Many of us have spent countless years dreading and maybe avoiding Philippine history as a subject. One big factor is that we know the story like the palm of our hand, the misconceptions that have been brutally hammered into our heads for many years. We know the whole timeline and the important people turned into streets and avenues; we know the whole betrayal, martyrdom, liberation, revelation, vindication, rape and whatever verb, adverb and adjective that would describe our history.
But taking a walk with Carlos Celdran is an experience that gives you the opportunity to stop blaming your history teacher for reteaching you the same story over and over and over and over…well you get the gist of it. Carlos Celdran’s theatrically and irreverent humor is certainly a breath of fresh air for those tired of reading the works of Zaide and Agoncillo.
To begin with, the moment you see Carlos Celdran and his costume, you know that this isn’t going to be a boring lesson in history. From the moment he starts his tour, it’s best to just open your ears and give him your full attention. Armed with a portable microphone, his collection of hats, a very big portfolio of pictures and his sense of humor Carlos Celdran is out to make you rethink about how the Philippines and its culture was shaped. A culture not just shaped by the Spanish and American influences but also by the influx of different Asian cultures that have made us uniquely, at the same time, confusingly Filipino.
The walk takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes and even if it is quite a short walk, there is no shortage of information, trivial facts and historical commemoration from Carlos Celdran. Intramuros and Fort Santiago is literally transformed into his own stage and we get to become the actors and actresses of his play.
We walked in the gardens leading to Fort Santiago, the statue of our dear old national hero, the fort itself and the San Agustin church. Along the way, he explains and gives an overview of our country in a very humorous and irreverent way. Hence, it is important that you leave your bible-loving, rosary-caring, Jesus is almighty-friend at home, since people with very sensitive moral and religious (sic Catholic) sensibility might find his talks offensive.
I find what he says very interesting and fun. It veers away from what we’ve learned from our Catholic upbringing and he tries to give you a different perspective of what our culture is really like. And isn’t that what history is all about? Just a matter of multiple perspectives and opinions.
Our tour ended near his shop (or what I believe is his shop), it’s the one just beside San Agustin church, where we were all given a nice cold treat of halo-halo. Here he concludes his tour and drives home his point about our culture, making good use of halo-halo as his metaphor.
Walking with Carlos Celdran, is a trip that I think every adult and mature minded person should take. What he is doing is making our culture and history exciting once again. So take a weekend off from your social networks and the mall, and just take a walk with Carlos Celdran, I am sure along the way you’ll find something new.
Carlos Celdran’s Walking Tour schedule can be found here. The tour costs PHP 1,100 for adults and PHP 600 for students (please present a valid ID).