Quiapo Tour

QUIAPO. 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.

TRIP 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.

PLAZA MIRANDA. 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.

FORTUNE-TELLING CORNER. 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.

CANDLE LIGHTING RITUAL. 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.

HERBOLARIO SUPPLY. 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.

ANTING-ANTING. 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.

QUIAPO CHURCH. 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.

BAHAY NAKPIL-BAUTISTA. 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.

SAN SEBASTIAN CHURCH. 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.

OCAMPO PAGODA. 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.

MOSQUE DEL GLOBO DEL ORO. 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. 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.

EPILOGUE. As a summary of our Quiapo Tour, here is the itinerary:

  1. Start at Plaza Miranda to see Fortune-tellers, Candle lighting ritual, Anting-anting, and Quiapo Church.
  2. Go to the underpass to get to R.Hildago Street to visit  Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, Ocampo Pagoda, and San Sebastian Church.
  3. 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

Snake Wine in Quiapo

PICKLED SNAKES. The Quiapo street market is arguably the most fascinating in Manila. The streets surrounding Quiapo Church are crowded with stalls of herbal medicines which vendors claim to cure anything from baldness to erectile dysfunction. These folk remedies are sold along side with religious statues, bronze-cast anting-anting, and multi-colored candles.

While walking along Carriedo Street, we came across a solitary vendor of mysterious-looking brews in bottles. Upon closer look, we discovered that the bottles contain venomous snakes pickled in rice wine.

MEDICINAL BENEFITS. Followers of traditional Chinese medicine have long believed that animals and their tissue parts have potent curative properties. Although snake meat is not considered as a common food for humans, some cultures believe that snakes tissues are supposed to boost one’s vitality.

The snake as it is prepared as alternative medicine comes in various forms. Snake oil are considered as remedy for alleviating pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other joint problems as well as skin allergies and diseases. Powdered snake gall bladder is reputed to be a cure for bronchitis. Drinking cobra blood is believed to increase sexual virility.

CURE-ALL. In Quiapo, snake wine is advertised as a cure-all remedy from diabetes to sexual dysfunction. The concoction consists of rice wine infused with venomous snakes like the cobra. Some bottles have ginseng root, a known aphrodisiac.

Also displayed in the make-shift stall were dried snake skin and meat as well as skeleton. We just hope that the production and sale of endangered species like the cobra are properly regulated.

Filipino Handicrafts under the Bridge in Quiapo

FILIPINO HANDICRAFTS. Last year, we decided to decorate our Christmas tree with small baskets, miniature brooms, sepak takrao balls, wooden wind chimes, bulol idols, stars made from translucent capiz and other similar objects available in handicraft stores under Quezon Bridge.

ILALIM NG TULAY. Honey-combed under this steel and concrete 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.

TRADITIONAL HANDICRAFTS. Our country has a long tradition of producing handicrafts made from natural materials. Blessed with rich natural resources, people from the different cultural communities discovered how to fashion useful and beautiful things out of wood, bamboo, rattan, abaca, coconut shells, capiz, shells, and object abundant in nature.

Skills in basket weaving, wood carving, shells craft, and the technology in using different hand tools to create local crafts were developed and passed on to different generations.

PRACTICAL SOUVENIRS. In Filipino homes, local handicrafts are both functional and decorative. We use the versatile walis ting-ting to sweep away the dried leaves from our garden. We prefer to use baskets that come in different sizes, shapes, and color in holding fruits and root crops than placing them in plastic food containers.

WORLD-CLASS. The Philippines is one of the world’s leading producers of handicrafts. Locally hand-made crafts are admired world-wide for their versatility, beauty and quality.

To meet the demand of modern living, makers of handicrafts fashioned them into functional and practical items like lamp shades, picture frames, paper weights, key chains. They are also use as souvenirs for weddings and corporate give-away.

SAVES OUR HERITAGE. Patronizing local handicraft encourages tribal and cultural communities to produce more. In that way we preserve and promote our cultural heritage.

EPILOGUE. To get hold of these beautiful and exquisite local craft, the handicraft store under the bridge in Quiapo is the place to be.

Quiapo Golden Mosque

ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE. One of the outstanding influences of Islam was in architecture. The Alhambra in Spain, Hagia Sofia in Turkey, and the Taj Mahal in India, are some of the few finest architectural wonders of the world.

In the Philippines, mosque are built following the classic Muslim lines; externally, a onion-shaped dome topped by a crescent and the minaret, internally, the prayer-niche that marks the direction of Mecca towards which all Muslims turn in prayer.

MOSQUE DEL GLOBO DEL ORO. In the Muslim Town of Quiapo, the Mosque del Globo del Oro with its dome, painted in gold and vibrant geometric designs is the largest mosque in Manila. This architectural 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 Khadafya. However, for some reason, Khadafy’s state visit to Manila was cancelled.

The mosque’s spacious floor area are divided by low columns supporting the pointed arches. The wide arched-windows allow air to circulate freely around the mosques. The natural light that fills the soft yellow walls and gleaming marble floors provides a mellow atmosphere suitable for prayer.

FILIPINIZED ARABESQUE. The mosque’s exterior wall are decorated with colorful mosaic-tile patterns of geometric and floral designs called the okir. The okir is a Filipinized version of the arabesque motif in Islamic art. Arabesque design of repeating geometric forms and fancifully combined patters are found decorating the walls of mosque around the word.

OKIR. The okir traditionally adorns the panalong, the carved wooden beams that protrude the ancestral houses of the Maranaos or the torogan. It is found in local handicraft, woven on textiles and baskets, carved into wooden objects, and etched into knives or brass pieces.

While walking around Quiapo’s Muslim town, we found stores where the okir design combined with Islamic symbols printed on prayer books, etched on brass decorative objects, and embroidered on religious caps.

Quiapo Candle Lighting Ritual

While in Quiapo, we lit colored candles in one of the several candle lighting (melting) kiosks around the perimeter of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. The ritual of burning or melting colored candles is believed to be offerings in exchange for heaven’s blessings or divine intervention for someone’s desires.

Purifying Month of February

According to the great Nick Joaquin, the tradition of lighting candles as an offering to the gods dates back to the Roman times. “Februus was the Roman god of purification and februa were the means or rites with which one was expiated and purified.”

The name of the month of February came from these rites which used to be the last year of the Roman calendar. “The februa or ceremonies special to the month were intended to purify the environment after the long dark dead of winter.” 

La Candelaria

The custom survives in Christianity as a feast of lights. On February 2, forty days after the Nativity, the church celebrates the Purification of Our Lady as well as the Presentation of Child Jesus at the Temple. 

The Purification or Presentation is the last of the Nativity feasts. In the olden days, the mass on this day used to be sung to Christmas music, with castanet and pandereta. The feast is also known as the Candlemas because of the blessing of the candles on this day and the procession of lights in honor of Our Lady of the Candle, or La Candelaria.

Quiapo Colored Candles

In Quiapo, the color of each candle used in the 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. 

After reciting a short prayer provided to us by the candle vendor, we lit five pre-bundled candles and sent our desires to heaven.

Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 12:01 am  Comments (4)  
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