Walk Write This Way with Carlos Celdran and Writer’s Block Philippines

Why was June 19, 2010 memorable for me? Nope, that wasn’t a holiday. I didn’t even go out of town that day. It was a normal sunny Saturday — but I woke up early, prepared my camera and drove my way to Manila.
Yes, the Old Manila.

I was just on my own! As soon as I read about this event promotion in Travelife Magazine’s Facebook page, I didn’t even bother to ask my friends to join me in this walking tour of Intramuros with Carlos Celdran and Walk Write This Way workshop on travel writing and photography by Writer’s Block Philippines. Haha, I guess that was selfish of me.
I kinda regretted not inviting any of my friends to join me here (after all, I thought they might not be interested in the writing workshop in the afternoon, or even the Philippine History Carlos was going to talk about). As soon as I arrived in Manila Cathedral, the steps of the church were almost filled! “Are we this many?” I thought. Later on I found out half of it were in there for the workshop and the other half were Carlos’ group of tourists who were also booked. I admire him for being able to handle such a big crowd (we were combined for the morning walking tour) and all of us were intently listening to his entertaining stories. It was such a treat!
Carlos starting off with Lupang Hinirang
Carlos and his hat!
If these walls could talk…” Carlos kept on saying. He indeed puts words and life to the walls of the churches in Old Manila and Intramuros through his storytelling, music, props, and old pictures. It was like Philippine History 101 but Carlos delivers it in a flamboyant and theatrical way. Unlike most of the kids in school, History was my favorite subject in highschool and college. Probably because I had interesting history teachers back then who would incite our imagination and stir up good discussions regarding history, its characters and its issues. I would love to have Carlos to be my history professor any time and surely I’d have a 1.o grade. If we were to have a quiz and ask what I learned from the walking tour, here are some of the things I’d enumerate:
  • Kilometer zero in this present age is in Luneta Park (or the Rizal monument) which is our reference in measuring distances. Kilometer zero during the Spanish colonial times was considered to be at the cross on top of Manila Cathedral, which symbolized that the center of society was the Church.
  • When the Americans came, they made Jose Rizal the national hero (pushing other heroes such as Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini and Emilio Aguinaldo like second-class heroes), plucked him out of Paco Park and moved his remains of what is now known as the Luneta Park. It was then known as Kilometer zero. The Church was no longer the center of power.
A kalesa ride from Manila Cathedral to San Agustin Church and Museum. We then crossed to Casa Manila.

  • San Agustin Church was just one of the seven beautiful churches in Old Manila. The other churches were utterly destroyed during the war. It merely survived because a red cross was painted outside, and inside was where all the wounded and dying were nursed during the 2nd World War. (It felt heavy to hear this part especially when Carlos was sharing this story inside the tombs).

There were so many lessons learned in this tour that I could list down but I want you to experience this yourself. Before, I would only remember Manila as where I’ve spent my college years — with all its noise, pollution, and poverty. Somehow it made me ponder and imagine how beautiful Manila was — the center of culture, art, religion and it made me quite sad that it could be hard to bring back its original beauty. At least in Carlos’ efforts, this walking tour will change the way we see Manila (the way it did to me) and how we see ourselves as Filipinos one step at a time.
I’ve never been so inspired to hone my writing skills after the travel writing workshop in the afternoon. The ladies of Writer’s Block Philippines treated us for lunch in the Syquia Apartments (courtesy of Victoria Court catering which was surprisingly good!). We had a fun ice-breaker with Ana asking us to introduce ourselves and answer the question if we were a city or a place, what would we be and why. (I said I’d be that white sand paradise under the sun and palm trees like in Maldives!)
Each of the ladies then lectured about feature writing (by Ana Santos), travel writing (Nikka Sarthou), art and culture writing (Nina Terol-Zialcita). These ladies have gone a long way especially now that they have their by-lines in different magazines and newspapers. Ena Terol also gave us quick tips on travel photography. I was also able to network with people from Travelife Magazine and other travel and photography enthusiasts.
Ana Santos with her students
I said I was inspired to write but months passed and a long series of events and schedules have piled up after that writing workshop. I’ve been putting off practicing my writing skills and I even told myself before I will definitely start by submitting and contributing to publishers. I didn’t even have time to blog. I know these could be excuses but I’ve got to start somewhere! So here, I’m back on my PC typing and recalling my favorite adventures with my camera and Havs.
So why was June 19, 2010 memorable for me? I didn’t realize this was my way of having a post-Independence Day celebration with a remembrance of Jose Rizal’s birthday (remember: June 19, not December 30) and an appreciation of the beauty of the Old Manila — Thanks to Carlos Celdran and Writer’s Block Philippines!
Next time… I want to go to a writing retreat! :)
* * *
To know more of Carlos Celdran’s walking tours, visit http://celdrantours.blogspot.com/
(He now has tours in Intramuros, Chinatown, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, and CCP Complex)
To find out about Writer’s Block Philippines’ workshops and events, visit http://www.writersblockphilippines.com/

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