Friday, October 21, 2011

Learning About Manila's History with Carlos Celdran

Entrance to Fort Santiago
After the job interviews I had early last Tuesday (yes, I had figured out my messed up biological clock), Carlos Celdran opened up ten slots for barter trade for his Intramuros tour. Since he's okay for anything, I just brought him kakanin's from Marilao, Bulacan. You have to understand, I have to grab that opportunity  because given my current financial state, I could never afford  the tour. So there I was, 3PM, Tuesday, at the middle of a quite diverse group with two cute American guys beside me (who happened to be me Kalesa-mates), embarking on a journey within the walls of Intramuros.

One thing is evident, Carlos is not the same as any other tour guides. He is not the usual hey-look-at-that tour guide. He is very dynamic and theatrical as he uses the whole Intramuros as his stage. Armed with his rich inside knowledge on Philippine History, his witty sesnse of humor and a couple of santan flowers serving as confetti, we laughed the whole way while learning from the past.

The thing that moved me the most during the tour is about the post-war Manila part. We were in front of the ruins of San Ignacio Church beside what used to be Ateneo Municipal and he asked all of us to take a minute of silence for the 100 thousand lives lost during the Manila Massacre and the Manila Bombing. 100 thousand lives! I didn't have the idea about that! All I knew was Manila was devastated after the war but what I didn't know is that it was the second most destroyed city during the war-- after Warsaw-- and we lost 100 thousand civilians!

Realizing this, I reflected how my current knowledge about our history is actually deficient. I know something about our history but I realized that I do not know enough. Coming from a public high school whose only history came from the distant HS freshman past, we do not have enough time to tackle this part of the history. Extending this thought, there again is the infamous problem on our education system-- and I don't want to go into that.

The Overly Decorated Jeepney. Carlos describes how Filipinos
tends to overly decorate.

There is so much to learn on the two and a half hour-trip. We learned that our "unoriginal" culture makes us exquisitely unique. We also realized that our culture can be summarized by the idea of the jeepney: That we have the tendency to be excessively and superfluously dramatic. You can look at it either in the good and the bad way but the best thing Carlos did is that he let us realized both perspectives. The Filipino culture is such a mixture of all these influences, victimized by its colonizers but then again living the best of both the West and the Orient. Like the jeepney, Carlos showed us another microcosm of our culture: The Halo-halo-- and we ended our tour crushing ice atop of this all-time favorite.
The Halo-halo. Like Halo-halo, the Filipino culture is a mix of influences. 

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