Of all the places of interest in Manila, I always wanted to see Quiapo. Of course anybody who knows anything about Quiapo would advise skipping this place unless you are attending the mass at the famous Quiapo Church or some important business you could not avoid. Locals rated this place as dirty and dangerous, as the home of the black Nazarene is also the den of thieves and pickpockets.
But I was more curious than scared.
Ever since I found the word ’Quipo’ in the net while doing my quick research on Manila, I had been curious. Other than my desire to visit the muslim settlement of Quiapo, from the photos I could tell that it is lively and colorful, and I thought that spending some time there could be much more worthy than strolling the posh malls in Makati and the affluent district of Ortigas. And I know now that I was right.
So, after our short tour to Intramuros we thought of spending the afternoon in Quiapo. We hopped into a jeepney with “Sta. Cruz” written on the side, and as it cruises the hectic Quezon Boulevard I cautiously observed the landmarks. But the window was too small and I wasn’t sure where we should disembark. After a while I realized that we’ve gone too far as the road was getting bigger and the neighbourhood seems alien.
I quickly tapped the lady who sat in front of me, clearing my throat and asked her “Quiapo?”. She looked at me and mumbled some Tagalog sentence which I cannot grab, neither do DH. Seeing my puzzled face she repeated her words, but now in English.
“Sorry, I thought you were Filipino. ” She continued, “Where do you want to go?”.
“The mosque of Quiapo.” I uttered the word again. Trying to be exact this time.
“Sorry? I can’t hear you” she replied. The engine was too loud that I had to shout a bit. The driver overheard our conversation and slowed down. He turned to her and they started talking in their native language; while I and DH was totally lost. But my ears caught something sounds like ‘lepas’.
“Already lepas?” I interrupted, couldn’t contain my patience any longer as every seconds were dragging us further from our destination. I pointed my fingers to the back of the jeepney hoping that my meaning of ‘lepas’ is similar to hers.
“Yes, lepas, lepas” she nodded vigorously. That sort of confirmed it. “You get off here, and walk back to the second stop” she finally said. Yup, we past that second stop about 10 minutes ago. She then said something to the driver, which immediately pulled off the jeepney by the side of the road. The driver looked worried, scratching his almost bald head as if feeling guilty for not letting us down at the right place.
“It’s okay,” I assured him. “We can walk”. I smiled. Knowing it is not actually that far away, and again walking to us is always a great way of discovering something.
“You take care” said the lady, waving at us with concern look as we walked back to Quaipo. She reminded me of my mom, and suddenly I feel warm and safe by her words.
We walked along the corridor of some old shops and it was an interesting place. Colorful helmets lined up the shelves, and pirated DVDs being sold by the sidewalks. Speakers and amplifiers were stacked to the ceiling. Sunglasses, leather shoes, belts, stylish metal lighters and fishing rods were flashing at every man that pasess by. A fast walker I am; there were many times DH had to pulled me from behind to slow me down. He was excited with the surrounding, and had his focus distracted by the merchandise displayed along the way.
Credit goes to source. I was too chicken to take out my point-and-shoot.
Being warned of Quiapo ill reputation, we carefully kept our camera inside the bag, and braved the streets like we really belong there. Off course the anxiety was there all the time – what if we were followed and robbed, what if we fall into a conman scam, what if that, what if this. But I try as much not to think of the bad things. Negative thinking after all, attracts negative event, no? So that quite explains why this entry was very wordy and less photographic.
Muslim area in Quiapo, taken from the window of Maod Restaurant.
We detoured to the back alley after a few minutes walking, and the environment changed drastically. All the thrifty goods were now replaced with some burka and muslim’s praying mats, and nasheed - a muslim song were feast to our ears. DH stopped by one of the stalls, gave a salam and asked for direction to the mosque. A beardy man with a kopiah (a muslim cap) replied and asked almost instantenously if we are Malaysians. To our surprise, he directed us to walk further along the street in fluent Bahasa Melayu, with a hint of Sabahan.
We followed the man’s direction and finally saw the mosque gold colored dome in a distance. Since it was already past three, we decided to eat first by one of the restaurant before performing the jama’ prayers. The menu was chicken briyani; the look and taste was similar to the one we tasted in Bangkok. While I was doing the ordering, a few kids entered the restaurant and started begging the patrons for money. They were dirty and shoeless, and were mostly ignored by the folks there. I was hesistant too at first, as I was reminded of the syndicate that uses kids to get easy money. But when I saw how they gobbled at the left-overs given by one of the restaurant workers, I realized how wrong I was! It was a heart-breaking sight, and I lost my appetite. How could I eat while these kids, too young to face the hardship of this world, stood in hunger in front of me. I bought a few samosas and gave it to them which they grabbed and scrambled greedily at the corner of the restaurant. I wonder where their parents are.
It suddenly rained while we ate, so we idled a while observing the surrounding from the restaurant second floor. The once crowded street was now quiet. Laundry were hung to dry outside the shabby windows in between messy wires, and pedicab drivers took shelter inside their moto. A few people walked in the rain with their colorful payung.
Kids playing on the water puddles after the rain. Well kids will always be kids.
DH in front of the Golden Mosque of Quiapo, the largest mosque in Metro Manila. The construction was initiated in 1976 by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos to welcome the visits of Libya’s President Muammar al-Gadaffi, although the engagement was later called off.
We left the muslim settlement and crosses over to Plaza Miranda via the underpass, which eventually bursting with people. It was very difficult to walk without bumping into another person. Apparently there is a market under the bridge, selling fake jeweleries, beads, handicrafts to immitation bags and clothings and that was the reason for all the ruckus. I later learned that the market is known as sa ilalim ng tulay which simply means ‘under-the-bridge’. Again we were too chicken to take out the camera in fear of being recognized as tourists, so just imagine the market as any typical night markets you have ever been in South East Asia.
The commotion was all the way out of the underpass, covering the vast expanse of Plaza Miranda up to Carriendo street and Hidalgo. The alfresco market was more of a wet market, where fish, vegetables, fruits and flowers were sold side-by-side with plastic-wrapped St. Nino figurines and Virgin Mary, dizzying arrays of colorful anting-antings, rosaries and talismans. Herbal concoctions and medicinal remedies were stacked on a makeshift stall next to a row of candles and scented incenses. At one corner there was a congregation of faith healers, palm readers and fortune tellers, providing service to those seeking the spiritual salvation. The hymn of prayers from the nearby church which was intesified through the instalment of huge flat-screen LCD tv added to the loudness and vibrancy. With all the talking and bargaining, laughing and chanting – it was like a fiesta.
Vendors selling local delicacy, and they look similar with Kuih Celorot I found in Kuching, Sarawak . I tried searching for balut, but couldn’t find any. Perhaps I was not looking properly.
The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene at Plaza Miranda. Mass was in session, and the place was crowded with devout Catholics and market goers.
Couple at Rizal Park
We milled around Plaza Miranda and the nearby cellphone mall (DH was looking for earphones), while I lost myself around Hidalgo street (I was in heaven!) before taking a jeepney back to Malate. En route we decided to stop by the Rizal Park and walked up to the gigantic statue of Lapu-Lapu (The Sentinel of Freedom) before it started to rain again. We ran back to the main road thinking of taking a jeepney back to the hostel, but apparently Manila was on its worst time of the day – all the vehicles were stuck on a really bad traffic that walking seemed to be the fastest mode. So that was how we finally end our second day in Manila: walking in the rain all the way from Rizal Park to our Inn in Adriatico street, arriving cold and drenched from head to toes.
Fortunately we didn’t encounter any mishap during our brief escapade to Quiapo, and I could say that like the typhoon of Kai Tak, the danger of Quiapo was overly exaggerated. That off course, with due respect that all safety measures have been taken into consideration.