I got to explore Quiapo today. Andrea Tan and I met at the LRT 2 station and together, we made our way to Plaza Miranda where we met up with Geronimo, both members of Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran. I had to dress down for the trip–a long sleeved shirt, loose jogging pants, my ratty yet reliable flip flops, and no make-up. Very comfy.
Our first stop was Evanglista Street, where you can buy all sorts of herbs, charms, and amulets. We found something to ward off witches (Pampawala ng Kulam), something to ward off evil actions (anting-anting), and something to ward off body odor (tawas). We were looking for “pamparegla” (menstruation [read: abortion] inducer) just to see what it looked like, but we couldn’t find any. Maybe if we had pretended that Geronimo was pregnant….
We tried looking for the fortune tellers that used to hang out near the Quiapo Church but they were nowhere to be found. We also looked inside the said Church. Since there was a mass going on, we couldn’t walk around like we wanted. From where we were, we could see the image of the Black Nazarene, looking down at the congregation from its place just behind the altar.
We moved to Hidalgo Street after, famous for its many photography stores and cheap film stock, where Andrea bought what looked like ten million rolls of film for her trip to Europe.
We had to cross the bridge to get to Globo de Oro Street, where we were going to eat, so we crossed under the Quezon Bridge where you can find lots of native goods for sale. I bought myself a straw bag with leather handles that’ll be great for summer.
We passed by Bahay Nakpil, a museum set in the Nakpil ancestral house where Gregoria de Jesus, Andres Bonifacio’s second wife, used to live. She was instrumental in her own right during the revolution, using parties as a front to conceal her husband’s secret Katipunan meetings. She also learned to ride a horse and shoot a revolver. After Andres was killed, Gregoria, aka Lakambini, married into the Nakpil clan. Some of her hobbies included fishing and carving house tools from pieces of wood. Now why didn’t we learn about her in history? It’s an old angst, the one about not having enough women in history books but as old as the complaint is, I still don’t see anything being done about it.
After asking for directions to Globo de Oro, we found ourselves at our lunchtime destination, a little hole in the wall cantina called Moud Halal, a restaurant famous for its roast chicken. The three of us had ¼ chicken, rice, and a soft drink. The chicken was juicy; the rice, fragrant. It was a simple yet delightful meal, especially since it cost only 60 pesos.
What was interesting about our trip to Quiapo was that the streets were almost deserted because much of the population was at home watching the Pacquiao-Morales fight. Geronimo got a text message from New York saying that Pacquiao had won. We were in the mosque then, and he wasted no time telling everyone about it.
Which brings me to the most unexpected and interesting part of the trip, the Golden Mosque. Ismael, our impromptu guide, showed us around and explained the basics of Islam. He said that Filipinos, even if they were born Christians, are always said to revert to Islam instead of being converted into it (“balik-Islam”), because it was the predominant religion in the Philippines before the Spanish arrived.
We were objects of curiosity to the younger mosque-goers because a, we were Christians and b, because we were Chinese. We had to keep telling them that no, we may be Chinese by ethnicity, but we’re really Filipino. We may not look it, but we’re Filipino, too.
It’s amazing how you can cross from Catholic country to Muslim territory to Chinatown in a few minutes. After the mosque, we found ourselves having coffee in Panciteria Lido in Ongpin, in the heart of Chinatown. The lace was packed with old Chinese guys watching the delayed telecast of the Pacquiao-Morales fight.
People come from far and wide for the coffee in Panciteria Lido, which costs 40 pesos a cup. Andrea and I, the coffee freaks that we are, bought some ground beans to take home.
We all agreed that the trip was fun, and we’re raring to go on our next one. There’s talk of exploring Cubao next, maybe after the Chinese New Year. My only hope is that our trip coincides with a major sports event again, so that there’ll be less people on the streets. I wonder when the next Pacquiao fight is?
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