Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Manila Transitio 1945: A Dynamic Celebration of History

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Statue of King Carlos IV of Spain at Plaza de Roma,  the Palacio del Gobernador in the background

The only celebration I recall  in remembrance of  World War II in the Philippines is "Araw ng Kagitingan" or "Bataan Day", which commemorates the surrender of American soldiers and Filipino troops to the Japanese army after a five-month heroic defense of the Bataan Peninsula.  Thus, Carlos Celdran's (of the famed Walk This Way tour) 3rd Manila Transitio 1945 was a much-welcomed opportunity to commemorate the  66th Anniversary of the Battle for the Liberation of Manila.

The event was held last March 5, 2011 and started with an afternoon walking tour of the walled-city of Intramuros. Young and old, locals and foreigners alike gathered at  Plaza de Roma despite the light rain shower. It was quite a big group, probably at least 40, and drew a lot of curious onlookers as well.
Carlos Celdran  leading the singing of the Philippine National Anthem.
The tour began with an introduction and a few  reminders from the man of the hour, Carlos Celdran, who wore his signature black bowler hat and barong tagalog. Unlike his other walking tours, there were quite a number of people assisting him that an American guy commented, "Looks like we'll have  a show."

The magnificent Manila Cathedral, the former Kilometer Zero 

The Seal of Manila during the Spanish Colonization...looks familiar, right?

He was right.  It was one dynamic, entertaining, informative, and slightly irreverent show about Old Manila and the Philippine Islands.  While walking around the cobbled streets of Intramuros, Celdran  transported participants from Pre-Colonial Philippines to the Spanish Colonization and then to the  American Occupation with hints of sarcasm and loads of humor.
"Hello, Hollywood!" Celdran explaining the American Colonization. 
A few rare photos of how Manila was in the past, plus the chance to see some spots in Intramuros that even most locals are not familiar with made the tour more interesting. Getting free ChocNut (especially for the Filipino attendees, who took more than one of this local chocolate-peanut candy),was a welcome treat, too.
Intramuros Street Art

The mood got a little somber though when Celdran brought the group to the ruins of the San Ignacio Church. This was where Celdran reminded everyone of Manila's darkest hours, when many Filipinos were massacred by the Japanese, and many more died after the city was bombed, not by the enemy, but by the country's ally.
The Ruins of San Ignacio Church, one of the churches in Intramuros destroyed during the Battle of Manila 

Things picked up a bit when the group was led to San Agustin Museum Parking Lot, where the group learned why this particular place of worship became the oldest Church in the Philippines.  It would have been wonderful if the group had a chance to go inside though.

Thanks to Red Cross, San Agustin Church was spared from bombing and became the oldest existing church in the country. 
It was almost 7:00 p.m. when the group arrived at San Agustin, so most of the people were quite hungry. Thus, it was wonderful that the walking tour concluded with a halo-halo treat at Barbara's.  It was at this venue that Celdran eloquently wrapped up the colorful story of Old Manila and proclaimed the wonderful potential of the country's capital and the Filipino people.

Off to Barbara's, a good choice for its colonial Spanish style interiors 
Afterwards, it was adieu to those who only signed up for the Manila Transitio tour and hello to the guests of the concert and art exhibition at La Castellana. It was a wonderful evening to make new acquaintances, eat a sumptuous dinner and listen to good music. To cap the evening, spirit balloons were released in memory of at least 100,000 Filipinos killed during the Battle for the Liberation of Manila.

Big Band Music and OPM with a twist

A modern art installation

In memory of the civilians who were killed during the Battle of Manila
The Manila Transitio 1945 is one event that should be continued every year and with the support of the government.  Rephrasing what a Brazilian tourist told me after the tour, only when people take time to recall lessons from history can they create a future with vivid hues.

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