Behind the Scenes: One Night in Intramuros

Six months after One Night In Intramuros was staged, WanderManila’s Benjamin Canapi tries to wrap his head around accidentally staging what turned out to be the Halloween event of 2020.

By Benjamin Canapi • April 15, 2021

Doing One Night in Intramuros as an online Halloween event during the quarantine-shackled 2020 was a no-brainer for us. I’ve already staged the tour the year before, and it was an insane experience. A total of 75 people showed up to attend that tour, and it was easily one of the biggest tours staged in Intramuros that year. The local market always had a hunger for ghost stories, and the allure of staging a “ghost tour” in Intra will always draw in people. So, when it was painfully obvious that we wouldn’t be able to do that tour last year, we decided to rework the tour as an online presentation. Again, it was a no-brainer.

We all figured that we’d probably attract a bit of attention for staging this. We had just finished staging the Trese online tour at that point, and we got a decent amount of traffic for it which translated to solid social media currency (likes, shares, and that sort of engagement) for us. We thought the Intramuros Halloween online tour would be a “level up” of the Trese tour experience at most.  

Boy, were we wrong.

The first ad we released for the event.

We first posted an announcement graphic on our Facebook and Instagram portals on October 15, 2020. Normally, we’d be happy to get a few dozen likes and shares for something like this. However, the post hit a hundred engagements one hour after posting and the numbers were still climbing! By the afternoon, there was considerable buzz about the event, and we’ve hit a thousand or so engagements easily. AND THEN the Philippine Star posted about the event, and it was all over for us at that point. Mind you, all of this happened in one day.

By the middle of the week, the initial announcement had garnered something like six thousand engagements (It would end up with 18 thousand!), other news bureaus have also picked up the event announcement and some news entities such as Esquire, Philippine Star, Businessworld, and even BluPrint (!!!) have contacted us, asking for an interview. At this point, the Intramuros Administration even contacted us, asking us if we were planning anything inside Intramuros on that day, concerned that people might actually flock to Intramuros on Halloween. We assured them that we were going to stage the tour at my apartment. 

I’d like to believe that I’m a pretty unshakable man, but my God I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling the pressure in an enormous way. By the end of the week, I knew that we were going to have crazy numbers for the livestream. In a world reeling from the effects of COVID19, there were not going to be any Halloween parties, no trick or treating going on, absolutely no Halloween event was going to be staged at all for 2020. The next best thing was this free livestream tour that we were staging, and people were making plans around it. I knew about this because of the chatter in the comments section of anything we post about this tour. 

A week after the original announcement was posted, I found myself driving to Intramuros to shoot some video. I already had a base script along with some slides as I have staged this event live the year before, but they felt woefully inadequate for the amount of press the event got. I didn’t want hundreds and hundreds of people tuning in for a glorified Zoom presentation. I took the time to learn how to use OBS, a free open source broadcasting system for livestreaming. Now that I was viewing this tour as a “TV Special”, I started making animated bumpers, background footage, a soundtrack, and an OBB. I’ll be honest here, this was the first time my main profession as a media practitioner intersected with my rather new profession as a tour guide. I would have been more amazed with what was happening around me, if I wasn’t so nervewracked and emotionally drained. 

The week of the event, I was beyond stressed out. I was busy polishing and rehearsing the tour, while not neglecting any of my other obligations. All the while posting announcement after announcement that we weren’t going to be in Intramuros that night, answering inquiries and being interviewed left and right, while trying to finish all the elements for the tour. At this point, my panic levels were on an all time high, and I was really feeling the pressure. At this same time, I was so excited to do this thing. It started out as a sensible idea to keep WanderManila active and relevant during the pandemic. This tour has quickly evolved into something bigger than I anticipated, and like it or not, at was a make or break situation. Whatever happened that night, I thought, hundreds of people were going to see it, so I better not f**k up. 

“Hundreds of people”. At that point, I believed we’d hit a thousand views, maybe two thousand even. My people were already celebrating that fact, and it did seem like a big number at the time. Again, we were wrong with our projections by a wide margin.

The fact is, five minutes into the loop video, we were already at FIVE THOUSAND viewers. By the time I started the tour, we breached TWENTY THOUSAND views, and the WanderManila video will end up with slightly below 24,000 views. Factoring in the views from the crossposted pages, we easily hit 26,000.

This was taken after the livestream event ended. I was very tired, but very, VERY happy.

I didn’t get to read a lot of the comments posted on the livestream itself, as I was too busy staging the presentation. However, my people communicated the “greatest hits” to me, and now I’d like to address them. 

First of all, saying I look like Harry Roque is a low blow, man. You all hurt my feelings and I don’t know how to live now, hahahahahaha.

Second, to everyone expecting a “Magandang Gabi Halloween Special”, we did warn all of you that it was going to be a HISTORICAL TOUR. Having said that, we were bracing ourselves for a huge drop in the viewing numbers once it was apparent what kind of tour I was going to stage. Amazingly enough, the numbers held strong between 22 to 24k, and we’re so happy about that.

I have never been a fan of the “jump scare” type of tour. There are quite a number of tour operators that do this, and while I wish them well with their efforts, it’s not for me. As evidenced by the One Night In Intramuros tour, sometimes reality can be scarier.

Not a few people commented that I should have done the tour in Filipino. A handful even insinuated that I wasn’t being nationalistic for using English. The truth is, WanderManila will always angle to speak to a foreign market, and this tour did get quite a number of view from outside the Philippines. Our usage of English has nothing to do with our nationalism or lack thereof. If anything, that’s a curious thing to say to a group committed to representing Manila and the Philippines through guided tours and online education. *Shrugs*

But while we got our share of negative comments (some deserved, some were WTF?!?), we would like to thank those who defended us, who loved we were doing, who overwhelmed us with their positivity. It’s safe to say that the ratio of positive to negative comments were very, VERY skewed towards the positive, and we are so grateful for that. For me, that means we pulled it off, and that’s a definitive win in my book.

By the time we would up the tour (possibly the most nerve-wracking hour of my life, second only to the birth of my son), we were jumping up and down in my small apartment. What started out as a way to keep active and visible over the course of quarantine turned out to be a game-changing, life-altering event that put WanderManila on the map. On Facebook, we went from 1k+ followers to 43k! We were still getting inquiries for interviews and stuff a week after the event. I event appeared on TV fricking Patrol, could you believe that?!? And while some people said we were crazy for not charging a fee for the tour, we make a crazy amount of money out of tips. Out of tips! Insane!

More importantly, we showed that there was a market for well curated online experiences, especially during this challenging period of time. We staged a number of free online tours after this, and while none of them made a blip on the radar compared to One Night In Intramuros, a lot of people were still taking them seriously.

What’s next for WanderManila after this incredible experience? Aside from the aforementioned online tours, we’ll be coming out with more video content within the next few weeks. And for Halloween 2021 and beyond? You’re just going to have to wait and see!

Copyright 2021