Sunday, November 13, 2005


Oh dear. It seems that Mercury is definitely in Retrograde. I seem to be offending everyone. Last month a Spaniard walked off my tour and just today, I received this letter from a lady I toured last week. I was gonna blog about her but she beat me to the punch and wrote me first. Let's just call her "Betty".

Hello Carlos,

I am the American that was offended during the Crypt part of your tour.

Hi there. I had a feeling I would be hearing from you. Sorry for running off after the tour. You seemed beside yourself and very confrontational. I didnt feel it was proper to pursue our conflict with the entire class around us. But Im glad you took the time out to get back to me.

After some thought, these are the reasons: History is based in fact, but interpreted with perspective. I feel your personal prejudice was inflicted on unsuspecting and unprepared visitors to this country.

Unsuspecting. Unprepared. Agreed. Personal prejudice. I disagree. As the truism goes: "History is always written by the victor." Therefore ALL HISTORY BOOKS are written with an agenda or prejudice just as all journalism has a slant. It just so happens that for this tour it was mine. My apologies for the shock though. I never meant to offend. I may have been offensive. But I was not wrong.

Please realize that Philippine History is not a happy one. It has been a series of conflicts and compromises which until this day have not been resolved - within our own society and within our relationships with others that we have dealt with. You know, I even lightened things up a bit in order to make it more digestible. If you want heavy history. Read up on the part I purposely left out for diplomatic reasons. The Philippine American War. Half a million dead. Then you tell me if I was being nice. I think I was.

Many of your antidotes

(I'm sure you meant "anecdotes")

were unnecessary and did not seem to be intended to amuse. For example: The fact that the Philippine national hero (Rizal) was picked by Americans to suit their own purposes and clearly not the choice of the people is only partially fact. Americans made the choice, but you are interpreting their motivation. If the Filipino hates the choice, why hasn’t it been changed? I would like to see them rise up and agree on a candidate. I believe the same holds true for the other national selections such as flower, tree, etc. I also understand the choice of National Bird has subsequently been changed by the people.

How nice of you to suggest what Filipinos should do once again. Listen. I didnt say he was a bad choice, did I? I only said he wasn't our choice. It has not been changed because we like him. I like him. I said so in my tour. Didnt you hear that? And as to why we havent made our own choices yet, it's simply because as a formerly feudal society who has always had decisions made for them, the greater majority would probably not make good choices to begin with. I said that too. I even made a reference to Filipinos choosing somebody flashy but incompetent like FPJ or Erap Estrada if given their own free will. Why were you only hearing the anti-American side? I talked about all sides. I really did. Ask anybody on the tour.

I felt an extraordinary emphasis was placed on the shortcomings and mistakes of America and Gen. McArthur, during WWll, while none of the Japanese generals were even named.

That's you not listening again. I specifically pointed out and showed a photo of General Yamashita. Didnt you see it? I was even more graphic about the atrocities the Japanese committed and none of the Japanese members (on the tour) complained. They know their history well, these Japanese. They know where they stand. Read up more about these topics now that I've piqued your interest.

I believe both parties made many mistakes during that war and an inordinate amount of time was spent on the damage done to the Filipino by Americans and not enough time spent on the benefits. The fact that Americans taught English to the Filipino did not rob them of their opportunity to gain Spanish culture, it taught them to communicate with the world.

I said the same thing too. Not only do I appreciate English, but I appreciate toothpaste, the public health, sanitation, education systems and all the economic growth they gave us. I even showed photos of how much we improved during the American colonial period. From the sleepy Spanish backwater to a vibrant city known as the "Pearl of the Orient" But I guess you did not catch that either.

It seems you heard only what you wanted to hear. I was very fair. And if it was insulting. I insulted ALL AND NOT ONLY the United States of America. BELIEVE ME. I am an equal opportunity offender. I didnt spare ANYONE. Not even the Filipino. The Americans were not singled out in my tour. That was only the way that you received it. Cant blame you, Ive had Spaniards and Catholics walk out too. My tour is not for the faint of heart at all. I never said that it was.

I do not believe that bombs were dropped to level Manila “just because they were left over.”

Another thing you misheard. "I brought these bombs all the way from Virginia, like Hell Im gonna bring them back." is a real quote. Heard by the grandfather of my wife, who was posted on the north side of the Pasig with the American forces while bombs were being shelled towards the walled city. I said nothing of the sort about "leftovers".

Another fact presented with a victim’s bias. I know personally an American soldier and a Filipino guerrilla whose first hand accounts of the war do not reflect the oppressor/victim relationship you paint.

Of course you did. Many former MILITARY MEN from that generation do see him as the saviour, but how many civilians from that conflict did you interview? Take my word for it, many from that generation also think otherwise - especially those whose relatives were killed by shrapnel or shot by American soldiers mistaking Chinese-Filipinos for Japanese like the Y******. Look. There are many sides to any issue. My interpretation of events just happens to be one of many. History should never be taught from one specific point of view, that would not make it balanced at all. Should the Nazi occupation be only interpreted from the German side? Or from the Jewish? NO. It should be interpreted by anyone who takes the time out to learn the facts. It's everyone's right. And by the way, I did not interview and research the point of view of one American and Filipino vet before writing my script. I interviewed and researched the points of view of MANY American and Filipino World War II vets before writing my script. And not only that, I am RELATED TO MANY civilians who died from that conflict - the ones who were the ultimate losers here. Truly. How dare you call us victims here. We lost the physical manifestation of our spiritual center (Intramuros, the city of churches) in a war that was not even ours to begin with. And nothing will change that at the end of the day.

One reality of the war fought in the Philippines was that many Americans suffered and died alongside Filipinos believing that they were helping to save a country that was being oppressed, regardless of what was driving the political machine. I object to the degradation of their memory. Reparations have been made and are continuing to be made to the Philippines at a great cost to America.

Dont get all drama queen on me. Like hell I degraded their memory. I am keeping their memory alive. I am telling a story that not many people - and judging from our present conversation - not even YOU know much about.

I want you to know that my husband and I are here by choice. His work coversthe entire Asia-Pacific region and we chose to live in Manila. We are not with an Embassy or call-center though these sectors have brought much needed employment and commerce to this country. You presented this fact in an “American Imperialist” tone.

Good for you. First, let me thank you for having the confidence to invest here (whatever your investment may be). But at the end of the day, I'm sure you didnt come here to give your money away so dont make it seem like you are doing charity work. All investments must have returns. And as for being anti-American. Please, with my American twang and my east coast Rhode Island School of Design education (which I paid for in full by the way, if you wanna play the "who is giving who money" game), to call me Anti-American is not only erroneous, it's more than impossible to prove.

Call me a liberal, call me a jerk.
But don't ever call me Anti-American.

Filipinos are enterprising, hard-working, well-educated people who commonly speak the language spoken by the largest number of countries in the world. So why are you presenting them as victims? Kawawa! Their culture was not “stolen” by conquering forces any more that any number of other world nations. It is the layering of cultures that makes the Filipino. It should be embraced. Energy should not be wasted on blaming; instead it should be spent fixing the current problems. Any and all of the institutions put in place by the Americans and Spanish that were not embraced by the Filipino could and should have been replaced by now. I love the Philippines and I know you do too, but I am saddened by the lack of responsibility taken by all levels of Filipino people. Filipinos need to learn how to say no! Yes, the common people are suffering while the current upper class is thriving. Do you see a historical pattern here? Many economic templates are available to help ease these burdens that are not being instituted.

I agree with everything you said in the last paragraph. So why are we even having this conversation?

Now I am on my “soap-box”, and that is exactly my point. I feel that if I were an international guest at one of your tours, I would be submitted to much more politically-biased information than is appropriate. I admire and appreciate your thorough preparation and flamboyant presentation, but please take a long hard look at the perspective you are presenting it with, and think about what kind of impression you are making on our international guests to the Philippines.

You are the only international guest that I know of who has complained in letter and for that I thank you. Maybe then the group was too big, perhaps you werent able to listen to me well enough. I apologize for any strong language that I may have used in this letter as well.

Thank You,


You are welcome.

I remain.

Carlos Celdran