May 14, 2008

Carlitos' Way

Carlos doing Quiapo

I've gone on many of Carlos Celdran's walking tours, some more than once, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about the Philippines or who simply wants to be entertained for a few hours. Because much more than just a tour guide, Carlos is a highly-entertaining street performer.

Save for the photos I've taken while on his tours, this post isn’t going to be about that. If you're looking for information about his tours, please click on this link and this one. Neither is this going to be about my experiences on his tours because you already know I'm a big fan. He's been written about countless times by bloggers and has even been featured on television shows both here and abroad, even making it to Time and Lonely Planet.


Instead, I’d like to share with you some interesting tidbits about Carlos' past and personal life that most of you probably don’t know. There was quite a few items I had to leave out because they’re not meant to be published and I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining his reputation. ;)

Intramuros collage

If These Walls Could Talk collage

As early as the 5th grade, Carlos designed his own cards with the cutest caricatures and witty sayings. I remember the first one I ever received from him, I think it was for my birthday, and I was amazed! It looked like the work of a professional graphic artist rather than that of a 10 yr old. At that moment, I knew this guy was going to be famous someday.

He slept through school. Literally. As you can imagine, this amused his classmates but drove his teachers batty. He got away with it, because each time they caught him sleeping and tried to get him with a difficult question, he managed to answer it correctly.

He knew a whole lot about anything and everything without having the slightest ‘know-it-all’ attitude that usually comes with the territory. You can talk to him about anything!

He swallowed mayonnaise by the spoonfuls just to gross us out.

He once shaved off our girl friends hair on stage, for art’s sake.

Carlos was the youngest cartoonist of the Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas. He had a funny comic strip in Business Day & Manila Chronicle called Bar Sins.

He played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Metropolitan Theater, but was rejected when he auditioned for the Miss Saigon London cast.

Quiapo collage

The North Bank tour collage

Whatever is the opposite of OC, that’s Carlos. His room and car looked like mini-landfills.

He’s the man responsible for the designs of the then famous Island Spice T-shirts. With the profits he made from the shirts, he replanted an entire forest in Mindoro, single-handedly driving the trees across the channel.

In between all the careless partying and beach-bumming that made up our high school life, Carlos was already an active member of the Haribon Foundation.

His bathroom mirror had “Lose weight, Charlie!” written across it in permanent marker.

While everyone around him was going through teenage angst, and struggling with the trials that come with puberty and high school, Carlos was just…..steady. Nothing fazed him. He was our rock, and that was always comforting.

And I bet you didn’t know Manila’s favorite tour guide CAN SING! During the Battle of the Bands, he treated us to a fantastic rendition of Hotel California!

Chinatown collage

All the way down to Chinatown collage

His first car was a silver VW bug with a green stripe that would noisily announce his approach from 2 blocks away.

He was our comedian, our jester and our clown without even trying to be.

He’s been known to take his dog with him to a meeting with one of the heads of a big corporation.
He secretly dropped out of UP to live like a hippy in Baguio.

He was already frequenting Penguin and Cosa Nostra long before Malate became a popular bohemian hang-out.

When he had used up all his allowance, Carlos would borrow small change from different people in school, in the pretense of using it to make a phone call, until eventually he would come away with more food from the cafeteria than those who donated their change

La Vida Imelda collage

Living La Vida Imelda collage

Our friend John claims you could count on Carlos to lock his keys inside his car especially when it was raining cats and dogs, and most definitely lose his parking ticket as well.

He once dated a 250 lb lady doctor whom he painted nude, before he married Tesa. But he himself also posed nude for other artists while in college at RISD.

Carlos is a genius. He’s like the Rain man, but not quite autistic. Just a naturally tremendously talented artist and intelligent person.

But those who know Carlos and know him well, will attest to the fact that he was the one person you could count on to cheer you up no matter how down and out you are, because within a minute in his presence you’re sure to be laughing your butt off.

Carlos doing Chinatown

Carlos shows us how it's done - at a temple in Chinatown

Carlos 2

HS Grad Picture

Follow these links for some articles on Carlos:
Carlos Celdran is changing the way you look at Manila - by Pepper Marcelo
A Walk through History - by Trina de la Rama
Walk the Talk with Nostalgia - for Go Negosyo
Local Heroes - by Irwin Cruz


ChichaJo said...

Fantastic post!!! I loved reading every little fact about a guy I really admire :) You guys are lucky to have grown up with him :)

Anonymous said...

it was so nice reading this post!

Didi said...

I can't imagine what fun you guys had together! With the short time I was with him in Corregidor - I loved every minute of it! He is such a down-to-earth person without an ounce of 'air' around him. He manages to talk to every single person in the group, make them comfy and my gosh - you can talk to him about most anything! He's brilliant! Brilliant beyond brilliant! I will forever love him, because I won a trip! and because Corregidor was so magical to me - and it was he who brought me there.. I so admire his passion with Manila. He's such an asset to the country! I would love to see his tours recommended in Lonely Planet! Or is it already?!

Unknown said...

This is a wonderful post Nens. You have honored Carlos with this.

Here's a funny thing, my mom is his cousin. Lolo Mike was our pediatrician (also took care of my Mom) and was there when they found my Mom's tumor. She's fine now. In fact, Tessa (whose Mom was my Mom's classmate in HS) asked my mom to be their Ninang at their wedding (which happened on the day of my Mom's operation to remove the tumor).

We have a beautiful framed piece by Carlos in my parents' living room.

What he does is so admirable.

christine said...

Yes we are, Jo. :) He was always full of surprises!

Thanks, Gins! :)

Brilliant is the perfect word for Carlos, Di. :) I'm glad you had the chance to get to know him during the Corregidor trip. And yes, he was already featued on LP!! Yay! :)

Small world, Mieke! I'm glad you shared that connection, which I never knew before. What piece is it that you have framed?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this little bio of Carlos. Katrina sent me an email some time ago with one of his articles, and now I'm really very interested in his tours. I'm gonna peruse his website in depth now...

Anonymous said...

this is a cool way to write about the city's favorite Walking Man. :-)

christine said...

Hi Marvin, please check out his site. I really suggest you add at least one of his tours in your itinerary. You'll enjoy it, I promise! :)

Thank you, Palma! :) I wanted to go with a unique angle. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.

christine said...

BTW Palma, I wanted to tell you again that I love your work! (Checked out your site). It kinda reminds me of Fernando Botero. :)

Anonymous said...

thank you christine. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks. This is useful information. You know my husband and I had a couple of days in Manila last month before we flew back to the UK. We didn't know where to go on our own. We would have gone on one of his tours, had we known. Will definitely do that next time we're in Manila.

Oggi said...

I recommended Carlos' Intramuros tour to a group of friends 2 years ago (I was supposed to join them but wasn't able to) and when my friend came back she called me immediately and was gushing over Carlos, the entertainer, na in-love talaga!:)
BTW, my children were two of his dad's little customers more than 20 years ago.

christine said...

You're welcome Palma! :)

Oh Marilou, that's too bad, but definitely worth noting for next time! :)

Hi Oggi, I'm not surprised to hear they adored him. He's really such a unique character. You should come na, so you can tour with him as well! :) His Dad is the best, even if we're all grown, we still go to him (or call him) like he's our GP. :)

Chibog in Chief said...

i didnt know his goodlooking hehehe..thanks for the juicy tidbits of info about this famous guide..hehehe not to mention your stunning photos too :-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting!!!! Thank you for this. It's nice to know him a little more.

Watergirl said...

Inside scoop, hear all about Carlos! Thanks Nena, he's a great tour guide and person (and dog owner, having met his mom, i can see where that part came from).

Anonymous said...

"He’s like the Rain man, but not quite autistic."

-- HAHAHA!!! What a hilarious description! And the use of "quite" makes it even funnier. ;-) I bet Carlos loved that. And I know he was touched by this post. By the way, he has nice things to say about you, too. :-)

Carlos is really a terrific tour guide and a fascinating person. I've been bugging my family to go on one of his tours for ages, but you know how hard it is to get everyone's scheds to match. When my brother's girlfriend moved here, I had the perfect excuse for us all to go, so we booked it. I was really excited for them all to see Intramuros through Carlos's eyes. Unfortunately, we were supposed to go this morning, and the impending typhoon made us decide to cancel. Sayang. :-( To make matters worse, it hardly rained this morning (in Makati, at least)! But I am determined to find another sched soon. I don't think it's right that foreigners know more about him than Pinoys do!

christine said...

Haha thanks, Dhanggit! And I'm sure Carlos would love you for that comment! :)

You're welcome, Anonymous.

Hi Mila, I'm glad you enjoyed that. Yup, his mom always had a bunch of poodles running around the house. :)

Katrina, the weather fooled so many of us this weekend! But anyway, now it's just a matter of rescheduling (like that's so easy!), no? I hope your family does get to go soon, I'm sure they'd love Carlos. :)

Anonymous said...

you're a big fan of carlos :P
i was only able to join his san nicolas and binondo tour ( now scrapped)

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I will definitely join one of the tours when I am back home. Hopefully in December. :)

christine said...

Hi backpacking philippines, yes I am! :) You should check out the rest of his tours.

Hi witsandnuts, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! You won't be disappointed when you do in December, I promise. :)

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine attended one of Carlos' tours, and he wants to drag me around... Sana magkatime din ako ma experience and walk talk niya...

beatlebette said...

Hi, Christine! It's me, beatlebette from Jacksterville. Just popped in to see how you are and invite you to come pay us a visit. We haven't seen you there in about 3 months when you were asking about Paula and Dara. They have both posted since then. Paul posts quite often.

I've really enjoyed reading your blog also. I'll put you in my favorites.


beatlebette said...

Hi, Christine! It's me, beatlebette from Jacksterville. Just popped in to see how you are and invite you to come pay us a visit. We haven't seen you there in about 3 months when you were asking about Paula and Dara. They have both posted since then. Paul posts quite often.

I've really enjoyed reading your blog also. I'll put you in my favorites.


christine said...

Cliff, sana nga talaga! You'll really enjoy it. :)

Hi Bette! So nice to see you here! Thanks for checking up on me. :) I'll come over real soon to say hi to everyone once the dust has settled (just got back from a month-long trip and so much work has piled up!). :) Hope you're doin well!

albany ny family photographer said...

i've always wanted to go on one of his tours. its on my to do list for the year.

brochure printing by abby said...

Enjoyed reading this post. Hope to go on his tour one day soon.

Linda said...

Quite useful info, thanks for this article.