Saturday, November 18, 2006

(Carlos Celdran's North Bank walking tour)

"Kindly walk this way."

With this simple phrase, Carlos Celdran invites you to leave behind the dingy, chaotic Manila you know, and step into the vibrant, interesting Manila that he knows.

Our meeting point this Saturday afternoon was along Escolta St. As Carlos explained, before there was Greenbelt and Rockwell and Eastwood, there was Escolta. Yup, believe it or not, this street was actually quite a happening place back in the 20s and 30s.

Carlos showed slides of turn-of-the-century Escolta building architecture, and the rapid changes brought about by our beloved American colonizers. Carlos liberally sprinkles his historical insights with juicy tidbits of gossip. He is quite theatrical, but never over-the-top.

Among his anecdotes was that of Heacock's Department Store, which, in his words, was the "Rustan's before there was Rustan's". From a simple one-story store, it eventually became a five-storey monolith. Turns out the owner, Mr. Heacock (but of course) was using his store as a front for his diamond smuggling activities from Africa, which he sold to the sugar barons of Bacolod.

We went on to Carriedo, Sta. Cruz and underneath the LRT at Rizal Avenue, the portion closed to vehicular traffic. Here, it is quite simply chaotic, where all sorts of merchandise were being sold in all these cramped stalls on all these narrow streets. Clothing, toys, pirated DVDs, you name it and its likely to be found here.

We made it all the way to historic Quiapo Church. Outside, street vendors sell merchandise sure to pique the interest of the most jaded person.

Let me see. . .what do we have here? "El Shaddai" Menthol / Eucalyptus / Sampaguita aromatherapy oils (does the Spa Association of the Phils. know about this?? :D); frankinscense and myrrh (not sure though if this is really the same as what the Three Magi brought to the manger); bottles of vile-looking liquid labelled "Pampa-regla" (read: abortificants), which Carlos describes as "pure poison, actually".

Not weird enough for you? Oh, there are anting-antings (amulets), which yours truly, being a wiseass, cracked "these must be made in China". Hehe ;-D.

What else? Gayumas (dried herb roots) for those wanting a solution for unrequited love; ihi ng butiki (lizard urine) for. . .i don't quite remember already! Carlos of course explained the pagan traditions behind all these, and how strange yet appropriate that these are sold right outside Quiapo Church!

So, make haste and catch one of Carlos' tours soon! Go! Don't run, but WALK this way, please.

(Please check out for a full listing of Carlos Celdran's walking tour schedules and rates)

P.S. I am deeply indebted to fellow blogger Senor Enrique, who graciously allowed me to use the above pic of a typical Quiapo Church vendor's wares. His quite interesting posts on Manila culture, etc. can be found at Thanks!