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Walkabout Quiapo

Posted by on Jan 12th, 2010
Filed Under: Manila, Walkabout Pinas

Tourism Philippines Walkabout Pinas ColumnistSwathed in history and known by most as the old downtown of Manila, these days, Quiapo in many ways confronts the traveller as a living, breathing paradox. Here you can find the old right next to the new, quiet meditation amidst chaotic masses and the most holy Catholic icon in the country surrounded by occult stalls. All of these things combined make Quiapo quite an adventure and so much more than just another urban centre.

Philippines Quiapo Church

Quiapo Church
Photo by Scott Allford

Back in December 2009 we joined Carlos Celdran’s tour (Walk This Way – ) on a walk through Quiapo. The first thing that hit me was the chaos of the area. Everywhere there was traffic and people moving in every direction and a million smells and noises filling the air. On walking up to the SM Clearance Outlet at the end of Hidalgo Street we noticed a very large plume of smoke from a fire a couple of blocks away, but people only glanced at it and kept on rushing about and buying what they needed. Quiapo is known by many as offering some of the cheapest prices in Manila for whatever you need. Hidalgo Street is also known as Camera Street and has become somewhat of a mecca for photographers as any photography accessories you require can easily be found here usually for less than market prices. Stalls line both sides of the street and the middle of the street selling clothes, rice cakes, pasta, fruits, DVDs, CDs, sunglasses, bags, necklaces and much more. Before entering Hidalgo Street, Carlos advised our large group composed mostly of foreigners to follow the buddy system and never lose sight of our partner as it is easy to get lost in Quiapo. On the walk, or rather the shuffle through Hidalgo Street I experienced sensory overload with so much happening around me, but I was always mindful of my valuables and following the buddy system.

Philippines Quiapo Walking along Hidalgo Street

Walking along Hidalgo Street
Photo by Scott Allford

Finally we all made it through the hordes of people in Camera Street and came out into Plaza Miranda. This square in front of Quiapo Church was the site of the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing where 9 were killed and nearly 100 injured during a political campaign rally held by anti-Marcos Liberal Party members. As I walked into the plaza I weaved my way through stalls selling flowers and fruits and caught glimpses of a protest for Human Rights going on in the centre. Plaza Miranda is also the site of the largest religious festival in the Philippines. Every year on January 9th millions of devotees gather to touch the holy Black Nazarene to be miraculously healed or blessed. They walk through the streets barefoot while the figure is carried in a golden carriage. The Black Nazarene was brought to the Philippines from Mexico in 1606 and both Pope Innocent X and Pope Pius VII have placed their blessings upon the statue. At all other times of the year the Black Nazarene is housed high in the altars of Quiapo Church. As we went there in December we were able to walk into the church and up a curving staircase behind the altar to touch the Black Nazarene’s foot. While the site of millions of devotees is something pretty amazing, going to see the Black Nazarene is much easier. When you touch the statue’s foot, you make your wishes or say your prayers and leave some sampaguita flowers which can be bought from the many vendors outside the church.

Philippines Quiapo Me touching the foot of the Black Nazarene

Me touching the foot of the Black Nazarene
Photo by Scott Allford

After this deeply Catholic experience you can step out through the side doors of the church and stock up on your occult supplies. In the shadows of the Quiapo Church all your supernatural needs can be met. If you’ve got a problem with an Aswang (vampire-like witch creature) you can find the solution here. Love potions made from lizard urine and a variety of other herb and animal concoctions can be found in numerous stalls on the edge of the plaza near Evangelista Street. I picked up a pendant for everything to do with travel which has a language that looks like Latin written on the back but is actually a Filipino version of Latin which nobody seems to understand but has apparent mystical properties. Also you can pick up a coloured candle to burn for whatever you need. There are a variety of colours to choose from and Carlos Celdran treated each of us to a candle. Red is for love, Green is for money, Black is for someone who wronged you to develop a conscience.

Philippines Quiapo Candles

The Candles of Quiapo
Photo by Scott Allford

After an afternoon walking around Quiapo I was exhausted, but I also was kind of sad that my visit was over. Quiapo is a sort of microcosm of the Philippines with different cultural practices all mashed together and living in harmony with each other. The great thing about it is that it is located right here in Manila and is therefore only a short but unforgettable trip for any traveller who wants to experience a slice of Filipino history, culture and traditions.

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Scott M. Allford has lived and worked in Australia and South Korea and has travelled extensively throughout Asia- Mongolia, China, Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan – fell in love with the Philippines and decided to allocate at least two years to comprehensively cover the country. Learn more about me [+]

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2 Responses to “Walkabout Quiapo”

  1. Dinah says:

    I never get tired of going to Quiapo. I agree with you that the place is a microcosm of Phil culture. You will find everything here.

  2. joan says:

    when i’m in luzon i like to go in quiapo,coz remind me
    a one place of egypt called guisa…………….
    its so crowded but wonderful…

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