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Carlos Celdran on walking the street of success

Who would have ever thought that bringing tourists to Intramuros can be a lucrative business? Only Carlos Celdran did.
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Becoming a cultural bon vivant was not Carlos Celdran’s career plan for himself, having returned to the Philippines in 1998 after studying and living in New York, with stints working with the Blue Man Group in New York, the Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane dance companies and, earlier, Repertory Philippines.

“The tours started out of sheer unemployment—I am a theater guy, had been working in theater all my life,” he notes. “When I got back, I dabbled in advertising as a graphic designer, set designer and stylist. But it was hard getting a job, competition was hard and I was not very disciplined when it came to deadlines. So I ended up with a job as assistant director in the Heritage Conservation Society. One of my jobs was as a tour guide, because if there were guests, you had to tour them around to show them the architecture.”

But the Society changed its course, downshifting to become a nonprofit advocacy group in 2001. And the first people they had to let go of were the tour guides. “Necessity being the mother of invention, I asked if they would let me take the idea of doing walking tours in Manila and make it a business, and they said yes. Which makes me proof positive that it is possible to make something out of nothing at all,” Celdran says, laughing.

Apart from years of knowledge built upon a life in the arts, Celdran estimates his startup capital to be about P5,000.

“What did I do to start up? I marketed the tour by e-mailing my friends—Hotmail pa ‘yung address ko, it’s been that long. Then there was copying pictures, buying the clear book, buying hats for the tour, buying costumes, buying a tape recorder for the music, getting a microphone and portable speakers, although as a theatre guy, I am trained to speak to the last row. And then laway (saliva). Made it all back with the first five people who took my tour.”

Page 2: Growing the business


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