April 30, 2010. Office. 11:00 am. I’m staring my computer monitor worriedly. Why? Three agonizing reasons. (1) I haven’t got my paycheck yet and I’ve been following it up for the nth time. Also the worse thing, it was a pay-day Friday. Meaning, I have to fall in a long line for my turn to encash my check. And that line can go as long as the Great Wall of China. (2) At 11:30, I have a lunch date with my girlfriend. And boy, If you said 11:30 to her, you must be there at exactly 11:30. No more, no less. And if you don’t, you know what I’m talking about. Hell brakes loose. (3) I have to meet up my photographer-friends Oggie Ramos and Ferdz Decena at KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) branch in Buendia for our Intramuros Tour of Carlos Celdran at 1:30 pm. Of all the reasons, this was I’m more anxious about.
Back-up plan? Ditch the act of encashing my paycheck until Tuesday and proceed to my lunch date then off I go to meet up the guys for the Intramuros Tour. Luckily in the nick of time, our advertising traffic assistant Wally, as he approach his work station, announced that our paychecks are already available. In a span of less than two hours, I was able to have a hearty lunch and have encashed my check. Thanks to Margie, our editorial assistant, who was next in line to the bank’s teller by the time I got in to the bank. In short, I’ve take advantage of the young girl and used my senior position to escape the long line. In a few minutes, I’m a millionaire!
I arrived at KFC, Buendia before 1:30 pm. As I enter I saw Oggie, sitting by the glass –wall panel, waiving at me from the inside. He was profusely sweating while enjoying his lunch as I came in and sat beside him. As always, Oggie is the early bird of the flock. Oggie, together with Ferdz, have invited me to come along to this tour two weeks ago. We were all first-timers of Carlos’ tour. According to him, the tour was been organized by Team Manila in line with the launch of their latest lifestyle clothing line Pambansang T-Shirt (National T-Shirt) — Filipino culture inspired shirts. I have asked Oggie what are we expecting from this tour. Details of the tour were kept undisclosed until the actual tour commence, according to him. Interesting, I said to myself. I guess this is not just a regular tour Carlos has been offering. And it was a great timing indeed since this would be a memorable experience down memory lane of the celebrated Intramuros tour — an opportunity not to pass up. And it’s a shame on me if I’m going to back out last minute.
At quarter to 2 pm, Oggie and I was wondering why Ferdz hasn’t shown up. We supposed to live at 1:30. To shed light on the matter, Oggie phoned Ferdz. As per conversation, Ferdz won’t be able to meet us. He told us to go ahead and he will just meet us up somewhere in Intramuros. And so we did. We got out fast from that hell-hole KFC branch and hailed a taxi to Intramuros. But a few minutes later, as our taxi approach the LRT station (a metropolitan rail system) in Buendia, rain drops begin to fall. And this is not a good sign.
Oggie and I arrived in Intramuros before 2:30pm. The good thing the rain didn’t poured as we dreadfully expecting it. We decided to cool off at a nearby Chowking, a local Chinese fast food chain, as we wait for Ferdz’ arrival. While waiting, Oggie ordered a Halo-halo (a traditional summer cooler consist of shaved ice and milk with various fruit concoction). Oggie has a huge appetite just so you know. And as for myself, I just enjoyed my bottled water. Then a few minutes later, Ferdz arrived.
Tour (Beer, anyone?)
3:30 pm. Team Manila started giving out loot bags with a Pambansang T-Shirt inside and an umbrella to each participants. Then Carlos Celdran, in his signature Barong and short, rounded us up in front of the Statue of King Carlos IV of Spain in Plaza de Roma across the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception or much known as the Manila Cathedral. But before the tour starts, Carlos, aside from the bottled water that you can buy from his vendor-friend Rudy, also offered beer in can for sale, also from Rudy. “Besides, it’s Friday after all. What else could you do after the tour?” as he exclaimed and the tour-goers chuckles back as a sign of affirmation. At quarter to 4 pm, Carlos open up the tour proper by performing the Philippine’s national anthem.
The tour was consists of mainly Filipinos — mostly teenagers hungry for historical facts that can’t be found in any textbooks locally produced. And the pure-blood Indios Bravos like me who wants to retrace its roots starting off through the walls of Intramuros. There are also some interracial couples. And foreigners who wants to understand why the phrase “everyday is a holiday” in the Philippines. And of course, the infamous Korean gate-crashers that Carlos have asked if they were invited by the Team Manila. “Yes.” said one of the male Korean. Why would I know that these Koreans are not invited? This partnership event by Team Manila with Carlos Celdran was been offered to the pre-selected travel bloggers, press media and to the friends of friends of the organizers. And the guests are allowed to bring one companion and that was the reason I was there. So I was able to distinguished these certified gate-crashers. Boy, they’re really everywhere.
The first landmark on Carlos’ “Walk This Way” tour is the Manila Cathedral — the first cathedral made of nipa and bamboo and was constructed in 1581. The cathedral had suffered from natural calamities predominantly to earthquakes. Aside from natural occurrence, the cathedral was deeply battered in 1945 during the Battle of Manila.
As we go on, Carlos also toured us from the first Ateneo de Manila edifice, where Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ National Hero, enrolled for his secondary studies in 1872, and went on to graduate in 1877 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. The Edifice was been destroyed by fire in 1932 and later moved in Padre Faura, Ermita and remained there until 1946.
The third stop from the tour was the San Agustin Church, still the oldest standing structure in the Philippines. The construction of the church began in 1586, from the design of Juan Macias (who died before the completion of the church and Macias was officially acknowledged by the Augustinians as the builder of the edifice.) The church was formally declared as completed on January 19, 1607, and named St. Paul of Manila.
We ended up our tour in Plaza San Luiz where the whole staff of Team Manila awaits and have prepared a sumptuous buffet consisting traditional Filipino delicacies such as halo-halo, pritchon (roasted pork wrapped in pita bread) and turon (banana fritters) to name a few. Of course, the party wouldn’t be lively without Pinoy music that coincide the event’s theme. Team Manila also gave away surprises to lucky participants. Among the three of us, Ferdz has the most luck. He won two coffee mugs. The supposed third coffee mug was been shared to me by Ferdz. Oggie won a coffee mug, too. And at 6:00 pm, we left the event with a smile on our faces and decided to cool off at Robinson’s Place Ermita.
7:00 pm. The Old Spaghetti House. While enjoying our respective pasta dishes and refillable iced teas for dinner, we reflect about the tour. Each of us had expressed mixed reactions particularly when Carlos began spilling some controversial facts during World War II in Manila at the crypt of San Agustin Church. One of the memorable accounts I’ve remembered and left the whole participant in silent was the 100, 000 citizens of Manila died — men, women and innocent children lying lifeless in the ruins of Manila. All perished in one single blow in February 23, 1945 and left Manila to rubble. That fateful event was named Manila Massacre. And up to now, it sends me shivers down my spine. I won’t be telling you all the spicy details Carlos had served that day. It’s better to sign up to his tour and enjoy it like a hot dish.
The tour was an eye-opener for me. There are some historical details in Carlos’ tour that have changed my point of view of Manila — the city I was so disgust of. The tour of Carlos Celdran will definitely change the way you look at Manila.
I’m Jocas A. See from Manila. I’m a true-blooded Manileño.