If you're interested in learning something new (and for your brain to function) and have the money to do so, why not try to take a tour with Carlos Celdran and look at Manila in a whole new light? As long as you're around Metro Manila, then you'll be able to go there fast.
I was blessed to be a part of Carlos' Intramuros walking tour on July 24 that lasted around three hours under the scorching heat of the Manila sun. Wait. What? Three freakin' hours under the sun? But it's hot in Manila! Okay! I get it. I know and understand that most people (balikbayans in particular) who don't (or do) live in Manila know how hot and humid the weather can be, that is why they dislike going there. But this shouldn't be a hindrance, right? I mean, I admit, when I was back there, I was literally sweating like a pig, coming from a cold country up in the North, even though I only spent two and a half years here. But I grew up in Metro Manila, I passed by the streets of Manila, I used to take the LRT in Manila, so I know how it feels like. But the weather wasn't like that before, and I think it's probably due to Global Warming that's affecting tropical countries particularly the Philippines, when this country has contributed like a teaspoon to the world's changing atmosphere (ehem).
But back to Carlos. You can find his site on the left of this page, where I put the links of some sites that I recommend. Or if you can't find it, here it is. This will lead you directly to his website, particularly the tour dates and rates for each. I was thinking of narrating everything that happened during the tour, but I don't have that good of a memory to think about it all over again. I may remember some, but not everything. I'm only human, you know. But I'm serious though. If you want to learn a new lesson in history, then his tours are for you. It would completely change the way you see Manila, and how this city became a witness (and victim) throughout the centuries. All you have to do is contact them to book a tour depending on your convenience, and they'll reply right away.
I'm not going to narrate everything, because it might lose your interest, and I would really appreciate it (okay, not me, but Carlos) if you would go. So my sister, Aunt and I took the Intramuros Regular Walking Tour from 9am till (almost) noon that started at Manila Cathedral and ended at Plaza San Luis. I'll see if I can describe it briefly.
The meeting place is at Manila Cathedral, and you get to walk around the cathedral and have a little history lesson.
After that, a kalesa (or horse carriage, Manila version) will take you around the walls of Intramuros for a short drive, and drop you off at San Agustin church.
From there, you get a dose of real history that aren't written in the Philippine history books. You are also given the time to explore the church for a bit, and it is worth going there, because this is the only remaining cathedral out of the seven that survived World War II. I'll digress for a moment. I remember when I was in grade school and we had our class field trip at this church, and I was so scared to walk around it because it gives off that eerie vibe. And for the second time that I went here, it still gave off that feeling of goosebumps, but in a good way, because this place does have a cemetery, for the people who died and were buried during the second World War, so that reason is fair enough to consider. That, and my classmate was just pulling my leg, because we were kids, and I was gullible. But back to the tour. For break, we were given Chocnuts (which I really miss) to munch on while we continue the exploration.
You also get to go inside the church to witness the 'illusion' that Carlos always says throughout the tour.
After the long walk and history lesson in San Agustin, we were taken to Plaza San Luis, just across the church for a free halo-halo (which was really good, by the way), and some parting messages and acknowledgements. In the Plaza is a little souvenir store where I think most Filipinos would like, because the products and merchandise are crafted and designed with logos that would suit their taste and promote nationalism. And a restaurant which is just around Intramuras named La Cocina De Tita Moning (Aunt Moning's kitchen) where you can have a hearty lunch after filling your brains with the information.
All in all, the tour was pretty good, and it was worth my P900 (US$ 19.97 or CD$20.97, based on today's conversion rates on this site) to spend on. Did I learn a lot? Yes, and if I ever go to Manila again, I would take all his tours, or do the Intramuros one all over again as a refresher. Because I'm pretty sure it would take me years for another homecoming.
Was Carlos effective and enjoyable as a guide? He sure is, and I'm not saying this because he gave us free Chocnuts, halo-halo and free kalesa ride, because this might change in the future, depending on the audience's demands. It's in him to be one, and you can see how patriotic he is to his own country. How he wants his fellowmen's opinions to change on how they see Manila. You can't loudly complain about the heat, because you can't help but smile when you see him tugging up his modern Barong Tagalog or long-sleeved polo at times and feel ashamed to yourself when he's the one doing all the talking, and you, as the viewer, can use a pamaypay or abaniko (fan) or chug down a bottle of cold water. And he's very funny, making sure that you don't get bored or depressed when you hear some of his stories that happened in the past. The most that I like about him is his subtlety on the flaws of the Philippine culture and values that we have adopted even to this day. He must've been reading Anti-Pinoy a lot. Hehe. I kid. Who knows what the man thinks. All I'm sure is that he notices these flaws, and he's not afraid to tell the Filipinos what they are and include them in his talks, because he wants the audience to think differently and out of the box. Which is pretty much the main point of his tour- to change the way you look at Manila, one step at a time.
So what the heck are you doing reading this blog? Book your tickets to the Philippines (or text the number if you live around Manila), and include this in one of your visits. You have 7,107 islands to choose from, and The City of Manila in Luzon is one of them. And oh, don't forget to bring a camera with you. And a hat. Or a towel. And your money, of course. And an open mind to absorb all the information he'll give you.