I pushed this back several times already. It was always the last thing left unchecked on my to-do list. But I wrote it anyway because I knew that someday soon, I’d have the time to do it.
When I finally signed up for it, I got a text saying it was postponed to a later date.
I was now, more than ever, determined to get it over and done with. I even declined an invitation to judge a Marketing competition because of it. [Really sorry, I have no other weekend availability before I leave for…wait for it…Abu Dhabi.(woohoo!!!)]
Anyway, the weekend came and I found myself in Fort Santiago, Intramuros, patiently waiting together with other tourists for the famous Carlos Celdran Walk this Way Tour to start. [And yes, I went there alone. Yes, you can do things on your own. Like eat at a restaurant , watch a movie, and travel alone! Try it, it’s therapeutic! 🙂 ]
I was the first one to arrive. Then slowly, I saw foreigners and Filipinos alike lining up to pay PHP1,100 (USD 27) per head.
There was easily a hundred people in our batch. Thought bubble: “Woah, Carlos earns close to a hundred thousand pesos (USD 2,400) on a good day! No wonder he had money to pay his lawyers when he got in trouble with the Catholic Church! More importantly, why didn’t I think of this gig?! :)”
After paying, we were given cute little stickers so Carlos would know we’re part of the tour.
He arrived in his famous Filipino garb and I immediately approached him for a picture before the rest could swarm around him with similar requests.
He started the tour by raising a small Philippine Flag and asking us to sing the National Anthem.
All cards on the table. I got there knowing that Carlos will talk about something that’s not new to me: Philippine History. And I also knew that there’s not much to see in Intramuros because I’ve been there several times as a kid. What would you expect to see in a Fort that was cheaply built by Spaniards and completely bombed by Americans? Nothing. Just adobe ruins and dungeons you can’t even enter.
Admittedly, the place was a far cry from the historical Cu Chi Tunnels of Vietnam. But I went anyway because I knew that Carlos would put up a good show. He was a good storyteller–theatrical, critical, and comical! (Not to mention controversial!)
It was a two-hour story-telling made exciting by Carlos’ antics, kalesa rides, free chocnuts, and halo-halo treat!
The walk started facing what the Spaniards decided to call kilometer zero– the center of Catholicism at that time in the country, Manila Cathedral.
Then we proceeded to enter the gate of Fort Santiago, stopped at the Rizal Shrine, went up the fort to see the Pasig River then went back to where we started.
Many pictures later, we reached what for me was the most fun part of the tour: the kalesa ride!
In support of the local transportation business of Intramuros, part of the fee for the tour is payment for a kalesa or a pedicab ride from Fort Santiago to what was left of the first Ateneo campus in Manila (now an abandoned lot).
There, we sat on Monoblock chairs while Carlos recounted the mass killings that took place in the area colonizer after colonizer.
I can’t help but remember my History professor in Ateneo, Sir Edito Tirol. He taught History the way Carlos told it. He did not just give facts, he analyzed the events and gave his assumptions. At the end of each class, you’ll realize that nothing is what you really think it is. That you have to learn to read between the lines. And that you owe so much to those who came before you.
Towards the end of the tour, we walked back to San Agustin Church (the oldest church in the country) where Carlos gave a wonderful piece on being Filipino. I will not give too much away by telling you the gist of what he said. You have to join his tour and hear it yourself. All I can say is that I came home with a renewed sense of self and a strengthened affirmation of what it really means to be Filipino. I am glad I joined this tour weeks before I left for the UK.
I highly recommend this to everyone especially to those who are still living in the Philippines. Don’t be a stranger in your own home. Walk with Carlos and spend half a day to get to know the soul of your country better.
Proud to be Filipino,
Walk this Way Tour
by Carlos Celdran
Discount for students
PHP400/ USD 10 only for barter tours