Within The Walls At 100mm…a tour of Intramuros, Manila, with Mr. Carlos Celdran.

Why 100mm?

It is the effective focal length of my favorite lens, the Zuiko Digital 50mm f2.0 Macro prime. Mounted on a four-thirds system camera, it gives a field of view similar to 100 mm., on traditional 35 mm. film, the most common medium of years gone by. 100 mm is a “portraiture length”, and this lens is primarily a macro, with portraits as its secondary purpose. That being said, 100 mm gives a rather “constricted” view of the world.

So what would I be doing using a fast macro prime, with a narrow field of view, on a walk-around in broad daylight? Most people would probably do a walk-around with as much zoom range as possible, then why would I stick to one that cannot zoom at all?

First, it forces me to think more, on a.) what to shoot at and b.) how to shoot it. Shooting with a lens permanently stuck at 100 mm severely limits flexibility…100 mm is too short for any sort of paparazzi use, yet it’s too narrow for group shots and landscapes. So what can you shoot with it besides bugs, flowers or a solitary portrait? You have to think it up.

Second is that it forces me to go near a subject. No matter how lazy one gets, you can’t just shoot from a distance and hope to get a good crop later on. So even with tired feet, I have to get near, and some things are better appreciated up close.

Lastly, I just love this lens.

Of course there will always be situations where it would almost be criminal to stick to 100 mm. Imagine if one were to visit France for the first time, without any sort of wide angle at hand…quelle horreur. Yet for places that one has been to quite often, it may be interesting to find out what you can find “interesting”, with such a narrow view of the world.

The Tour

We joined one of Mr. Carlos Celdran’s tours on a Saturday morning. The tour we had was a walk-around on Intramuros, but he offers tours in other places too. Generous on humor and highly educational – even for grown-up locals, I would highly recommend this to everyone, and if you’re interested, Google him up.

For those not acquainted, Intramuros is a walled city beside the Pasig River, in the present day City of Manila. During the Spanish colonial period though, Intramuros was Manila itself, the seat of the Spanish colonial goverment. The city only sprawled outside of the walls in recent history.

Today, Intramuros is being preserved as a relic of the country’s past. This doesn’t mean that it has been turned into one overgrown museum though, as today it still houses functioning offices, shops, restaurants, and it still holds some residents.

The gathering area, and the tour's starting point, is the Plaza de Roma. For those not familiar with the place, the picture above is of the Palacio del Gobernador (Office of the Spanish Governor General), which sits beside the plaza. For those familiar with the place, just read on.
A man selling various colorful stuff approaches the group gathered at the plaza, waiting for Mr. Celdran.
The man of the hour, Mr. Carlos Celdran himself, addresses his followers. There was an even split, between locals and foreigners on this group.
All rise, for the Philippine National Anthem.
The cross above the Manila Cathedral. This was ground zero, during the Spanish period. All places in the Philippines was measured by the distance from this spot.
Mr. Celdran announcing a message from King Juan Carlos of Spain, whose statue stands behind him. The statue of Juan Carlos stands in the middle of Plaza de Roma.
Did you understand what I was saying, hijo?
Mr. Celdran ushers his guests into the Cathedral. On every stop, he gives a lecture not only of the history of the building, but also of Philippine history in general, like why our ancestors never built anything like the Angkor Wat or Borobudur.
All guests were also taken for a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) ride.
The kalesa took us through some streets within the city, while the kalesa "drivers" gave commentaries using the best English they could muster. Here we were turning at the corner where the Ateneo De Manila used to be.
A statue of Father Blanco, at Fr. Blanco's Garden beside the San Agustin Church and Museum
Mr. Celdran, delivering a piece of Philippine history in the American period. For me personally, I found his stories as a bigger attraction, than the place itself.
and Gen. Douglas MacArthur dropped by to deliver some parts himself
A hallway inside San Agustin
Another hallway lined with paintings
The altar of San Agustin
Passageway in one of the buildings
At the end, we were all treated to ice cold halo-halo

* we joined Mr. Celdran’s Intramuros tour last July 2010.

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