet today knows well. His brash insights on Philippine history has led some spectators of his tour to walk out, so it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. But once you stick around and take what he says with an open mind, you would be surprised to learn more about Manila: a vastly misunderstood city, its history and how it came to be, through insights that are surprisingly astute.
The tour begins at the heart of Fort Santiago, Intramuros’ sole military fortress. Carlos dons a top hat and waves a tiny Philippine flag, to comical effect. He yells, whispers, and puts on accents. The audience laughs. The guy is a performance artist through and through.
Walk This Way is a live show and Intramuros is his stage. There are a lot of theatrics, but make no mistake: while Carlos’ actions are exaggerated, the facts and figures aren’t. It’s a fine line he straddles between dramatics and historical accuracy, yet he does so with ease.
For a walking tour, it isn’t so much walking as it is leisurely strolling around and occasionally sitting down for Carlos’ narratives. There is no dull moment as he explains various periods in Philippine history: from the coming of the Spaniards and Catholicism’s subsequent influence on the country, to the American influence and eventually, the Battle of Manila.
If you’re a local, pay attention and answer correctly to be rewarded with some Choc-nut. For foreign tourists, no worries, as Carlos is pretty generous with the Choc-nut anyway.
Overall, the Walk This Way tour is a wonderful, hilarious, exhilarating, and refreshingly honest account of Philippine history. Foreigners get to walk away with profound insight and appreciation of Manila and the Philippines, while locals enrich their knowledge and get to reflect on our society. It’s a history lesson packed with a punch, and then some.