The Beauty of Quiapo

I am a Manileño, in heart and in deeds. Having been born and grew up in my beloved City of Manila, its historic streets are my playgrounds; its alleys and sidewalks are my everyday walkways; its structures, buildings, halls, walls and tombs are my regular sights.

I grew up and still living in the crowded and frenzied market street in the boundary of Sampaloc, Tondo and northern Sta. Cruz districts popularly known as Blumentritt; spent my elementary days there; had my high school in downtown Sta. Cruz; and finished my college in Intramuros. In short, my whole life has been revolving in the city, with the old district of Quiapo in its midst.

Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church

Quiapo is usually portrayed and identified as one of the notorious districts of Manila. But whoever say that Quiapo is all ill-famed, do not know Manila by heart. One need not be a Manileño to see its beauty and understand its way of life. You just have to open your eyes, see beyond what you can see, feel the vibes and blend in. Quiapo is beautiful.

It is a melting pot of diverse culture, beliefs and religions, where Christians, Muslims and occultism meet and mix. Its heart, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or simply the Quiapo Church is one of the most popular churches in the Philippines with very large following due to the perceived miraculous attributes of the wooden image of the Black Nazarene. Every 9th of January, throngs of devotees flock to the church for the annual procession. Men, women and children, of all ages, social status and profession join the procession hoping to touch or have a glimpse of the image of the Black Nazarene cordoned by sea of men. For whatever prayer, purpose, belief or wish, devotees are one in waving their hankies while singing the hymn of “Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno” repeatedly.  The same procession happens every Good Friday.

When I was a kid, we used to go there during fiesta. I remember sitting on my father’s shoulders so I can have a glimpse of the image as it enter the church while waving a white handkerchief, and on the way home, I always ask my mom to buy me a brown kalamay on the street of Carriedo.

Carriedo Street

Right outside the main entrance of the Quiapo Church is the historic Plaza Miranda, a popular promenade for political gatherings and usually occupied by merchants, shoppers, fortune tellers and by-passers on a regular day.

I have walked to the  vicinity of Quiapo a countless times – the surrounding streets and alleys that are filled with shops, sidewalk vendors, bargain hunters, people begging for alms, students, tourists and all kind of people that you can think of. I have mingled with them since my childhood up to now.

Try walking around to reveal some of the best bargains: the optical stores in Evangelista and Paterno Streets; photo and camera shops and services along Padre Gomez, Hidalgo and their side streets; the native handicrafts under the Quezon Bridge; the wet market of Quinta; electronics in Gonzalo Puyat (formerly Raon), Ronquillo and surrounding streets; sports and music equipments in Sales, Gonzalo Puyat, Evangelista and Quezon Boulevard; the amulets, stones, charms and other herbal medicines around the church; and even the pirated DVD’s, CD’s and VCD’s in Elizondo. Not to mention the various stores, big and small, located in the underpass and in every thoroughfare of the district, selling garments, ukay-ukay, bags, shoes, gift items, fruits, plants and other novelty items.

A street vendor along Hidalgo

You will not get out of the district with empty stomachs because Quiapo is also a haven for food trippers. More than the fast foods scattered around the area and the cheap street foods lined up in every avenue, Quiapo is home to some of the all time favorites: taste the city’s best lumpiang sariwa (fresh spring rolls) at Globe Lumpia House and the noodles of Delicious Restaurant both in Gonzalo Puyat; bring home some dried fish, the famous Excelente Ham, or dine in the Chinese restaurants in Palanca; or have a siopao in Ma Mon Luk in Quezon Boulevard.

On the other side of Quiapo Church, east of Quezon Boulevard, are more of Quiapo’s treasures: the San Sebastian Church (Basilica Minore de San Sebastian) along Bilibid Viejo, inscribed in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its Gothic architecture and for being the only all-steel church in Asia; the Majid Al-Dahab or the Golden Mosque at the end of Gunao Street, the largest mosque in the metropolis and considered as the center of Muslim faith in the capital; the Quiapo Pagoda also in Bilibid Viejo, built in 1935 by Don Jose Mariano Ocampo, popular for its mixed eastern and western design; the old houses of Bautista-Nakpil and Boix along  Bautista Street (formerly Barbosa); the mansions of Paterno, Enriquez, Ocampo and Don Jose Sulpicios Orpilla and the ancestral houses of Zamora and Padilla, all in the heritage street of Hidalgo; and the old schools, universities and colleges nearby.

Quiapo… notorious, filthy, chaotic. But if you open your eyes, try to see beyond what you can see, feel the vibes and blend in, you will see the beauty of it and you will never look at the place the same way again. Because despite some of the negative images of the district, the everyday chaotic scenes and the bad elements roaming around, are treasures we often overlooked and neglected.

Quiapo… mystical, exotic and beautiful. It is the heart of the city. You may agree with me or not, but in one way or another,  directly or indirectly, Quiapo is a part of every Filipino’s life, as it is a part of mine.

The Basilica Minore de San Sebastián, better known as San Sebastián Church, is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Manila, the Philippines. It is the seat of the Parish of San Sebastian and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Completed in 1891, San Sebastián Church is noted for its architectural features. An example of the revival of Gothic architecture in the Philippines, it is the only all-steel church or basilica in Asia.[1] It has also been implausibly reputed to be the first prefabricated building in the world,[2] and more plausibly claimed as the only prefabricated steel church in the world.[3] In 2006, San Sebastian Church was included in the Tentative List for possible designation as a World Heritage Site. It was designated as a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government in 1973.[4]


  1. WAR WAR

    Thanks for such a perfect post about Quiapo…..During my scholar days for 2 years in Philippines, I always visited this lovely & lively place on weekends. Miss you Quiapo!

  2. I couldn’t agree more…..Quiapo is mystical, exotic and beautiful. My memories of Quiapo is during the 60’s before I lived abroad. I can still remember buying kastanyas at Villalobos and the best brown bibingka topped with thick latik I’ve ever had was from an old vendor in Echague. Truly love your article, the best on Quiapo. More power to you!

  3. Nice post. I really enjoyed it. Will be coming back to the Philippines next year and this place is in my list. Thanks for this very insightful post. 😀

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  5. Ace Tiamzon

    nice post about Quiapo.

    Sana minsan maka pagpost din ako ng katulad nito.

    More power.

  6. long with Cubao, Quiapo is my shopping meca. Madalas ko dayuhin yan nung asa QC pa kame nakatira.
    @Claire…d gaano maganda ukay sa Quiapo,pero jan ka makakita ng mga authentic luxury bags like LV s ukay pero mahal pa din ang presyo. Sa St. Mesa mas ok ang ukay. 😉

  7. thumbs up. My first post on my blog was about Quiapo and Avenida. It’s my favorite place in Manila dating back from college – from digging hard to find CD’s of Sham 69, Bad Brains, New York Dolls…to everything. Hidalgo for film cameras and then digital camera, then DSLR, then lens…even had my fortune revealed to me there (forgot if some of it came true).

    I still go there when I need to clear my mind of something…

    1. Thanks Marky! Same here, Quiapo is one of my favorite places in Metro 🙂

  8. Very insightful post on Quiapo Angel, it’s one of my favorite places in Manila just because it has Hidalgo (the camera haven) and lots of ukay-ukay shops :)This is where I usually tour my foreign friends whenever they request to see the real day to day life of the common people.

    1. Thanks Claire 🙂

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