The ‘Tokhang Tour’ | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

The ‘Tokhang Tour’

There have been a lot of social media posts offering our guests from the other Asean member-countries and dialogue partners tips on places to visit, things to do, people to see, even food to consume during their stay here.

Inspired by such hospitable country folk, I’ve decided to jump onto the bandwagon and throw in my own two centavos’ worth to make sure that our visitors have the time of their lives while on our shores. Following these suggestions is strictly optional, of course, and taking sensible precautions is called for. Anyway, for what they’re worth, here are a few tours you can take during your down time.


The “Tokhang Tour.” You’ll find out soon enough what “tokhang” means, and doubtless some of you may already have heard of it even before you boarded your planes. We start the tour in Tondo, in a police precinct that has gained no small amount of notoriety for its unique accommodations, purely bargain basement AirBnB! Entering it is a bit tricky, since you will first need to spot the bookcase that serves as its door, though the precinct commander says there was no attempt to disguise its existence. Perhaps he just didn’t want to ruin the decor of his office!

For the visit to the cell, you will need a face mask (I’m told the air freshener in the place could curl your toenails), and lessons in keeping a stoic expression even if you’re sure to have nightmares for the next month or so.


From Tondo, depending on the weather and the work assignments of our police and motorcycle-riding vigilantes, we’ll visit the locale of an extrajudicial killing or two. Eyewitnesses can tell you all about the extraordinary marksmanship of our police and hired killers who, even as they’re chasing fleeing criminals, always end up shooting them in the forehead or the back of the skull.

We end our “Tokhang Tour” with a visit to any of a number of funeral parlors where, at the height of the killings, corpses were piled one on top of another like so much kindling.

On a positive and personal note, we will visit Davao City, the beloved hometown of our President, to get a glimpse of his humble origins and breathe in the rarefied air exuded by the adoring multitudes.

Our first stop in the “Digong Destinations” tour is no less than the President’s bedroom, where you can glimpse his bed with a mosquito net hanging over it, proof of his continuing humble lifestyle which even a notable world leader like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn’t help but be impressed by.

Then you can visit the early “killing fields,” actually an abandoned quarry, where, according to former hit men, certain people were buried after being executed. Other possible stops: the President’s favorite eatery in the Davao market where he claimed to talk to ordinary folk to feel the pulse of the people, and the crocodile farm where the President’s youngest son loves to hang out.

A bonus tour is the “Casino Cavalcade.” While most of you may think a casino is a casino is a casino, this tour brings you to the site of many scandals. It includes the City of Dreams where two immigration officials, protégés of the justice secretary, managed to walk away with P20 million. Then there’s Fontana Leisure Resort where, until recently, the Chinese businessman Jack Lam ran a lucrative cybergaming operation and where his alleged partner, Atong Ang, was visited by officials seeking some comfort money.

These are but a few places of interest, but be sure to take note of these guidelines:


Don’t wear yellow. This will immediately put you under suspicion, if not intense dislike, by your hosts.

Don’t ask too many embarrassing questions, especially having to do with the ICC, the UN, the EU, although it seems fine now to talk about Donald Trump.

And finally, it would do you well to learn some Chinese phrases, to acknowledge the special relationship between the Philippines and the regional superpower.

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