Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pambansang T-Shirt & Carlos Celdran: Kicking off a Journey to the different islands, one shirt at a time

When travelers say Manila has no soul, it must be because the city's spiritual core, the walled city of Intramuros, was leveled off by the Americans in WWII, to paraphrase what eminent Manila guide, Carlos Celdran, told us yesterday afternoon.  Team Manila, the country's leading purveyor of pop art and design had a great idea of teaming up with Carlos for the launch of the new line of its Pambansang T-shirt as the event, unlike others I've attended, was imbued with relevance and meaning woven into the fabric of each shirt's inspiration and tucked within each and every nook and cranny of Intramuros that we explored.  At a time when literally wearing and displaying your country's colors on one's sleeves is deemed very fashionable, it is but appropriate that Team Manila extends its cutting-edge design into shirts and merchandise that promote the country's different destinations.
So, with the heat and humidity of the Friday afternoon bearing down on us, we trudged on following Carlos' lead to "walk this way", starting from the Manila Cathedral (on its eighth incarnation, Carlos reveals) working our way to the halls and crypt of San Agustin and winding up in Plaza San Luis.  Along the way, Carlos transports the participants through a timeline of Philippine history in three hours, complete with music and costume changes, theatrics and rhetoric -- from the Spanish times to the American era to the present.  Truth be said, it is next to impossible to try and capture the Walk This Way tour in a post for it is better experienced than written about. (Besides, it would be anti-climactic to would-be tour attendees if I write about the details)
Carlos sprinkles the tour with interesting facts, some of them bordering on what others may deem "controversial" (Was Gen. MacArthur really caught napping on Dec. 7, 1941?  Did it really took three takes to come up with the iconic Leyte landing image?  About this last one, I was watching NatGeo's Apocalypse Mini-Series and it validated that the landing footage (and stills?) was indeed staged). But one thing's for sure: the tour is very "thought-provoking."  When he told us how Manila used to have over 80 hectare of Spanish-era architecture before being leveled off in WWII, one's thoughts can't help but wander with the idea of how much more beautiful, how much more illustrious Manila, especially Intramuros, could be now if it weren't for that unfortunate turn of events.

I've interviewed Carlos in the recent past for a magazine article and one thought that stuck with me was what he said about the fact that "he may not be able to change the way Manila looks but he certainly can change the way one looks at Manila."  I really think he does and whether one agrees or disagrees with his narrative, we walk away the richer for it.  To further borrow his thoughts, I must add that the Filipino may be deemed "unoriginal" to the casual outside observer owing to our mishmash of influences but like the jeepney and halo-halo (a cool dessert that literally translates to "mix-mix" or hodgepodge), we can never be un-interesting.

Lagal[og] thanks Team Manila for the invite to this cool event.  Wear your island destinations with pride with the Pambansang T-shirt.  To find out where to get one and other TM merchandise, visit  

To read about Lagal[og]'s article on Carlos Celdran's favorite city spots (A ManileƱo's Manila), click here.  

To read about Carlos' tours, visit his blog by clicking here.


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