Saturday, August 2, 2008

Carlos Celdran - the One-Man Theatrical Tour of Intramuros

I've been to Intramuros several times. And every time, I was taking itfor granted. I was completely clueless about the historical and cultural significance of Intramuros. It took one person to change all of that… and he's Carlos Celdran.
calesa San Agustin Church and Museum San Agustin Church and Museum
Originally, my tour should have started at Fort Santiago. Due to bad weather, we started at San Agustin Church and Museum instead. Carlos Celdran was kind enough to pay for our horse-drawn cart ride to the church from Fort Santiago. Apparently, everyone in Intramuros knew him because they were addressing him as Sir Carlos.
Carlos Celdran Carlos Celdran Carlos Celdran
Carlos Celdran, more or less, talks about the colonial history of the Philippines starting from the Spanish period. One amazing skill he displayed is his 1 minute history of Jose Rizal in one breath. I’ve studied about Rizal my entire academic life. I can say for certain that he gave an accurate, comprehensive, and concise summary of Jose Rizal.
San Agustin Church and Museum
San Agustin Museum (front)
San Agustin Church and Museum
San Agustin Museum (back)
San Agustin Church and Museum San Agustin Church and Museum San Agustin Church and Museum
Inside the air-conditioned San Agustin Museum, Carlos Celdran gives you a history of the Spanish colonial period. It's an ideal setting because the museum is filled with a lot of religious artifacts. One historical tidbit that fascinated me was how he explained the Spanish colonial rule as a theocracy. I was always under the impression that the Philippines was governed directly by the King of Spain or his appointed governors. He went as far as humorously comparing Spanish colonial rule to the Taliban. Basically, he was positing that the Spanish friars ruled the country like their own kingdom – exactly what Jose Rizal immortalized in his two books (e.g. Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo).


father blanco's garden

hallway of museum
There are quite a number of impressive structures within the San Agustin compound. I always got left behind by the tour group because I always lingered to take pictures.

Carlos Celdran does give you a break half-way through the 3 hour tour for a toilet and water break. Thankfully, he provides you with free iced tea. It's a welcome surprise since we've been drenched in sweat because of the humidity.
casa manila casa manila casa manila
The tour ends at Casa Manila –a turn of the 20th century house completely re-built by Imelda Marcos. It's located right across the San Agustin Church. Here he gives you how the elite and rich lived their aristocratic lives - especially how they followed the European craze of bathing once every few months. It’s extremely gross given the tropical climate in the Philippines.
Carlos Celdran Carlos Celdran Carlos Celdran
Carlos Celdran is quite a character. Who else would walk around Intramuros wearing shorts, a long sleeved barong, and a top hat?

Nevertheless, his most endearing trait is his passion about Old Manila and its history. It’s quite infectious because you can clearly see how much he loves Manila and how much he loves what he’s doing. I prefer calling his tour a one-man theatrical show – complete with props, hats, pictures and even music!

It's a wonderful tour that I highly recommend to everyone - especially to those who are new to Philippine culture and history or for those who want to learn what it means to be a Filipino. I am definitely scheduling another theatrical tour with Carlos Celdran for his other tours. You can schedule a tour with him through his blog.

1. If you bring a car, you can park at San Agustin Church itself.
2. Do bring an umbrella. Even if it's not raining, you'll need it to protect yourself from the sun.
3. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You'll be doing a lot of walking and you'll most certainly be drenched in sweat.

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