For the love of country: Livin’ La Vida Imelda

To the unfamiliar, Carlos Celdran is a controversial tour guide and artist, the guy who boldly stood out against the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) when it came to the passage of the equally controversial RH Bill. Celdran was so upfront that his act of shouting and displaying the word “Damaso” landed him in jail for a day.

All that went down the drain when I embarked on a walking tour with Mr. Celdran. The Imelda Tour, aptly dubbed Livin’ La Vida Imelda, was a three hour immersion into the life of Imelda Romualdez Marcos, the former first lady of the Republic. Set in the midst of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, a brainchild of Imelda during the Marcos presidency, the minds of a fortunate group of people were opened to a whole new perspective of the Martial Law period.

Despite the torturous memories of that time, Marcos did put importance to the development of arts and culture. While most of us are familiar only with the main theater of the CCP, the tour provided a glimpse of the actual interior of the structure; it is saddening to see the remaining portions of the building uncared for. Perhaps it was Mr. Celdran’s way of showing the deterioration of arts and culture in our country?

There is nothing glamorous about the life of the former first lady, and most Filipinos today would even be able to sympathize with her, for she was far from the jewelry-wearing, shoe-collecting person she is known as today. It can be said that Imelda found the right digs at the right time, and her hunger for a new life and new opportunities brought her to where she is today. She was successful in that regard, for she wielded both a positive and a negative influence on the lives of the Filipino people.

The life of the first lady has been told and retold for countless times already, and this writer is not about to begin narrating her biography. However, what’s striking about Mr. Celdran’s tour is his ability to capture his audience’s attention. While an audible voice is a requisite for every tour guide, Mr. Celdran accompanies the audio with his loud voice, habitually shouting “Walk this way!” with 80s music blaring from a stereo. It was a pretty effective strategy to make sure that everyone is on the right track.

Along with two humongous clear books acting as his visual aids and a bottle of sampaguita perfume to freshen up the stuffy air, Mr. Celdran brought the group to the ins and outs of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, as well as the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). If CCP badly needed a facelift, then PICC is the epitome of splendor. No wonder college graduation rites are held there; PICC feels like a different country or era altogether, a stark modernist contrast to the fading ‘70s-era architecture that surrounds it.

Mr. Celdran’s incessant chatter just proves how much research he has done on the entire tour, and it never hurts to listen to the same stories all over again, especially if these stories have not been proven yet. The twists that Mr. Celdran breathes into his stories confuses yet entertains, shocks yet subdues. His humor is a breath of fresh air amidst the polluted atmosphere.

Most importantly, his love for our motherland emanates from his very being. Not just the singing of the National Anthem that begins each tour, but the way he imparts hope to future generations. Despite all the controversies, Mr. Celdran’s radicalism is tinged with reason. He started the tour wanting to provide his audience with a different view of Manila, but he ended it providing the audience with a restored gratitude for freedom. He questioned People Power, saying it was a time when religion and the influence of the rich returned full force to topple the Bagong Lipunan, and those influences had prevailed ever since. It may be clear where Mr. Celdran’s loyalties lie, but it can never be doubted that he loves our country just as much as our heroes have, for he does his best for the country by touring people and giving them the best Manila experience ever.

Stephanie Tan

By Stephanie Tan

Leave a Reply