A few days ago, Cheska and Grace watched Carlos P. Celdran’s last performance of the disco-themed “Living La Lida Imelda” at the Silverlens Gallery where, after the show, Cheska met up with the man himself. Mr. Celdran must have made an impression on her, so much so that she wanted, this time, to see his “Walk This Way” tour of the walled city of Intramuros.
|Carlos Celdran: “The Pied Piper of Manila”|
In 2002, Carlos Celdran founded “Walk This Way,” a one-man, multi-venue costumed performance that leads patrons through the walled city of Manila, with Celdran, the producer and director, also alternately acting and narrating along the way. To explain Philippine history (from the Spanish and American eras up to the Japanese Occupation)in an interesting way, Carlos infused this fascinating performance with a fine-tuned script and theatrical elements as well as comedy, costumes and music, placing special emphasis on issues surrounding Philippine arts, culture, and international geopolitics in order to place Philippine history within a global context. This tour received a thumbs-up feature in a 2005 issue of Time magazine.
|Our tour begins …….|
It just so happened that Mr. Celdran, seemingly in a good mood, offered his half-day, weekend Intramuros Barter Tours wherein we just paid a discounted rate of PhP400 (which covers the cost of museum admission, kalesa or pedicab ride, snacks, etc) instead of the normal PhP1,100 (Php600 for students) per person. However, we also had to trade in something creative and from the heart. In my case, I traded in a new, autographed copy of my fifth book, “A Tourist Guide to NotablePhilippine Museums” (New Day Publishers, 2012).
|The gate of Fort Santiago|
|The inner walls of the fort|
Jandy joined us and Cheska brought along Kyle, my grandson, who needed to be breastfed every now and then. We arrived at Fort Santiago, the assembly area, at a few minutes past the 4 PM scheduled start of the tour, having been delayed by traffic due to road repairs along the way. Mr. Celdran arrived even later, also caught up in our same predicament. The weather was rather perfect, not too hot and the sky was clear.
|An infusion of comedy|
|Talking about our National Hero beside the Rizal Shrine|
Carlos then took us back in history with his witty remarks and theatrical storytelling. There was never a dull moment as our legendary tour guide gave us a brief yet comprehensive account, from a totally different point of view, of the beginnings of Manila and the dynamic development of Intramuros. Why don’t we have those amazing wonders from our neighboring Asian countries (Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobodur Temple in Indonesia, or Ayutthayain Thailand)? Well, according to Carlos, we simply didn’t have the raw materials – all we had was highly-flammable bamboo and indigenous volcanic rock and ash. Every now and then, Carlos was shelling out the very iconic, uniquely Filipino ChocNut bars (a childhood favorite of mine) for everybody to sample.
|Carlos talks about the bombing of Manila|
He also gave us a review of the Spanish and American colonization of the Philippines with emphasis on how the Spanish and Americans influenced us – how theocracy ruled our land (he narrated an instance when Dominican friars instigated the murder of Spanish governor-general Fernando Bustamante in 1719), how we were influenced by Hollywood, when our obsession to being white started, that National Hero Jose P. Rizal was an entity chosen by the Americans, etc..We also learned how Spain sold us to the Americans for US$20 million. We next visited the Rizal Shrine(a barracks-turned-museum we previously visited in the past) as well as the inner walled portion of Fort Santiago.
Inside a tunnel turned airconditioned audio-visual room, Carlos gave us a compelling and unforgettable description of a bombed-out Manila at the end of World War II. Did you know that it wasn’t the Japanese who destroyed the heart of Manila? It was the Americans who bombed, under orders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur himself, Intramuros into rubble, killing Japanese soldiers as well as 100,000 Filipino civilians who were treated as collateral damage. After Warsaw (Poland), Manila was the second most devastated city in the world during World War II.
|Kyle’s first kalesa ride|
From Fort Santiago, Carlos asked us to choose, as mode of transportation to Intramuros, between pedicabs or the kalesa (a Filipino version of a horse-drawn carriage), paid beforehand by Carlos for us to ride (providing these operators with additional income). We chose the more interesting latter, a first time experience for Kyle and a second for the rest of us. With these modes of transport, we passed by the ruins of the former St. Ignatius Church and the former Ateneo de Manila before reaching our destination – San AgustinChurch (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). There was wedding in progress when we arrived.
|San Agustin Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Enjoying our halo-halo as Carlos continues his talk|
|Presenting Carlos with an autographed copy of my book|
We all then crossed over to Casa Manila where, to the delight of the crowd, Carlos capped the tour off with glasses of refreshing halo-halo (translated as “mix-mix”), another traditionally Filipino dessert made with shaved ice, evaporated milk, assorted fruits, gulaman, and sweet, red mungo beans. While we were enjoying this, he incorporated this final sweet treat in his talk, telling us that Filipinos and their culture has become a conglomeration of various cultural (Spanish, American, Chinese, Malay, Indian, etc.) influences. Remove these influences and we just might not be the culture-filled and multilingual people, with such colorful backgrounds, that we are today. Mr. Celdran ended the 3-hour walking tour with photo ops with guests.
|Photo-ops with Mr. Celdran