A sea of men and women in maroon clothes, struggling and inching their way to get near and touch the ancient image of the El Señor Nazareno de Quiapo is a spectacular scene every January 9 at Plaza Miranda. The image of veneration is the blacken image of the suffering Christ carrying the cross.
This centuries-old image of the Black Nazarene was brought to Manila from Mexico by Augustinian Recollects in 1606. According to tradition, the image was originally fair skinned but was darkened when a fire in the galleon blackened the image. When it arrived in Manila, it was initially enshrined in a church in Bagumbayan and then later transferred to San Nicolas Church in Intramuros. In the late 18th century, the image was transferred to the church in Quiapo. The procession held every January 9 commemorates the transfer of the image from Intramuros to Quiapo.
On regular days, Quiapo is not as crowded with devotees as compared with the January 9 event but the bumper to bumper traffic and the vendors aggressively peddling folk remedies, amulets, and pirated merchandises are the usual scenes. Despite the chaos and dilapidated structures, Quiapo remains as an important historical and cultural center for those who take time in experiencing Quiapo’s vibrant local color and discovering its glorious past.
A tour around Plaza Miranda is a good place start. This renovated plaza with Roman pillars and aqueduct-like structures, used to be the site of political rallies, including the infamous 1971 Liberal Party Rally. Grenades were thrown at the stage and the spectators, causing injury and death to a lot of people attending the event. An obelisk marks Plaza Miranda as the place for freedom of speech.
Also in this same area are the fortune-tellers, fearlessly and confidently giving their forecast to their steady stream of patrons. Whether through numerology, palm reading, and Tarot cards, both skeptics and believers come to Quiapo’s Fortune-telling Corner to have their fortunes foretold, past lives read, recover lost objects, and bring together estranged couples.
At the Carriedo street-side of the Quiapo Church colored candles are sold in candle-lighting kiosk. The color of each candle used in the Candle Lighting Ritual is believed to have an effect in someone’s life.
Red candles when burned invoke a prayer for the good luck or suerte while green promises prosperity and success in business. Melting a pink candle has positive effects in one’s love life while blue promotes career advancement and more travels. Orange is for good health. White is for peace of mind while black is used to “knock on someone’s conscience.” Red votive candles molded into human form were said to be used for voodoo.
Moving further towards Evangelista Street are vendors selling herbs and folks remedies that come in mysterious looking brews in glass bottles. Most of the items sold here are claimed by the vendors as cure-all for different types of illnesses.
Among the items for sale in this area, are the assorted Anting-anting made from wood, cloth, sundry object sealed in glass bottles and bronze medallions. These bronze medallions embossed with religious symbols and Latin text are believed to give its bearer supernatural powers.
Although the practice of using anting-anting and fortune-telling are frowned upon by the Catholic church, they continue to thrive around Quiapo Church. This church was designed by National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil in 1928. It was expanded in 1984 to accommodate the growing number of devotees of the Black Nazarene.
Architect Juan Nakpil lived in a house across Quiapo Church. It was the house of Don Ariston Bautista and wife Petrona Nakpil. The 1914 Art Nouveau Bahay Nakpil-Bautista along Barbosa Street has been transformed by their heirs into a museum dedicated to the Revolution of 1896 and to its famous resident, Gregoria Oriang de Jesus, the Lakambini of the Katipunan and widow of Andres Bonifacio.
Nakpil-Bautista is just one of the old rich families in Quiapo. On the adjacent street, R. Hidalgo Street, are remnants of what was once a Quiapo of the elite. These were once grand villas of the Paternos, Zamoras, Ocampos, Hidalgos, and Enriquezes. The old families of Quiapo along R. Hildago have move out and left their grand mansions grumbling.
Standing majestically at the end of R. Hidalgo is the All-Steel San Sebastian Church. The prefabricated steel parts of this church were manufactured in Belgium and were delivered in Manila using six ships. It took two years to reassemble the church. Trompe l’oeil painting was used to decorate the church’s interior and the crossed vaults on the ceiling, along with walls and column were painted to resemble marble and jasper.
Another Quiapo landmark is the Ocampo Garden House. This pagoda-like structure dominating the skyline of a residential district in Quiapo was constructed in 1935, a time when the huge area surrounding it was part of a vast estate of Don Jose Mariano Ocampo. The pagoda was built to adorn his garden and at same time to house his realty firm. However, with its completion in 1939, World War II broke out and the structure was used as an air raid shelter for the surrounding community.
A few of the stone statues in can still be found scattered in this residential community, including a Japanese-looking Our Lady of Mount Carmel standing on a globe.
To end the Quiapo tour, pass by the Golden Mosque on the way to Ilalim ng Tulay. The Mosque del Globo del Oro with its dome, painted in gold is the largest mosque in Manila. This Quiapo landmark was built in 1976, under the direction of then first lady Imelda Marcos. It is said that the mosque was built to impress visiting Libyan President Muammar Khadafy. However, for some reason, Khadafy’s state visit to Manila was cancelled.
Ils-de-tuls or Ilalim ng Tulay is a popular Quiapo destination to get hold of assorted Filipino handicrafts. Honey-combed under steel and concrete Quezon bridge are stores filled from floor to ceiling with local crafts made from indigenous materials. These handicrafts were sourced from various tribal and cultural communities throughout the country.
As a summary of our Quiapo Tour, here is the itinerary:
- Start at Plaza Miranda to see Fortune-tellers, Candle lighting ritual, Anting-anting, and Quiapo Church.
- Go to the underpass to get to R.Hildago Street to visit Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, Ocampo Pagoda, and San Sebastian Church.
- Return to R.Hidalgo to visit the Manila Golden Mosque then proceed to Carlos Palanca Street to end the tour at Ilalim ng Tulay.
–Feast of Black Nazarene | 9 January 2012