MANILA (Mabuhay) — For his first mission as tourism consultant of Manila, cultural activist Carlos Celdran aims to revive the city’s “tourist belt,” which he said expands from the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to Binondo.
“I presented my plan and ‘yung plan ko is to make Manila and Malate, ‘yung tourist belt, more logical,” Celdran said.
The tourist belt covers Luneta, Ermita, Malate, Intramuros, Binondo (Chinatown) and Quiapo, according to Celdran, who is also a tour guide.
“All of that, once upon a time from CCP hanggang sa ilalim ng tulay (ng Quiapo), tourist belt ‘yan,” he said.
Celdran also plans to have more directional signs and information kiosks for tourists in these areas. “(Tourists) don’t know where to go. They got off MRT or taxi, saan sila pupunta? Sometimes they have a map pero ‘yung map outdated na,” he noted.
Recently appointed by Manila Mayor-elect Joseph Estrada, Celdran earned controversy in 2010 after he disrupted a Mass at the Manila Cathedral by staging a protest action against the Catholic Church’s opposition to the then-reproductive health bill.
Baywalk as Broadway
Central to Celdran’s facelift of Manila tourist belt is to transform Manila’s baywalk into a “pedestrian Broadway.”
“May plan is… gawin na lang nating parang pedestrian Broadway ang Roxas Boulevard hanggang Intramuros, Malate and Luneta hanggang Chinatown Ongpin and back again,” he said.
He said Manila’s baywalk is “underutilized.”
“Binigay na natin sa mga vagrant… Ito ang main pedestrian, promenade avenue (ng Manila pero ngayon) may taong natutulog dyan, may basura,” Celdran stressed.
Celdran served as tourism consultant under the administration of Mayor Lito Atienza, who opened the baywalk area for restaurant, bars, and other businesses. However, Atienza’s successor, Alfredo Lim, ordered the closure of the establishments.
Celdran said he is open to commercializing baywalk again but only to a certain extent. “Ang problema lang noong panahon ni Atienza [ay] nasobrahan… Sobrang puno. We just don’t know when to stop,” he said.
Celdran added that the other side of the baywalk could also be utilized for more permanent structures catering to tourists.
“(The bay walk) could be a two-prong promenade connected. Two walkway na may ilaw (and) directional signs. You will create already a big difference how people perceive Manila,” he opined.
To behave, for now
Despite his appointment, Celdran said he will continue his walking tours but will tone down his activism.
“The second that I feel that I am not working in this capacity, I’ll quit and go back to my regular job. But for now, I think that I have to try. And if I am going to try, I would probably have to sort of behave for a little,” he said.
“I am lucky na consultant lang ako. It means I offer my ideas, I offer my suggestions. I am not in an elected position so there is no way that I am answerable to the people so I am only answerable to my boss, which is Mayor Erap Estrada,” he added.
“I still believe I can keep my activism and my direction in life. I need to apply it [activism] on my official government capacity.” (MNS)