Caught in an unusual Saturday traffic snarl in the South Luzon Expressway, my siblings and I arrived about 10 minutes after the appointed meeting time at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Worse, I did not ask where in the vast complex we were to meet when I signed up for the tour. I thought it would be hard to locate the tourist-y bunch of people we were supposed to join but the guy in the top hat and long-sleeved barong marked the spot.
Carlos Celdran’s IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK! – Intramuros Regular Walking tour is a heady, two-hour plunge into Philippine history sans the drone of an academic institution. His spiels as tour guide and docent are alternately fascinating, disturbing, intriguing, entertaining, and irreverent but never boring and always teeming with information. And of course, how can he not be inspired by the art and history that envelop us as we wander up, down, and through San Agustin and its environs. (My siblings below, at the ruins beside Father Blanco's garden)
If our history teachers in high school and college were like Carlos Celdran, we’d arguably be a whole nation of frank but beguiling patriots.
Where is Juan Luna interred? How is a chong-sam related to priestly vestments? Why is Pampanga the culinary capital of the Philippines? What two things are absent in the bedroom of a 19th century Filipino home? What can you possibly say if you were challenged to tell the life story of Rizal in 60 seconds?
If these questions piqued your interest… If you feel there is nothing *great* about The Philippines in general and Manila in particular… If you have that unextinguishable belief that there is more to being a Filipino than our love affair with politics, boxing, and artistas… You ought to gift yourself with a booster shot of Filipinization by walking Carlos Celdran's way.
After which it would not be difficult to believe that the Philippines is indeed Lupang Hinirang – Chosen Land.
Traffic jams and all.