Our group squeezed in a quick trip to Quiapo despite our busy schedules. We went on a Tuesday morning at around 9am. In all honesty, it was not just Quiapo that was an adventure, but the ride going there as well. For the youngest among us, Tassja the sophomore, it was her first time taking the train without her parents—or their permission (can you say takas?). Maicka and Mikha, her friendly mommy seniors, took her under their wings and protected her from all sorts of atrocities and shocking revelations that she may face. Little did we know that surprises were in store for all of us.
After transferring to a car when we got off at the J. Ruiz station, we had more liberty to actually cram some homework while we continued our journey. When we arrived, our initial thought was, “Are we in Quiapo already?” The streets were abuzz with vehicular noise, shouting jeepney drivers, and pedestrians looking for a ride. In addition to that, there were so many mini-establishments that still managed to attract customers despite the fact that it was Tuesday, an unlikely day for shoppers to be out and about. It was Quiapo, though, and what did we know about that place anyway? Well, we’re about to find out.
Mikha’s driver was kind enough to tour us around the place, lest we get lost. Right when we got on the streets, we were definitely overwhelmed. We’ve been to Greenhills bazaars and Ateneo-La Salle games, and we all thought we were used to being part of a huge crowd. Little did we know that the crowd we were about to face was totally different.
Here, people were not snobs. Almost everyone seemed to know each other, as the three of us were witnesses to lively conversations going on among the people there. Kind greetings of “Hi!”, “Hello!”, and even “Magandang umaga!” welcomed us newbies as if they already knew us. Tassja even acknowledged the last one with a timid “Good morning!”, which Maicka found amusing.
The streets weren’t as well paved as the ones in High Street or even Katipunan, so we were all cautious of where we walked. It was even kind of frightening to find out that what we thought of as pedestrian roads (because of their tightness) were also pathways of jeepneys, tricycles, and even huge garbage trucks. Perfect timing was key to running into the last one. Despite the seemingly inconvenient environment, those who were used to it actually found ways to benefit from it. For example, they strategically placed their kiosks in narrow areas so people passing through would have no choice but to sneak a peek at their goods. That would definitely be ingenious marketing!
As we looked all around us, awestruck with our surroundings, we continued our journey through the brand new world we had entered until we reached the most famous landmark of the place.
Finally, we arrived at the legendary Quiapo Church. We were all excited and scared at the same time. We stopped for a while before entering the Church. It was so obvious that it was our first time because we were a group of innocent tourists who seemed lost in the area. What would it be like inside the Church? Is it the same with the typical Churches that we are used to or is this one a different kind? We certainly didn’t know what to expect because the Quiapo Church is surrounded by a very busy and narrow business-market area.
At first, we were panicking because we entered through the “exit” door. We’re not exactly rule breakers as Ateneo instills in us the virtue of obedience. However, we couldn’t afford to walk farther to the main door because we already found the random people calling us while we were walking questionable. Although we knew they were doing that for a living and that kind of sales talk was normal, our parents advised us not to entertain them for safety purposes. We tried our best to act normal amidst the culture shock, anyway.
We noticed the contrast between the atmosphere inside and outside the Church. Its interior is so big and spacious, you can see that it’s ready to accommodate large crowds during the feast of the Black Nazarene. Surprisingly, even though we visited on a week day near lunch time, a lot of people are still visiting the place. We saw a man closing his eyes and who was about to cry while touching the Black Nazarene. A lot of people were quiet, closing their eyes, and praying hard. Few were teary-eyed as if they were asking for a miracle. As we searched for an empty seat, we saw a few security guards roaming around with walky-talkies. They looked legit with their polo-barong and their seemingly high-tech devices. Besides the guards, we noticed railings along the main aisle, which were placed there maybe for crowd management during special occasions.
Since it was a first for all of us to visit the Quiapo Church, we spent some time praying and observing people inside. We noticed that the crowd was actually very diverse. Some people were all dressed-up while some were wearing their most comfortable clothes. The guard told us that people of different classes really visit the Church, even foreigners. Most of the visitors are devout Catholics, some visit regularly, expecting for a miracle while others go because of ancient folklore and hearsay about the miracles that the Church gives to its visitors. Though these people belong to different social classes and family histories, we clearly see that what binds them together is the fact that they have the same purpose for visiting the ancient Quiapo Church.
After observing what occurred in the Church, we decided to go around and take part in the activities that were occurring. Directly beside the Church were people selling different religious items, from healing oils, candles, to religious idols. They were particularly loud and vocal about the products they were selling. However, what really caught our eyes were the tarot card readers who promised to tell of our futures, particularly Maicka’s and Mikha’s.
Initially, we couldn’t choose which ones to go to as we were trying to decide who seemed the most legit. They were all dressed differently; some were wearing big, loose tops, while others were in seemingly office attires. They would even call out and say “Ganda, dito ka.” We did our best to resist their compliments (feeling ba?), but finally, Mikha chose a woman, probably in her early fifties with short hair and a lampin on her back to brace herself from the heat. She was paid P100 and the fortune telling began.
The first contestant was Mikha. The lady said that she has big dreams and foretold that they would all come true. She also said that she would go to another country and marry a foreigner. She went on to describe Mikha’s personality, and was actually quite accurate. For an additional P50, she read her palms. After studying them, she deduced that Mikha would have a good, long life, with successes coming.
While this was going on, Maicka went to another fortuneteller. After two heartbreaks, she would finally find the love of her life and marry him. She was, however, warned stay away from married men, as they are a source of tukso or temptations. Maika felt very negative about the fortune and said that “’di naman totoo yung mga yan eh.” Tassja opted not to join this activity because she figured she could use her P100 for food instead.
We couldn’t really tell whether or not these ladies were legitimate, but we discussed how the process seemed too unrealistic. Instead of letting them choose a few cards from the deck, the fortunetellers simply used the whole deck to predict the future. We basically thought that if this was the case, then boy do we have the same fate as probably every other person.
Lastly, to put the cherry on top of our adventure, we were very flabbergasted to hear someone say in a very soft voice, “condoms.” Imagine our surprise when we heard someone say that near a Church!
Overall, we had a pretty memorable experience visiting a place we haven’t seen at all—to think it’s right here in Metro Manila! We, admittedly, are sheltered children who don’t normally hang out in places like Quiapo. Being observers and trying to fit in with the scene was a daunting task, but fun nonetheless.
Godofredo Stuart says it well, “…a trip to Quiapo will provide a taste of the third-world surreal and fringe, a merging of Filipino religiosity and the commerce of the alternative.” (Stuart, 2012). One may remember the event in the Bible when Jesus Christ overturned the tables of merchants who were selling their goods in front of the temple, making it a den of thieves. This could be a modern day depiction of this scene, which proves that history somehow manages to repeat itself. Why, exactly, has a religious place as such turned into a market at the same time?
Societal influences have undeniably rendered these people choiceless, as their only means of getting a job would only materialize if they live the capitalist lives of all other Filipinos. Seeing that, as a fact, Quiapo is very cramped, these people rely on whatever space is available to set up their businesses. They also rely on the influx of people that visit the place, especially on religious holidays.
With all the hustle and bustle that goes on here, it’s still amazing how people manage to smile and greet each other despite the uncomfortable heat or unpleasant rain, the usually cramped streets, and the fast-paced lifestyles brought about by their environment. It is mostly adaptation that gets people through the day, and this gives Quiapo the ultimate uniqueness it has as one of the most well-known landmarks of the Philippines.
Stuart, Godofredo U. “Quiapo – The Church and the Market : The Commerce of Religion and the Alternative: Godofredo Umali Stuart / Althernative Medicine /StuartXchange.” Quiapo – The Church and the Market : The Commerce of Religion and the Alternative: Godofredo Umali Stuart / Althernative Medicine /StuartXchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2012. <http://www.stuartxchange.com/Quiapo.html>.
• Maicka Agon
• Mikha Canon
• Tassja Natividad
SA 21 Q