Thursday, July 31, 2008


In line with my support for ANY tourism related venture in downtown Manila, allow me to recommend the restaurant, Crepe de Chine. And I do this not because of it's ambience, mind you. Located in the basement of the supposedly Michael Graves designed World Trade Exchange Center on Juan Luna Street, Crepe de Chine can best be described as the Binondo love child of Country Waffles and Delifrance. And though the atmosphere might be a bit twee, it soon becomes obvious that it's all about the food over at CDC. Their menu, which is also quite eclectic, mixes the savory nature of Oriental cuisine with the charm of French comfort food. I especially liked their adobo crepe, yang chow crepe, pizza crepe, seafood pasta, and freshly squeezed Mandarin Orange Juice (that alone definitely worth the trek downtown). And for all the media and advertising folk working over at the El Hogar Filipino down the street, this is good information to know if you're looking for something different from the usual neighborhood fare.

And look, even celebrities like the place. Log onto their site and guest album here.

World Trade Exchange
215 Juan Luna St. cor Dasmarinas St.
Binondo, Manila, Philippines
Monday to Saturday
10:30am up to 9:30pm
244 2270

Monday, July 28, 2008


To all those out there who sent their best wishes regarding my little project of giving away modern methods of birth control, I say, "thanks, guys."  Some words you sent were very nice, while some were TOO nice in fact.  Because at the end of the day, there is no need for the kind words.  What I'm doing does not require any special talent.  Giving away condoms and pills is something ANY idiot with a little money and a pair of hands can do.

Some snippets sent to my mailbox:

"The article reminds me of my son's first yaya. She was in her early thirties with eight children. It broke my heart that she was helping me care for my baby while her youngest was not even a year old. To make a long story short, she got pregnant during her holiday and decided to return home. One afternoon, I entered her bedroom, I found eight identical little stuffed toys. This image will always be in my mind. As parents, we want to try to provide for our children. In her place I employed two of her sisters. They have been with me for six years now. If you ever need extra funds for the contraceptive donations, I'ld like to make a humble contribution."

"I loved the article in the Sunday Inquirer today about you handing out contraceptives, especially given all the crap I've been reading about the opposition to the reproductive health bill. How can I make a donation to help you buy more? Can you give me a bank account number so I can make a deposit? Or can I have a check delivered to you?"

"Great article on PDI mag re your efforts to distribute modern FP. Galing! Hope Madame GMA and her cohorts are taking note as well."

Well first of all, please don't send any money.  Yikes!  Aside from being an abortionist, estafa is another accusation I would want to avoid here.  If you wish, you can get TRUST Pills and TRUST condoms at any drugstore (generic ones being cheaper than Mercury, for sure).  It's only Php30.00 ish for a one month cycle of pills and Php10.00 per condom. I will be more than happy to pick 'em up and give them to mothers who want them (and Trust me, I know many). 

Or better yet, let charity begin at home.  Keep a stash of it in the cupboard and give it away to those around you who may need it.  Have condoms in your car for the "park-your-car" guy, buy a year's worth of pills for the squatter mother next door, give the yaya a tubal ligation, or gift your driver with a vasectomy (PROVIDED OF COURSE THAT THEY WANT IT).  Forcing them to have one, well, will bring about really strange and perhaps ugly scenarios.

And I know an organization that helps provide ligations for mothers in need.  If anyone out there wants info on this, you could text or email my address above.

Because, really, if the government won't set aside the funding or effort for this glaringly obvious need in our society, then perhaps we all should start doing it on our own.  Promoting sexual responsibility and advocating family planning (in all it's methods) doesn't require superpowers at all.  I can do it.  I'm sure all of you out there can as well.  No doubt.

And as for those who sent criticism regarding this matter, I ask, "Where are you?"  I am actually surprised that I received zero criticism so far about giving away pills and condoms. Hmmm.  Why is that?  Do Filipinos really secretly support this bill and won't say so?  Or perhaps, I may be talking too soon..

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Philippines: A Tour of Poverty
Women’s Feature Service
By Ross Harper Alonso

Manila (WFS) -- Carlos Celdran is called the Pied Piper of Manila because of the number of people who queue to join his revolutionary tours around Intramuros and Binondo. He regales guests with historical trivia imparted with tons of humor and style as he leads them through the narrow streets of this historical city. 

He admits it is impossible to hide the poverty. “My guests see the poverty throughout the tour,” Celdran explains. “This is why it can’t just be about tourism. I had to squeeze in a social development angle somewhere since I stare at poverty in the face daily. I decided to do my bit to advocate family planning by distributing free condoms and birth control pills whenever we walked past squatter communities. I’ve been doing this since 2003.” 

In the beginning, this amused the people living in the countless shanties. The flamboyant Spanish mestizo in a barong Tagalog, wearing a black top hat or a salakot had become a common sight around the walled city and provided the residents with either a bit of entertainment or just something to be curious about.

“Who do you think eventually walks boldly up to me after I’ve shouted long and loud enough that I was giving out free birth control pills and condoms?” he challenges. “No, it’s not the shirtless, unemployed men sitting around, not tattooed teenage boys with blonde mohawks and their girlfriends or the prostitutes. It’s the mothers carrying half naked babies with malnourished toddlers at their heels who ask for any of the contraceptives.” 

Interacting with Urban Poor Women 
“Ang gusto ko pills, Kuya. Pwede makahingi ng apat na box?” (I like pills. May I ask for 4 boxes?) asks Evelyn, 26. “Ayaw kasi ng asawa ko ng condom.” (My husband doesn’t like to use condoms.) She looks older than her actual age and roughly introduces her five children, born barely a year apart. Her husband has been jobless for years but occasionally works at the pier to buy food that lasts for a few days. “It is impossible to use natural methods because my husband beats me when I refuse to have sex with him especially if he’s been drinking. This is the way of life of many wives here,” Evelyn admits in Filipino grasping the boxes tightly. “I can’t feed any more children since I’ve become too weak to accept laundry jobs. My children are hungry, naked and have never gone to school.” she adds bitterly. 

By now a small crowd of noisy children, women and a few men have gathered around Celdran but he stops himself from handing a box of pills to a pretty and petite girl. “Naku Miss, you’re too young to be using things like this. You should be in school,” he chides. “I’m 17 and I already have two children,” giggles the girl. “I can’t afford to buy contraceptives but I don’t want to give birth again because it’s very painful,” she says then gestures to an adolescent boy grinning from a stack of rusted drums. “My partner is embarrassed and doesn’t want his friends to know I force him to use a condom now.” 

Before Celdran could reply, an excited woman taps him on the arm, “Thank you for all of these,” she smiles holding up an assortment of condoms and pills. “I just got married but I don’t want to get pregnant and stop working. My husband doesn’t make much so I have to help him save. This is a big help to us.” 

Special Request
Dinlay, 37, stood out one day in a crowd. Oblivious to the noise and shoving going on around her, she continued to read the literature on the box and study the birth control pills. Despite her small frame, she manages to carry a baby with one arm and still stand sturdy while several young children pulled relentlessly at her t-shirt. She lives in a dark shack deep inside a squatter community one street away from the San Agustin Church with her husband and their 10 children ages 14 to six months. 

Dinlay laughs as close to a dozen children gather quickly around her. “My husband refuses to wear a condom and use the withdrawal method even if his job as a tricycle driver barely feeds us all,” she shares. “After my sixth child, I tried to take the birth control pills a health worker gave me but it made me nauseous. I am afraid of the pill’s side effects but I want to take them even if I have no money to buy food because I don’t want any more children. ” In her desperation, Dinlay pleads for Celdran to give her money for a ligation. “A few of the women here have had ligations done for P500 in a small hospital,” she explains. “They said it was painless and fast. It’s also much easier than asking our husbands to have vasectomies.” 

Women Wanting Control 
The women Celdran comes across are aware artificial contraceptives are not allowed by the Catholic Church but they insist it is not only impossible for them to practice natural methods of birth control but also to ask help from the church to feed their growing families. “The previous mayor of Manila stopped the health centers from giving free ligations and contraceptives,” laments Evelyn. “Most of the husbands in our squatter community don’t care if their wives give birth yearly as long as they have sex when they want. They don’t involve themselves with child rearing or family planning. All these are left to the women.” 

These are some of the people Celdran has learned to deal with on his tours. “They are people without the means and education or maybe even too lazy to improve their lives but men and women come out for contraceptives. They understand these prevent pregnancies and it’s their decision. I don’t force anyone to take them,” he clarifies. “The tourists who see what I do are happy and relieved someone is taking the initiative to address the city’s overpopulation problem. Some even make a special donation to support my humble campaign, which of course is very encouraging.” 

Celdran uses his personal funds to buy the contraceptives to give away. On an average he spends more than Php 15,000 a year on Php 30.00 birth control pills and Php 10.00 per box of condoms.

“Believe it or not, no one has given me any problems or criticized me about any of this,” he points out. “I take it as a good sign that I’ve somehow succeeded in raising the level of awareness about sexual responsibility in this part of the city at least.” WFS 

Side Bar Story
In celebration of World Population Day on July 11, 2008, the Reproduction Health Advocacy Network (RHAN ), a coalition of 35 non-government and people’s organizations championing reproductive health and reproductive rights held a Family Planning Fair in coordination with the Manila City Health Office in Tondo. Not only did hundreds of women troop to the fair for free artificial contraceptives, family planning services and referrals for ligations but men willingly underwent vasectomies. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Ok. To all the 50 or so people out there who I stood up last Friday because of my illness, my deepest deepest apologies. I got the results back from the hospital and fortunately, it's not Dengue Fever as I had feared. It was just a blood infection coupled with strep throat, and the flu. Nevertheless, my doctor told me to relax. I should stop doing the tours eight times a week, they said. Along with my consultancies, media stints, hostings, writing assignments, and opening up the CCP Shop and my space in Intramuros, apparently, I had worked my body to the ground and my immune system was shot to hell.  

I think I'll take his advice.  Although I love what I do, I'm not sure if I'm willing to die for it. And Lord knows, last Friday, I thought I was going to do so.

Meanwhile. Check these guys out.  They are fricking hilarious.  They made me smile on my sick day...

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Haynako. Here goes the Catholic Church again trying to rally people against the promotion of artificial methods of birth control. Apparently, they plan to mobilize (read: FORCE students) to protest against Ping Lacson’s Reproductive Health Bill because it “promotes” abortion. Whatever. If they read the bill at ALL they would realize that ABORTION HAS NO PART IN IT WHATSOEVER. Jeez.  If they spent as much time and effort battling something more threatening to society, like tobacco smoking, alcoholism, environmental degradation or corruption, they would be more effective in making The Philippines a better place than wasting their time on these stupid rallies. But then again, the Catholic Church obviously thrives on ignorance and increasing poverty. In a progressive secular society, nobody would be able to give them the time and money that they are receiving now. 

But I have faith that things will work out in the end. I truly believe that many Filipinos see through the lies being given by the old and out of touch men who run this institution called the Philippine Catholic Church. I mean, c’mon. This is the very same institution that wanted Jose Rizal dead, and that wanted the Noli Me Tangere banned from all schools. I think it’s been proven rather well that the Catholic Church isn’t always correct when it comes to many matters. And this one is definitely one of them.

NOTE: For all the folks who happen to be near these “PRO LIFE”* rallyists, do me a favor, throw cold water on them. It seems they only have sex on their mind so I think it’s best we wake them up and make them think of other matters.**

*I use “” simply because their pro-life stance ironically kills more women and children than saves them.
** Sadly though, my insiders say that because of pressures given by the Church, the formerly 140 supporters of the bill in Congress has dwindled to just 40. Pathetic spineless Congressmen. Typical.

That’s all I have to say for now. Read the Sunday Inquirer this weekend if you really wanna hear me rail against the hierarchy of the Philippine Catholic Church. And if they Church threatens to excommunicate me, that’s just fine. I’ll be in the company of Jose Rizal and Madonna. That ain’t so bad, really.

Thanks Tammy David for the photo of Intramuros squatter mothers getting my free birth control pills.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Just doing my bit in hoping that Martin Scorsese will accept the invitation to this year's CineManila.  Read about it on this blog, Marty in Manila. For those of you who missed the movies of the just concluded Cinemalaya, shame on you. This years' selections rocked. Congratulations to all the candidates and to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the quality curatorship. Furthermore, it was refreshing to see that not all of the movies were about being poor and how poverty can be noble. Not that I am diminishing the situation, mind you, but it is nice to see Filipino middle class values and aspirations represented for a change.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


This is my new logo for Walk This Way! Walking Tours.  It was done by graphic designer and ex-scientist Cathy Young.  Whatchathink?  I think it's cool. 

Now if only I knew HTML, I could stick it on the top of the sidebar of my webpage.  Anybody out there know how to do that?

Monday, July 07, 2008


I've been doing a lot of thinking this week.  A dangerous act, I know.  

Throughout the week, it's been a real myriad of mental data, some good, some bad, some whatever. It's been theocracy, democracy, internet gossip, war, cheap ligations in Caloocan, Gawad Kalinga, high fashion, low fashion, Intramuros politics, calorie management, The Cultural Center of the Philippines Shop, The Sofitel Hotel, high food prices, global warming, Catholic Church politics, Manila Street Art, Poverty Tourism, and Tesa's Yoga Retreat that has been on my mind all week.

And now, fricking this...

Don't click on it unless you have two hours to kill.  I'm off to walk along the boulevard to clear my head.

Mood:  Don't know...

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Did you know this about the Manila Pen?  I didn't.  How cool.  
Thanks Sandra Scott for the shout out.  Read her article here on
Thanks tikpaklong for the photo.

Friday, July 04, 2008


As featured in the Philippine Star, read Gino dela Paz's article called "Slummer Holidays". It's a feature about this new trend in leisure travel called "Poorism", (a term that mixes "poverty" and "tourism") which is apparently all the rage now in India and Brazil.  But is "poorism" really helping the poor or objectifying them?  One wonders.  Either way, perhaps that's the word I should've used for my former "All the Way Down to Chinatown" tour, the one where I would take unsuspecting folks into the House on Madrid Street where we would hand out free birth control and discuss social issues. Good thing I never really charged people money for that tour (I only accepted anonymous donations) - lest ANYONE OUT THERE think that I make money off the less fortunate.  Thank you Barefootincowshit for the photo.

Oh, and thanks a million to Jenna Castro of Guidon Magazine for the great article!