Last May 10, the day after the 133rd birthday of Gregoria de Jesus and during the 111th death anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, I attended an open forum which was entitle “¿Quiapo Que Pasa?” at Bahay Nakpil-Bautista upon the invitation of Old Manila Walks’ Ivan Dy.
The event was about Quiapo’s cultural legacies particularly the preservation of the ancestral houses in the area. Prior to the open forum was a series of talks delivered by Architect Rene Mata, cultural adviser for the Manila mayor Ms. Gemma Cruz-Araneta, Quiapo cultural advocates Dr. Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita, Dr. Tess Obusan, Ivan Dy, and Architect Ten Ealdama.
Attendees composed of the concerned residents of Quiapo, the owners of Quiapo’s ancestral houses, representative from the government and heritage and tourism societies and non-Quiapo residents (that included me).
As a child, my parents would discourage me to go to Quiapo. They’re primary concern was for my safety since some decades ago Quiapo had a reputation of being the nest of notorious criminal activities.
Fortunately, this image of Quiapo is gradually fading away thanks to the efforts of the local government and police. Quiapo, despite being surrounded by dilapidated structures has now become a cultural center.
For it is only in Quiapo that we can see the existence of landmarks that showcase a synergy of cultures and all cultures blended together into this place rendering Quiapo the epitome of what makes us uniquely Filipino.
The Quiapo Basilica
The Quiapo Basilca is the center of the Filipino devotion to the Black Nazarene, a wooden image that has set off a culture of devotion unlike any other in the country. It has drawn countless of devotees, mostly commoners or “masa,”but as well as desperate professionals who would crowd the basilica on Fridays to pay homage and supplicate their immediate needs to the miraculous image of Christ.
Every 9th of the January, the image of the Nuestro Señor de Nazareno is brought out from the church into a rowdy procession attended mostly by the men folks.
The San Sebastian Church
Touted as the only all-steel church in the world and the only Gothic church in the Philippines, the San Sebastian Church has been claimed to be a handy work of world famous engineer Alexander Gustav Eiffel, the man behind the Eiffel Tower and steel frames of the Statue of Liberty.
However, no significant evidence has proved that Mr. Eiffel has worked hands-on in the designing of the church. Although, robbed with its Eiffel-fame, the San Sebastian Church remains as a one-of-a-kind structure that stands only in the Philippines.
The Ocampo Pagoda
An unusual structure to stand on the once residentially-zoned Quiapo, the Ocampo Pagoda is a fine example of an East-meets-West architecture. Commissioned by Don Jose Ocampo to decorate his garden, the structure shows oriental elements intricately carved on what looks like a medieval castle in Europe.
Mosque del Globo del Oro
Located within the Muslim district of Manila, the Golden Mosque was initially built by then first lady Imelda Marcos in 1976 to impress visiting Libian President Muammar Khadafy who wanted to pray in a mosque as soon as he arrives in Manila. However, for some reason, the state visit of Khadafy was cancelled.
The Bahay-Nakpil Bautista became both historically and culturally significant because of its former occupants and for its architecture.
A typical bahay-na-bato, Bahay Nakpil-Baustista served as home to Dr. Ariston Bautista and wife Doña Petrona Nakpil. Doña Pertona’s brother Julio Nakpil and wife Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio) also lived in the mezzanine of the house.
Built in 1914 by Filipino architect Arcadio Arellano, the house stands as a fine example of Philippine architecture during a period when Art Nouveau is being incorporated into the making of houses and buildings.
Interestingly, the Black Nazarene from the Quiapo Basilica across the street was sheltered in this house during the outbreak of World War II.
The May 10 Assembly
Several issues and proposed projects aimed at maximizing Quiapo’s tourism potential were introduced during the open forum. They ranged from programs as basic as advocacy projects to complex activities involving the participation of the different sectors such as tapping the sources to fund the preservation of the ancestral houses.
What became clear to me is that a well-attended and well-represented meeting like this only shows that we are serious about preserving our Filipino heritage. I’m positive that all these initiatives concerning the preservation of Quiapo’s legacies will be achieved by our generation alone.
However, I believe that it is also equally important that we focused our efforts onto encouraging, informing, educating, etc., etc. the next generation to appreciate our culture and preserve our national heritage. Otherwise the initiatives achieved by this generation will become just another part of our history.