My first official tour

After more than a month of waiting and giving free tours to visitors of Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church and Casa Manila, I had my first official tour as a Mabuhay Guide.

Mel, my colleague, and I were assigned to a group of Social Studies teachers from the Philippine Center for Civic Education. Most of them are from Sorsogon, Bicol. Their ages range from 30s to 40s. Majority are female.

Here are some of my observations that I lifted from my official report:

  1. This group of Filipino tourists was fun but difficult to gather in one place. Most of them are first-time visitors and they were excited in taking pictures and enjoying the company of each other.
  2. It is takes a great deal of effort to explain the must-tells because of prior knowledge. This is one of the things to watch out in taking this type of local tourist. They sure know what the guide is talking about especially on the following:
    • The dungeons in Fort Santiago where prisoners were drowned. Ciudad Murada by Victor Torres helped me on this one.
    • Rizal’s “deformities”. One of the participants asked this question. I mentioned Ante Radaic’s analysis about our national hero where he explained Rizal’s determination to make up for his physical deficiencies. When Rizal was little, one of his sisters said that he had an unusually huge head for a small body. His sisters were making fun of him while he was growing up. It was said that it was one of his motivations to succeed by making it “big” in different fields.

      However, I was quick to say that it does not diminish the greatness of our national hero. During the tour, I showed them the picture of Rizal when he was a little boy inside the Chamber of Text in the Rizal Shrine.

    • The validity of calling Rizal “Dr. Jose Rizal”. I was a bit careful in answering this because I read this issue somewhere that Rizal did not officially get this title from an institution but I stressed that he studied under the leading figures in ophthalmology while in Europe and made it big in Hong Kong.
    • Rizal’s height. Some say he’s 5 feet 2 inches while other accounts state that he’s 5 feet 3 inches. It is an inch of a difference but a good commentary should be based on hard facts.
    • The place where the Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios was written and how it slipped the Spanish authorities.
    • The note inside Rizal’s shoe when he was executed. Some of the participants picked this up from Ambeth Ocampo’s book Rizal Without the Overcoat. I explained that Rizal was buried right away in an unmarked grave and because it took a long time for his remains to be exhumed, the note was not retrieved. His shoes were rotting.
    • The veracity of the Filipino firing squad and the second row in Rizal’s execution. They asked the accuracy of this detail which I was not able to cite because I was not sure about my source. I read this “somewhere” and this was also used in the training but I learned that citing the source is very useful.

      It was a good thing that we are in the digital age. I finally found the article that came out in the Inquirer that discussed this topic. Here’s the excerpt (mine in bold):

      At 7:03 a.m., Rizal was facing Manila Bay when the guns were fired. He veered his body toward his right as he fell dead.

      The firing squad was composed of six native Filipino soldiers under the command of the Volunteer Soldiers of Maria Cristina (some references counted eight men).

      Descendants of one of the executioners, Adolfo Pastor Quetcuti, narrated how the captain of the guards put only one live bullet in one of the rifles, while placing blanks in the others. This was intended to ease the guilt feelings of those in the firing squad who believed Rizal was innocent.

      As an additional measure, another line of peninsular soldiers stood behind them.

      – Rizal martyrdom: The making of a national hero
      by Emmanuel Encarnacion
      First posted 04:29am (Mla time) Dec 30, 2005, Inquirer

  3. Polo y Servicios/ Forced labor during the Spanish period. I asked them to also consider that not all churches were built on forced labor but also because of the Filipino’s religious fervor.

The tour went well because of the weather and the group. It was great to share information with the participants. They have the power to influence young minds. I urged them to tell their students to visit these places to know what we have, to know ourselves better and to eventually drive change.


  1. withonespast says:

    I’m so happy for you my friend, its good that you’re able to provide a perspective based on research and reason. I’m currently here in Cebu doing what I enjoy most, traveling and studying our history.

    One important note about Polo y servicio is that in most places, this was solely supervised by a solitary fray, if not few of them, if this was “forced” just imagine what hundreds of angry men can do, in one of the old town here, a certain Fray Aguirre supervised countless workers in Naga(Cebu), day in and day out for years before it got finished.

  2. hi arnold. thanks for the feedback. i see that you’re enjoying your stay in Cebu.

    i’m reading up your accounts on the churches there (man, you’re lucky that you’re able to go to these places) and backtracking on some of your previous entries especially the pasig river cruise.

    the DOT is setting up a tour program that covers Santa Ana de Sapa and Binondo via Rio Pasig.

    i keep on telling my friends that the Pasig River is the best indicator of economic and social progress. i just hope that this is the start of a sustained effort to resurrect the river.

  3. withonespast says:

    Whenever I look at Pasig River I have this little voice inside my head asking, “what happened to us man!”, Pasig reflects many things about the Filipino.

    I was born in Sta. Ana and even then I’ve seen how people would throw just about everything on the river,we don’t have to revive the river, if we just leave it alone it would comeback to life!

    un abrazo,


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