Friday, May 13, 2005


This was printed around a month ago...
By Gino dela Paz
Inquirer News Service
Published on Page F1 of the April 16, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CONTRARY to what you think, the Walled City of Intramuros is not that old. I repeat, not that old. Then again, age is relative and what may be totally Cretaceous in my books could very well be a steady shag for Ashton Kutcher. Pause. Okay, at least that--or something really close to it--was what I first learned from my crash course in Philippine history a few days ago.
Part tour guide, part Vegas side show, Carlos Celdran took me and a dozen other culture vultures (some in-training) back in time through a walking safari around Intramuros. Jampacked with inside stories as well as streetwise insight, the two-hour tour-called "If These Walls Could Talk"--was history, politics and comedy at its Jon Stewart best. All it lacked was Rob Corddry. And a few Emmys. But moving on.
In the right hands, the past--and the swirling vortex of names, dates and facts that go with it--could be as riveting as "Arrested Development." (You know, something met with saucer-eyed enthusiasm instead of cynical moaning.) And with his Britney-type concert microphone and Pinoy flag, Carlos is the right dude for the job. (Warning: I have the memory, not to mention the emotional depth, of a can of tuna so I conveniently left out minor details, such as exact dates and the like, for you to Google.) After all, this is my Cliff's Notes version of his Cliff's Notes version of Intramuros. Enjoy.
Not Fort Bonifacio: Fort Santiago
Our traveling laboratory first took us to Fort Santiago, a 16th century military defense structure. The ground on which Manila was built is relatively new so the Fort's walls, made of piedra china or Chinese stone, were not local. They were actually imported from--could it be?--China.
"Basically most of Luzon [has a foundation of] limestone and coral. The only part of the Philippines that is part of Pangaea and has granite is Palawan," Carlos' mic boomed. Apparently, building a fortress out of porous materials like limestone and coral is like building a house out of cookies. (Yummy, but a bonehead idea.) Besides, bamboo was the only indigenous construction material during Rajah Humabon's time so the Spanish contractors had to shop at the Home Depot all the way in China. Psych.
Walking through the massive gate, we then parked under a tree to listen to stories about Jose Rizal's statue. No baller, Rizal was apparently a tiny, tiny man so the image we saw in the garden was not an accurate replica, but rather, a pimped out version of the national hero. Carlos revealed that he was definitely [only] 4 feet 11 inches, "much like President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo." Growth hormones and calcium supplements weren't invented yet so I guess peeps during his day looked a bit like Bilbo Baggins. Oh well.
A stretch limo kalesa, or horse-drawn carriage, brought us to our next stop, the San Agustin Church. There would've been seven (or so) more churches we could've posed in front of--I mean, visited. But because Manila was totally bitch-slapped during WWII, this place of worship is all that's left. The San Agustin Church was, however, enough to underscore how the Philippines was built largely by Catholicism and not by Spain.