CARLOS CELDRAN: THE LAST MESTIZO OF INTRAMUROS
The historical walled city of Intramuros is a curious mix of old churches and fastfood joints, kalesas and cars, secluded secret spots and noisy intersections. Certainly one of the most interesting sights of Intramuros is Carlos Celdran: walking around in period costume, carrying his picture book and tiny boombox, entertaining while enlightening a tour group. His trademark ironic wit and arsenal of juicy tidbits about Manila make an interesting and memorable history lesson. Intramuros comes alive with Carlos Celdran.
Trained as a visual artist at the University of the Philippines and later on at Rhode Island School of Design, Celdran anchors his performances on not just oral but visual presentation: old photographs, exhibit pieces, and authentic locations. To add a bit of cabaret flair, he cues period music during the tour. His interest in art, architecture, and culture—both pop and highbrow—make Celdran’s tours unique. He talks about strange personal habits of historical figures like Gen. Douglas McArthur and Imelda Marcos. Amidst historical dates and documents, he throws in a bit of hearsay just to keep it interesting. His droll observations about life in the Philippines make people often laugh and cringe at the same time. With Carlos Celdran, the packaging seems flippant but the message is substantial: understand yourself, understand your country, understand your world.
Celdran’s “flagship” tour is the one of Intramuros, but he also delves deep into the city, tracing paths along the north bank of the Pasig River: from Escolta to Avenida Rizal to Quiapo Church. He is often spotted ducking into sidestreets with hidden temples in Binondo. Each trip with Carlos Celdran is going down the rabbit hole we call Manila. He anchors the tour to architecture, relating the buildings of the Cultural Center Complex to the decline of the Marcos regime. From the organized chaos of Manila’s city streets, Celdran is able to draw an accurate—and irreverent—picture of life on these islands.