No, I am not writing about wine this time. But you might ask ‘What is the pearl of the orient’ if not a wine? Well, read this.
“Intramuros” (freely translated as ‘within the walls’) is the title of the walk through old Manila City which I joined last Sunday. It should turn out to be the most amazing city tour I ever participated in in my life.
Carlos Celdran, the man who guided us through old Manila (www.celdrantours.blogspot.com), is the most interesting tour guide I have met. Before writing this I visited his blog and recommend you to logging on to it. There are many reviews about the Intramuros walk as well. So google the man it will reward you with more information than I can give. Walk this way please.
About 60 people had showed up at the entrance of Fort Santiago to learn more about the history of “The pearl of the Orient” as Manila was called. The normal number is around 25 to 30 people. The showing of that Sunday was just overwhelming. Half of the eager tourists wanting to learn about the history of Manila were Filipinos or better Filipinas, because most of them were female.
Carlos arrived in a black Spanish hat, had a microphone around his neck and a folder in his hands. He invited all the Filipinos to help him with the tour and subsequently involved them in all kinds of questions and answer games.
But starting we did with a joint singing of the Philippine national anthem followed by an explanation of the meaning of various words in the local language (Tagalog). “Nila” from Ma-nila for instance standing for a kind of flowering mangrove which was to be found in the area.
Above you see the entry with the wooden relief of Fort Santiago. The Spanish had taken the city from their Muslim rulers by force which is shown somehow on the relief (I forgot who the slayer is). At that time the city was made entirely of bamboo because no other building material was available.
I cannot repeat here all what was explained to us. Anyway the history of Manila can be read about on the internet and in books. But while following Carlos on our walk, we learned about history, religion, culture, people, the Spanish and the Americans and others who left their traces in this place. We got a glimpse of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, generals and politicians crucial for Manila and the Philippines. Walk this way please.
But if you are around, join the tour of Carlos. That’s better than reading and you might have a chance to remember much more because of the vivid, energetic and illustrative style of Carlos. He uses songs, photos, mimic, some acting, all in all great showmanship. And its educational as well; entertaining too I should add.
Here is the group in front of the museum next to St. Augustin church, the only one remaining of the original seven churches in the perimeter of Intramuros. The main entrance of the church is guarded by four Chinese lions. We lit candles in the church which entitled us (novices to churches in the Philippines) to three wishes. Walk this way please.
The painting in the museum depicted the landing of the Spanish among other scenes from colonial times.
In the crypt, we learned about the Japanese occupation, the slaughtering of Manila citizens and the bombing by the Americans that finally destroyed the historic centre.
Carlos is among others promoting the better maintenance, preservation and even the reconstruction of Intramuros as it is part of the core of Philippine civilization.
Carlos in his outfit.
The end of the three hour tour consisted of an explanation of Filipino cuisine. It inspired me so much that I should buy a Philippine cooking book a couple of days later. At the end of the “show”, and I mean the very entertaining city walk, Carlos made us all taste “halo-halo” (meaning mix-mix), the traditional iced dessert Filipinos are so fond of. He finally recommended a traditional restaurant to us and sold us some of his maps.
The good-byes were warm, we all left mesmerized. I guess nobody was dissatisfied and nobody minded the price (850 Pesos, half-price for students). I must conclude that Carlos changed my perception of Manila and the Philippines quite a bit. I have less prejudices now and I am very appreciative of the island nation. I will visit again and I might go on to another walk with Carlos Celdran.
Walk this way please.
How to contact:
The Blog and Tour Schedule of Carlos Celdran.
A man who is trying to change the way you look at Manila – one step at a time.