Manila: Livin’ La Vida Imelda

Important side note: My blog has a new home: If you read this blog using a RSS feed, it shouldn’t change anything (just FYI).

It’s so awesome to be back in NY! The weather here is gorgeous. I spent all day in the city on Saturday with my cousins. We ate our weight in food. It was bliss.

I want to share one last highlight from Manila before things get crazy for Thanksgiving. One of my favorite things I did in Manila was take a walking tour from Carlos Celdran. He’s somewhat of a local celebrity. His walking tours are infamous (in fact, they are number #3 on TripAdvisor’s Manila activities). He offers one of Intramuros and one based on Imelda Marco’s life – Livin’ La Vida Imelda – that takes you around the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the surrounding buildings. My coworker, Tamara, and I signed up for the Imelda tour and I will have to admit, I knew nothing about her.

Photo from Carlos Celdran
She is one fierce lady.

The tours are 1000 pesos or about $24. To sign up, you send a text or email to confirm a spot. I was confirmed via text within minutes. We showed up at the CCP lobby right before it started. The group was pretty large at around 100 people. I didn’t know what to expect. I found that Carlos is a natural entertainer. He has a vibrant and energetic presence which is imbued in his storytelling. He started the tour talking about Imelda’s humble beginnings and then went on to describe her rise and fall from power as the First Lady. 

At the steps inside CCP’s lobby.
All I have to say is holy crap, this is a good tour. I am now totally fascinated by her and Ferdinand Marcos, her husband, and the former President of the Philippines. One of the words in Tagalog that I picked up is “tsismis” (chis-mis) which means gossip. Imelda’s career and life is full of tsismis. During her husband’s presidency, it seemed Imelda was constantly seeking to make the Philippines, and Manila in particular, relevant in the international community.

An eager group listening to Celdran located on the right.

Though her way of elevating the Philippines is questionable. We learned that after she attended the Cannes film festival, she wanted to bring a film festival to Manila and ordered a building to be erected on an outrageous timeline. Two months before the first Manila International Film Festival was to debut, the upper floor collapsed on some of its workers while the cement was pouring. Rumor has it that Imelda ordered any body parts sticking out of the fresh cement to be hacked off with chainsaws so that the building schedule would not be delayed. Crazy, right? But as Celdran suggested, the truth of these stories are clouded with mystery.

I am still sorting through all I learned about Imelda. From what I hear, she is still loved by some, particularly those living in the North provinces where she grew up. You must go for yourself to decide, though I believe we will never know what is true and what is tsismis.

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