MapaLakad Tour: Review

Carmel Reviews Things

by Carmel Ilustrisimo

Last week, I joined a few friends, old and new, on a walking tour around Old Manila. MapaLakad was created by our tour guide (and my good friend), Reina Adriano, as part of a school project. For P80, you get a free chapbook filled with beautiful prose poetry written by Adriano herself, along with the walking tour. We visited old buildings and sights in Quiapo, Escolta, and Binondo respectively.

Mind you, most of the places we went to were not tourist hotspots. It was what I would call “the authentic Manila experience.” We saw Manila at it its most downtrodden and squalid. We jumped over mud puddles, dodged trash strewn carelessly on the street, pinched our noses at the smoke and canal smells, and heard the loud voices of sellers calling out their wares. We passed by shanties with half-dilapidated houses and saw traces of old Manila…

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Old Manila tour this Saturday!

Mapalakad 4Sig_Pagoda

The Ocampo Pagoda mansion was built during the Japanese invasion. Now, it serves as a boarding house for travelers. Catch a glimpse of the Ocampo Pagoda mansion, along with other architectural landmarks in Old Manila with MapaLakad!

For a fee of P100 (P80 for students), you get to experience the city in its past and present from 2 to 6 pm. Aside from the MapaLakad guidebook, you will also learn the history of the buildings and the city itself.

Comment here for inquiries/reservations or message me on FB . One tour can accommodate up to seven people, so tag friends along! See you there!

Photo of Ocampo Pagoda by Makisig Yu.

FAQs on MapaLakad

I’m glad to say that I’ve finally opened my Old Manila tours to the public!

Get a copy of MapaLakad: A Guide to Old Manila and a walking tour of your preferred day from 2 to 6 pm for the following rates:

  • P80 for high school and university students
  • P100 for young professionals
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Final Cover

That being said, some queries have been reiterating from those who are interested in joining. I will try to list what I remember and answer these frequently-asked questions to the best of my abilities:

  • Where will we meet up?

If you’re coming from Katipunan, I usually meet the participants at McDo around 1 pm. However, some people have opted to go straight to Recto since they are much closer to that spot. If you’re a group and you opt to meet me someplace else, then we can do so at the nearest train station.

Whichever is fine, as long as you notify me a day before the tour.

  • Can we reschedule if something comes up on the day itself?

As much as I prefer people not to cancel or back out (for everyone’s convenience), I will accommodate reschedules as long as the next date is final. Again, just let me know at least a day before the tour so I can make the necessary arrangements.

  • Will there be other people joining us?

If you’re less than 5 who joined for a particular day, chances are I will be grouping you together with other people. The maximum number of participants per tour is 7. This is also a great way to meet people from different backgrounds!

  • Is there an orientation or briefing before the tour?

Yes! I will make an FB group chat to orient you on what to prepare for our trip. I will also leave my mobile number in case any of you have a question to ask. On the day itself, I will be briefing you on how my project came to be and what the goals of MapaLakad are.

  • What will we see or do during the tour?

I usually change the route depending on the weather; however, the itinerary remains the same. We will tour Quiapo, Escolta, and Binondo on foot with a quick 30-45 minute snack somewhere in Binondo around 4:30 pm. Using the MapaLakad, I will direct you to the different buildings that were famous during their times as well as share with you what I know about their history.

  • How much pocket money do we need to bring? 

Aside from the tour fee of P80 or P100, please bring enough money for a train ride arriving at and departing from Recto as well as P100-P150 for food. A single pass to Recto will not go above P22. The servings are quite large in Binondo so the participants usually share their meals with each other. If you’re also up to buy a souvenir or two at the First United Building (they’ve got shirts, stickers, postcards, and other cool stuff about Old Manila), then prepare to bring a bit more cash with you, perhaps an extra P200 or so.

  • Is it safe to bring our valuables with us?

I cannot guarantee the absence of pickpockets when we are walking around the place, but our group has never experienced any loss of valuables during the tour. One participant even had his DSLR camera hanging around his neck the entire time and thankfully, nothing bad happened to us.

What I can advise to minimize losses is this: always attend to your valuables, pack lightly with a sturdy bag, and keep close to the group at all times.

  • Can we bring other people along with us? 

They are more than welcome to join us! Just remind them that they will also have to pay the fee of P80/P100.

I am also open to taking photos of you and your friends in the spots you like! This is one of the goals of the project: to raise awareness of the decline of Old Manila and to ask help from people in promoting its maintenance and restoration. The more people go, the better!

  • Is the tour in English or Filipino? 

I wrote MapaLakad in Filipino because I initially thought of it as a literary project in Filipino. However, there have been tourists from other countries who have joined me in walking around Old Manila.

Meaning to say, I can easily switch the tour’s language from Filipino to English, and vice versa.

  • Up until when will the tours be?

The tours are open until the second week of August! I usually hold them during Saturdays and Sundays–in fact there are slots open for the 1st and the 8th of July! If you plan to go on a weekday, let me know and I can check for my availability on that day.

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Them taking photos; me explaining the story of the building through the blurb

If you have more questions, feel free to comment them here or message me on Facebook. Let’s experience Old Manila together!

 

Wherever the maps may lead us

Introduction of Work

Walking around the capital has become a habit ever since I’ve been taught how to do so. My encounters with Old Manila started with books and photos, but I understood that such experience is not enough.

Now, I am 21–old enough to go there on my own, but not old enough to remember facts on page. Often times, the irony occurs; I find myself getting lost along streets with no signposts and alleys that go in circles. What’s even more surprising is this: in getting lost by wandering around, I find myself wondering even more how Manila deals with change. How does one teach other to feel and know the city? How do I make use of what I have when texts and images are limited?

Prior to the FA102 pitch, I have already thought of pursuing a line of inquiry related to the cultural heritage for this semestral project. But I had no means to do it yet at the start, and all I had before was the main goal: to raise awareness of the rapid decline of Old Manila in the modern times. MAPA/LAKAD was not even meant to be a map or a guidebook; I just wanted to explore the streets of Binondo, Escolta, and Quiapo with people.

Quoting from my pitch:

The idea is to provide a familiarity with the public spaces for those who rarely visit the area by having people document their experience of walking around the city.

It’s amazing, actually, how art can be used to at least recover something once lost, if not to fully resolve a problem. I wanted to provide a narrative of people walking around the city by using the landmarks as their means of experiencing it.

I am a dramatic person, no doubt about that. Whenever I plan things ahead of myself, I dream of grandiose things. I imagine people who never even knew about the buildings walk around Manila and become utterly fascinated with what they see. It’s beautiful, at least for me. I have thought that even if I wouldn’t be around in the Philippines for quite some time, at least there would be people who could at least appreciate the city for me while I’m away.

Documentation
PROCESS

I researched first on the different landmarks within the vicinity, specifically choosing the ones that are on the brink of dilapidation (Uy Chaco, Pagoda, and Calvo Building) if not abandoned altogether (El Hogar, Ides O’ Racca, and Capitol Theater). I also considered sites that were not being used to what they were originally planned to be–these include Times Theater, Regina Building, Juan Luna Building, and Hamilton Building. After selecting them, I created an itinerary that had blurbs for each place. The blurbs were alluding to the (hi)story of the infrastructure. By making use of keywords, I could remember them while I’m giving my spiel to people on tour.

I searched for the places on Google Maps and after screencapping them, I erased all the points of reference with a digital marker. It was eerie at first, seeing how there was a big black hole, on the map, but I thought that that was expected. The final output was intended to become a map-and-guidebook for first-time visitors of the area, but during the panel defense I was told that I should include the very tour as a performative art of some sort.

During the two weeks of production break, I set up a call for interested “map-testers” on Facebook. I planned to have the city walks on the last two Sundays of March. I was nervous of course, because I figured perhaps not a lot of people would be really up for my project. But to my surprise, a couple of friends had messaged me and told them they were free to join my tour. One even came all the way from Tarlac!

What I noticed was all those who joined were readers and writers. Not all of them were from the same “writing circles” (I was the only link ) but I was amused that they were able to get along during the tour.

WORK

At 1 pm, the participants who signed up for the city walk met up with me in Katipunan. We traveled via LRT 1 and 2 and got off at Carriedo Station around 2 pm. We would usually start around the spots in Escolta, from Plaza Sta. Cruz where the fountain and the church are, going to the Pasig riverbank and onwards to Binondo Chinatown until we reach Divisoria. We would stop for a snack before turning around and heading for Quiapo passing by Raon. Along F.R. Hidalgo, we would see the turn-of-the-century houses and San Sebastian Church before we head straight for the Ocampo Pagoda.

We followed the maps, their points of reference blacked out with a marker, our only hints are the blurbs I’ve written. After finding each spot, they would listen to me and I would tell them what I know about the place. Some would nod, some would be awed, others would exclaim in joy that the blurb finally made sense. We would laugh at how obscure the writings are–almost akin to a poetry collection as some would say. I would tell them I have a lot more to work on if it were to be a literary endeavor. Another would admit to me they would never have looked into the places had I not specifically pinpointed them on the map. I would be glad as well, knowing that somehow, I’ve already done my job.

Evaluation of Process

PREPARATION

Separation is painful, even more with being forgotten, but the city doesn’t try to show it. It manifests through its edifice, how walls are written over or torn down and rebuilt once more. The pursuit of art can be tiring, because once you’ve come up with your own definition of it, the more and more would questions appear. There is no single way to finding it, just as there is no single method of walking around the city and experiencing it. Sometimes you have to pass on what you know to people, other times you really have to let them see it for themselves. And even when you already know the blurbs, the roads, and the buildings by heart, there is always a different story to tell.

EXECUTION

I understand that it may take months or years to incite action for these buildings. I know that many advocates of heritage conservation have already voiced out their concerns for the city and that they have been signing petitions to prevent other sites from being demolished. If I hadn’t been too sheltered within the privilege of watching from afar, I might as well have been more vocal and irate at the issues that happen around me. But if I play my cards well, perhaps writing is enough to engage people to understand what the city means to them and to others.

POST-PANEL PRESENTATION

Sir Tops Brugada, screenwriter and Comm instructor, as well as my FA102 instructor, provided me comments for possible revisions. As much as they liked the project, having learned of my process and the reason why I chose to do this project, they wanted me to consider the target audience when rewriting the blurbs. Apart from that, Sir Tops challenged me to think of a narrative for the itinerary–perhaps a list of things to do or an itinerary within an itinerary (e.g. pahingahan sa Ocampo Pagoda, sinehan sa Times Theater, kainan sa may Capitol atbp). That way, the entire project feels like it has its own story to tell.

Moving Forward

The recovery process is a fluctuation–if you were able to recover everything you wanted to recover at the start of the semester, another loss will take its place. (Tiausas, 2017)

It’s funny to be asked “what’s next” when you’re an artist–these ideas just pass you by whenever you stumble upon something you find interesting. Afternoon walks, scorching heat, fair wind–all these I had taken to heart and memory. But I chose this project and I knew for a fact that it was not one that I had to do only within the classroom. There was a desire to go beyond writing and reading about buildings; that was one thing, yes, but I had been taught to see art as a response to and as a recovery from what has been forgotten.

I will try to open a new call for city walks within the Ateneo community during the summer. I’m sure it’s going to be a new experience each time I do so, with a different set of people and perhaps a different route. But one thing I hope for: that people will never get tired of wanting to retrieve the city from its ruins, that to forget once having known about their story is tantamount to abandoning new places all over again.

It was a beautiful semester to end my college years. I am more than humbled.

(Posted about MAPA/LAKAD on our class Tumblr. See it here, and if possible, share away.)

MAPA/LAKAD

MAPA/LAKAD
Reina Krizel J. Adriano
2017
Printed Zine
A5 paper, 24 pages

MAPA/LAKAD is a guide to the streets of Binondo, Escolta, and Quiapo through blackout maps and blurbs of abandoned buildings. The idea is to provide a familiarity with the public spaces for those who rarely visit the area. By having people document their experience of walking around the city, the project aims to raise awareness of the rapid decline of Old Manila in the modern times.

You can also view it here.

WIP 2

Today, March 26, was the second city walk. Had four other friends visit the spots with me. Took us ’til 6:30 pm though since we reached Divisoria and had to go back to the First United Building because a friend wanted to buy a souvenir.

Assessment of Progress

The guidebook layout didn’t make it in time for the 2nd city walk but good thing Sir Pao taught me how to do a simple layout. Ended up with this zine-like output:

My layout artist sent me some sample pages that he himself had made last night. Sa sobrang ganda ng pagkakagawa niya, nagmumukhang prayer book itong naunang ginawa ko HAHAHA

Nevertheless, you may view the tester guidebook here or through ISSUU:

Highlights

My poetry writing professor, Sir Allan Popa, challenged us to note down details in our surroundings (ala Georges Perec). According to him: “mahirap mapansin ang mga nakasanayan na.” I decided to try it out while walking around Manila:

Mapanghi ang labas ng San Sebastian. Amoy usok ng mga kandila sa may altar. Amoy Intsik ang Ongpin. Humina ang amoy pagdating sa Yuchengco. Amoy gamot ang Quiapo. Maririnig mo ang Mandarin sa katahimikan. Maingay naman sa Raon. Dumadagundong ang mge stereo. DVD, DVD sa bungad ng FR Hidalgo. Iba ang kulay ng mga gusali sa Escolta. Puro X-rated na palabas daw ang nasa Times Theater.

Some things I wrote in my notebook. Other instances that made my week was that my friends had tried to share their own experiences in the city walk. Here are some of their posts:

Difficulties

Was thinking about why I wanted to do a city walk in the first place. The blackout map was the means, as far as FA102 needs an output. But the essayist in me has been pondering about it quite some time and I know this might get a little bit personal; my self-reflexivity has been demanding the reason behind why I put so much effort in asking friends to learn from the stories of the city, especially the buildings that are abandoned.

I am having a hard time dealing with separation.

Being a senior about to graduate in two months and set to leave for graduate school in Boston by September, it’s not easy to just abandon everything you have come to love in such a short moment. I still don’t want my college years to end, but I know I should finish all my requirements and march down the aisle the second time around.

That being said, I feel that my absence may not be significant enough for people to talk about while I’m away, but at least this is my way of passing on what I know about the city, which more or less, has become some kind of reconciliation to me as a person who is always rearranging her thoughts at any given time.

Anyway, to lessen the drama: we got a bit lost looking for Ides O’ Racca in the 2nd tour today. Had to use a GPS to find our way back to Binondo.

Pagod kaming lahat, pero masaya.

One fine Sunday well spent at the Metro

Blog post made by Sig Yu, a friend of mine who joined the MAPA/LAKAD last Sunday, March 19, 2017.

The Animista Speaks

Greetings everyone!

So I’m back for some quite a while now but never the less, that doesn’t mean I have been just hibernating and all that self-arrest whatever you call it in your mind… ehe

To be honest, it just so happen that I have been doing a lot of things… you know, adult stuff, work to be exact but one thing I really wanted to share with you now is my recent experience last Sunday, March 19 at the Escolta-Binondo area of Metro Manila. That’s right, at the Metro…

So here’s how it all took place… A friend/fellow of mine posted on Facebook and it had something to do with her project. She was looking for some volunteers who would like to take part in her project, which is also part of her course requirements. What got my attention is that, it involved walking and it would be held…

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