I’m privileged to have my brother, Enzo Diaz as my first guest blogger ! The photos and the text are photographed and written by my brother.

Carlos Celdran’s reputation preceeds him. I first heard of his tour from my brother, of course through this blog , and when a friend from Fil-Am Photo Auey Santos volunteered to organize a trip for those of us who are coming home for the holidays (I am an OFW) , I know I have to be counted. Last December 26, 2005 was the outing with Carlos with a tour called Escolta/Quiapo Tour. This is a relatively new tour that started a year ago. It is only when the streets somehow found its order that Carlos decided to take tourists, balikbayans, and locals alike. Here are the highlights of the tour:

* We started off in the ground floor of Locsin building. After the usual intro blah blah we went up to the second floor where, to my surprise, a small museum is located. It shows off article clippings from the Spanish and American era. It also showcase old bottles from the 50s till the 70s (for some reason the shapes and colors reflect the development of the Philippines). There are also replicas of the various buildings along Escolta. It is at this stop that Carlos explained the history of Escolta…how it rose to prominence and how it is reduced to its current state.

* From the museum we trekked the real Escolta. CArlos showed pictures/ images from the past and how they compare to what Escolta is today. There are a lot side stories and snippets of histories that he dropped along the way. One of them is the first shoe store that Imelda Romualdez (Marcos) used to work for. This trivia on Imelda actually set the tone of how interesting the rest of the trip will be.

* At the end of Escolta is the Sta Cruz Church. There is an unfortunate incident that befall our small group on the way to the Church–one of the foreigners was victimized by a pick pocket. This briefly stalled us as everybody seems to be concerned now on the safety and security of the trip. What is interesting for me is how Carlos controlled the situation and brought back the focus to our mini journey.

* The next stop from the Church is Avenida Ave. We found ourselves under shadows of the Light Rail Transit (LRT). This marked the beginning of our shoulder to shoulder interaction with people from various walks of life. We see vendors of every sorts from the dime and dozen manangs who sell cigarettes and candies to big players–like Shoe Mart. Carlos briefed us on the beginnings of Shoe Mart and how Henry Sy rose to fame rags to riches style. On a parallel note, we also learned of how Imelda rose to fame, rags to riches style as well, when she “manipulated” the Governor of Manila to give her the title of Miss Manila.

* From Avenida to Quiapo Church (our final stop), we merged and squeezed like blood that passes through the arteries of a busy heart–the heart of Manila that is and was. We experienced the sights and sounds of a reality that most of us were sheltered from. As you take each step, you cant fail to notice how chaotic it is. Is this a microcosm reflection of the state of Philippine society? It may be dirty, filthy, and smelly but it sure has a lot of colors-

* At the foot of the Quiapo Church, Carlos introduced us to a candle burning ceremony. He showed us the practice of burning colored candles to affect changes in our lives. Red candles, when burned, conjure a prayer for the improvement of family relationship. Pink is for a positive love life. Green is for green bucks and general success in business. White candle is for purity of thought. The Blue ones are supposed to get you peace of mind. Lastly, the Black candles are for turning enemies to friends. Each one of us in the group burned a candle. In my case, I burned two. I sentenced a Green and a Pink candle to melted oblivion.

* We ended our trip inside the Quiapo Church. We were guided by Carlos to the practice of touching the foot of the miraculous and famous Black Nazarene of Quiapo. We were lucky, I would surmise, since we came on a weekday. One could only imagine the line that one has to follow on a weekend. You start of by washing your hands clean and then trekking several flights of stairs towards the Nazareno. You will land on a platform where a glass panel houses the kneeling black Jesus. There is a 10-inch whole that is cut off from the glass for the faithful to access the right foot of the holy statue. Some people get their hankies and wipe the statue while others simply touch it and say a brief prayer.

After three hours of a very entertaining afternoon, Carlos sends the travellers off. We paid Php 450.00 per person and went on our way back to Escolta where our parked cars are waiting. As the sun set and the artificial lights come on, you know you are leaving a place that will continue to strive with or without you…

Enzo Diaz

Hungry for more Photos? Here’s the complete set.