“I’m a time traveler. I point and laugh at archaeologists.”

We managed to squeeze ourselves in a free tour around Manila. The registration was messy and confusing, but by this point in our lives, we would be surprised if everything went smoothly. Of course, not that people around here should use this migraine-inducing nakasanayan excuse, but whatever. It was free.

I remember one of my best friends asking me, “Bakit kasi kayo magtu-tour guide?” As if it is the most cheesiest thing in the world. Although a part of me understands his doubt on any tour’s authenticity, a part of me also understands that I am getting bored sick in my home and office and somebody out there who knows a lot more historical stuff than me, and who wants to share with me these things, should be able to do so. The people who were offering this free tour did not probably get anything out of this, but just a kick out of people willing to listen to them rave about what they are passionate about.

However, the question on authenticity still rises because passion can be blinding sometimes. Let me compare some tours to GC college students,  all of those who love the data that they memorize as if that’s the be all and end all of knowledge. In other words, I just found it funny that our tour guide was holding a picture on Cory Aquino’s historical speech in front of the Postal Building back in the 80’s, a symbol of hope, national pride and yadidada, while the present displays a tableau of middle class peeps crowding in front of said tour guide as two sunburned stick-figure children were hopping, climbing, and swinging behind the tour guide, where Cory Aquino once stood. Afterwards, the tour guide led us to a nearby tree and told us of the dishes we could cook with its edible leaves as a couple more street children lagged behind. Manila is probably the anti-social-commentary-cliche’s nightmare.

I had read an article on tourism and tragedy and I wonder if there’s any difference at all between what others would deem “normal” tourism. Marveling at almost-extinct forests and wonderful stone formations–some lakes were formed because of meteor strikes, right?–seems pretty much the same as putting ghosts on pedestals. Everything’s a product/tragedy of the past, some battle scars here and there and in the case of Manila, a reeking of decay, of a twisted preservation of death.

Out of the 10 planned places to visit, we were only able to roam around 2: the Post Office Building and Metropolitan Theatre, both a breeding ground of dengue and probably other deadly diseases. As the few enthusiasts (those who would tend to spend five hours just to sit through an auction on stamps and old things) were trying to save and fight for the culture, heritage, and overall is-there-meaning-to-all-of-these spots, they were holding these free lectures of trivia without context to lure in geeks, weirdos, students, posers, foreigners, researchers, and bored people like us who wanted something better than going to the malls. As some historical spots were in danger of being sold to greedy capitalists who wanted to build hotels, we were free to gawk at garbage, dust, mold, and art deco designs. Questions of authentic modernization, the value of the past, and the distinction between the dying and the surviving all flew over our heads.

ps.

other pics from N

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