Carlos Celdran’s tour de force.

Marcos slept sitting up to preserve her bouffant hairdo, collected bottles of
Lady’s Choice sandwich spread – not just shoes – and cajoled the then-mayor to
give her the Miss Manila title after she didn’t win

Gossip from three decades ago sounded
juicy still, as Carlos Celdran took us on a walking tour of the Cultural Center
of the Philippines and the Coconut Palace. We took off from Figaro, where he, in
full court-jester-urban-historian form blasted the Manila Sound of the seventies
from a portable CD player and then pulled out a flag and enjoined us all to sing
the National Anthem.

By turns goofy and
erudite, the tour is as much about the tour guide as it is about the history of
the CCP, a landmark Marcos babies (those of us born in the late sixties and
early seventies) are so familiar with it stays under the radar, like the store
that’s forever been just around the corner. To consider the history of the CCP
is to explore the life of the woman who dreamed it into being in less than six

I’ve been to the CCP many times,
but I’ve never really looked at it as a structure – or even as a sculpture,
which it practically is. Carlos said that Leandro Locsin had bamboo molds made,
and then poured cement into the molds. The molds were then removed, revealing
the full shape: nothing prefabricated. Because labor was so cheap, even the
cement walls were finished by hand, a texture reminiscent of a cement moon
pockmarked by millions of

Carlos has other
. We want to do Escolta or Binondo next. There aren’t too many
people left who can cut through the smog and the bad-tempered traffic policemen
and the dingy dusty sackcloth this city wears, and allow others to glimpse the
marvels beneath.