Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Quiapo: You love it or you don’t

No procession of the Black Nazarene for the third straight year, but it remains Manila's beating heart

Vendors around the church are back, selling sampaguita and candles. (Photos by Medel Sablaya)

Pre-pandemic worship at Quiapo church

It’s dizzying and fast, it’s colorful, it’s loud and vibrant. It is the beating heart of Manila. It is Quiapo.

The energy comes mostly from the shops and people who have come for bargain hunting, shopping for specific items, dining, and, specifically visiting the front and center of Quiapo, one of the most popular landmarks in Metro Manila, the Quiapo Church or the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.

Post -pandemic Quiapo. More organized and quiet.

The streets are filled with shoppers, vendors, and churchgoers, especially on Fridays, considered Quiapo Day. The feast of the Black Nazarene in January attracts millions of devotees from all over the country every year.  One of the events is the procession or what is called the Traslacion, where the Black Nazarene image is borne by crowds on the streets of Quiapo and back to its home in Quiapo Church. It’s a walk of faith as people try to get nearer to the image, which they believe is miraculous. One should physically prepare for this, as it sometimes lasts 23 hours and could test one’s endurance and dedication. (Note: There was no Traslacion this year, the third year in a row).

But Quiapo is not without its flaws. It has gained notoriety for snatchings and pickpocketing, as people have become vulnerable to petty crimes brought about by overcrowding. However, police visibility has improved the situation. Quezon Boulevard, the main road, has also become a choke point as jeepneys and other vehicles cram the road on peak hours. Eyesores are everywhere, as sidewalk vendors take over the streets, with their rubbish. The streets have become too narrow for pedestrians, with stalls on both sides.

It takes a few visits for one to get used to Quiapo and the chaos, but some people seem not to mind as they continue to flock to the place every day.

So, Quiapo has become an urban jungle, with its twists and turns and deadends. You either love it or hate it.

Getting there is an adventure in itself. You can either take the LRT1 and get off at Carriedo Station and head straight; if you’re coming from Quezon City, you take the LRT2 and get off at Recto Station and walk a few minutes to the church. Of course, there are jeepneys to take you right to the church, whether you’re coming from the north or south.

Quiapo has become an urban jungle of sort with its twists and turns and dead ends, and you love it or hate it

Every street has items for your specific needs. Hidalgo Street, which is just a few meters from the church, remains a haven for photographers and videographers. There’s a long line of camera and printing shops. I myself, being a hobbyist, bought my first and only SLR camera there, and had most of my prints done there. It is also where you can buy fruits and vegetables, flowers and plants, and ukay-ukay clothes. Paterno Street has lots of optical and dental shops. Raon and Evangelista streets  are for those who want to buy electronic items, machine tools, and sports and music items.

Quinta Pansit Palabok and Hidalgo Pansit are back.

Bike shops along Quezon Boulevard were among the shops that profited during the pandemic and continue to do so.

Quiapo Ilalim (under bridge) still sells handicrafts.

There is a new Pasig river ferry station behind Quinta Market.

The famous Quiapo Ilalim (under the bridge) on Palanca Street is home to Filipino handicraft shops and the Quinta Market, where you can visit their now famous pansit palabok eateries. Carriedo Street has clothes and other items wholesale and retail. The church and area around Plaza Miranda are surrounded by religious articles and herbal medicine shops. Quezon Boulevard, due to the pandemic, is now popular for its bike shops. The Quiapo underpass has become busier with its cellphone repair shops, massage corners, and food shops.

San Sebastian Church, with its Gothic architecture, looms.

The heritage houses along Hidalgo and Bautista streets are vestiges from the past.

There has been an interest lately in Halal dishes around the Muslim Center.

“Hidden” behind the stores and jeepney stations are the heritage houses on the east side of Hidalgo Street, towards the Gothic church and steel-prefabricated San Sebastian Church. Sad to say, most of them are dilapidated and needing attention. The Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, an ancestral house and also a museum built in 1914, is on Bautista Street and considered a hidden gem. It holds a special niche in our history and is a must-see when you visit Quiapo. Quite interestingly, on Globo de Oro and nearby streets is the Muslim Town community, with the Manila Golden Mosque as its center. There you can find halal meals and restaurants on every corner.

Quiapo is as diverse as it can be, a mix of the old and the new, of different cultures and beliefs, the past and the present, as represented by the old structures and shops standing alongside the new ones. It’s a place you can go to reminisce traces of the past while enjoying the experiences of the present.

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