They say you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but no one ever said you can’t make it cool. Greg Mercado’s Lakbayani History Tours beg to differ from the usual walking tour experience that we’ve all been accustomed to. It has all the ingredients of a typical walking tour, but what Lakbayani brings new to the formula is the much added “Pzaz!” Greg, who’s also a rapper since his youth back in California, occasionally unleashes his hiphop beats and rapping skills at certain parts of the tour. He raps about Philippine history, relevant issues, even his life story, which is why he coins his tours “the walking history concert”.
Aside from a musical experience, the tour is also a transformative experience, as Greg shares his advocacy of spreading heroism among the people who joins his tour. Greg shares his vision of Lakbayani, which is rooted in the words “lakbay”, meaning journey, and “bayani”, extending to the Filipino concept of “bayanihan”, which in essence means heroism. “My vision is to be able to impart the spirit of bayanihan through my tours, and that every person would see themselves as heroes, contributing to the betterment of society”, says Greg.
I was privileged to have experienced his “Manila Bay-ani” walking tour. As both a music lover and history lover, I’d say it’s definitely by far the coolest walking tour that I’ve ever been to.
The tour begins with lunch at the Aristocrat restaurant in Roxas Boulevard. The highlight of the lunch is the Adobo Flying Saucer which is actually the jumping point of our journey through time. Greg explains how the classic Filipino dish Adobo connects us to our ancient roots. Before leaving the restaurant, Greg starts a brief activity, of which would be revisited at the later parts of the tour.
Right outside the Aristocrat is the first stop, by Rajah Sulayman’s monument. In the middle of his discussion, Greg pulls out his iPod and portable speaker. Beats started blasting, and the master rapper started busting out his rhymes with the Lakbayani theme song in full spirits. It was definitely an attraction as passers by stopped to watch, bobbing their heads with the beat. It’s not everyday you’d see a rap performance in the streets of Manila after all.
Right after the special number, we headed towards Manila Bay for the next part of the tour.
We stopped by certain points of interests along Manila Bay, and it was fascinating to see how much history can already be told right along this stretch.
After covering Manila Bay’s stretch, we hopped on to Greg’s van on the way to Intramuros for our next destination.
Points of interests covered in Intramuros included Fort Santiago, old churches such as the iconic San Agustin Church, several baluartes, and other historical sites and monuments.
In typical Lakbayani fashion, Greg inserts some rap numbers every now and then.
The activity that we started back in the Aristocrat also gets revisited at certain points.
Before leaving Intramuros, we took a rest at one of the shops there for some halo halo. This is a good break for participants as walking along Intamuros for hours can be very exhausting on a hot day, and what better way to rejuvenate from a tiring history tour than to have one of the Philippines’ most popular dessert.
After capping off the Intramuros tour with dessert, we hopped back to Greg’s van once again to head to our last destination, Rizal Park.
Right after going through the points of interests in Rizal Park, it was time to conclude the tour. For the last part, we revisited the remaining activities that we started at the Aristocrat, and these activities were finally drawn to their conclusions. I would not want to reveal what happens in those activities so as not to ruin the element of surprise though. Right before we said our farewells, Greg whipped out his iPod and speaker for the last time and ended the tour with a grand finale.
What Lakbayani provides to its participants is a very unique and engaging experience. Greg’s raps are more than just gimmicks for entertainment, but rather, a personal and artistic take on showcasing history and relevant issues. It’s definitely a good break from the monotony of plain discussion. But the heart of what makes Lakyabani special is that while most history tours are focused on being informative, Lakyabani’s approach is geared more towards being transformative. Lakbayani’s objective, more than anything else, is really to be able to spread the value of heroism through the amazing stories of the heroes of this nation. The activities that are conducted in the tour are very effective in encouraging participants to reflect not only about relevant issues, but moreover, about themselves and their roles in society.
There are many history tours out there, but not all of them can leave a lasting impact on a person like Lakbayani does. I find it very significant that a simple history tour with a positive message can be an effective tool for change, and Lakbayani definitely hits this dead on the spot. You come in wanting to learn about history, and you come out wanting to impact society.
Check out the video below for the Lakbayani teaser —>