MANILA, Philippines - Carlos Celdran now wears a different hat: tourism consultant for Manila.
The outspoken tour guide and history buff was appointed by Manila mayor-elect and former president Joseph "Erap" Estrada on June 19 — just 5 days before Manila Day on June 24.
In an email to Rappler, Celdran said that on June 18, he was interviewed by Sen Jinggoy Estrada and Vice Mayor-elect Isko Moreno in the soon-to-be-mayor's Santa Mesa home. The next day, he was notified of his appointment and met with mayor-elect Estrada to present his credentials.
"Scared sh*tless but hopeful," said Celdran to describe his feelings about the appointment.
Moments after his meeting with the mayor, he posted on Facebook: "For those wondering about what happened this afternoon at Manga Street. Yup. I was appointed as Consultant for Tourism for the City Hall of Manila. Nothing major but not a small job either. Cool. Let's see how this rolls out. Thank you Manila Mayor Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko for the opportunity."
Celdran is well known for his tours around Manila, made unconventional by creative storytelling and his penchant for wearing period costumes. But he gained fame (some would say, infamy) for his outspokenness on issues like the Reproductive Health Bill and separation of church and state.
This makes him an interesting choice for tourism consultant.
But his duties in this new role have yet to be fleshed out.
"I am not quite clear what their expectations are of me yet. I still have to be briefed before the mayor takes office on June 30. But I think the title pretty much suggests what I'll be doing: giving the administration ideas on how to promote tourism and make the tourist district viable again," said Celdran.
Though he isn't sure if he'll be given projects to handle, Celdran said he told Estrada he'd like to work in coordination with agencies in charge of public relations and city planning "so that my advice goes through the right channels to get things done."
As Manila tourism consultant, he spots key areas that need improvement — namely, safety, security and cleanliness.
Celdran has an idea of what direction Estrada will take as Manila mayor.
"The mayor has expressed the urgency of urban renewal and beefing up safety. More of the mayor's agenda will be presented after he takes office on June 30," he said.
According to Celdran, the two officials cited heritage and culture as "the best tourism assets that the city of Manila has to offer and differentiates us from other districts of the metropolis." Heritage sites include Intramuros, Ermita, Escolta and Binondo.
"So at least I know they recognize its importance for tourism," said Celdran. "Let's see where we take it from here." - Rappler.com
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Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.