However, the City of Manila holds a dear spot in my heart – most probably because it is one of the nearest cities to Cavite, geographically. I love Manila and I enjoy it with friends, families and lovers. Before, about a couple of years ago, when friends from abroad ask me what is there to do in Manila, I couldn’t answer them anything. I would tell them to skip Manila entirely and head out for the rest of the country – for the beaches, the culture, the history. Manila was just their way of getting in the Philippines. I was a Manila snob.
But then I met Carlos Celdran. Well, technically, not personally introduced but I joined one of his tours (the first time is here). I joined his Intramuros tour and I was a changed woman. If I were an ambassador for Manila, the first on my list, the one that I would have advertised and insisted as being a legal mandate for all citizens and tourists stepping foot in Manila, will be his “If These Walls Could Talk” tour of the walled city of Intramuros.
For Filipinos, it will bring light to this part of the city in a way that no history teacher could ever present. For foreigners, it will give the most comprehensible cliff-notes version of Manila as the country’s capital. Either way, you come out of that tour a changed person. I have. And my Uncle who, at the beginning of the tour, was dissing Carlos Celdran with “Who is this Carlos Celdran?”changed after 3 hours of touring with him to the point that he had his picture taken with the Master Performer/Historian.
After digesting Carlos Celdran – yes, it is also a requirement to utter his name in full – and the rest of Intramuros, just a hop away (or jeep or taxi) is Binondo – A place that I have so mindlessly passed by on my way to Divisoria countless times (For those who know me, you KNOW how often I am in Divisoria). And the rediscovering of Binondo as more than a place to buy fruits, gold and Chinese medicine was thanks to another man, Ivan Man Dy and the Big Binondo Food Wok.
It is a gastronomic food fest that I have taken 2 times (one of them here) with this relaxed and casual tour guide and another time on a DIY trip with an ex-fiancé, who has continued on to fall in love with Manila since then (insert self-pitying, emo-fest “even though…” clause here).
A-NY-Waaaaaay, this tour requires a hefty appetite and was the first of its kind to open up your mind and your mouth. It reveals the underbelly of the Binondo Church, the Chinese community and the entire city of Manila, as well. It is another way of ingesting history into your system in such a way that defies any class in a university.
To sum it all up, there are the establishments, there are the parks, there are the museums and there are the malls. There are so many THINGS and PLACES to see and go to but for me, Manila – if only to get your jumpstart on a love affair with it – is about these two men.
These two men have shared their love for Manila and I am more than thankful that they have. They changed me in a way no man ever has. My hats off to Carlos Celdran and Ivan Man Dy. I respect you and promote you to everyone I know with a passion that is beyond my love for True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy.
If you thirst for more Manila, there is certainly more. There is literally something there for everyone and nothing more can display this than my most recent published article, which was published on Juan Philippines Magazine – 30 Things To Do in Manila (download the .PDF of the article HERE). This is just the surface. Manila has so much more to offer. So dig deeper and claw your way through the layers of this alive and thriving Philippine capital.