A Trip To Quiapo

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A short essay of an ethnography of the practices observed in Quiapo, Manila. An emphasis was given on the various religious artifacts found throughout the area such as the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the Nazarene, and other aspects of folklore such as the architecture and artifacts in the area.


Manalese, Kevin John C.2010-17726Anthropology 161

Lakaran sa Kiyapo: Being at the center of Metro Manila, an outsiders perspective of Quiapo would often be biased towards looking at the dark side of its streets, recounting the gravity of the crimes that is reported, an imaging created by the mass media. In turn, this has become part of the folklore, and buffed up by the specific focus on the Feast of the Black Nazarene which constructs an image of Quiapo in our minds as dangerous and unforgiving. This however was nevertheless confirmed by the same people who brave her everyday streets, who advised us to take caution before the start of the Lakaran, and take the necessary makikiraan po passerbys ritual. Such customary gestures can either be a manifestation of dual meanings for the Filipino. One is the sincerity on the part of the passerby as acknowledging the ownership of the property, or the second one, a perceived unfamiliarity which connotes danger in the environment. The cautionary ritual given to us might have meant for the second connotation.Commencing the Lakaran, one will immediately take notice of the blending of different cultures, all present in one place. Looking back at the distant past of the bustling Quiapo, it can be seen that its previous position as an important urban center of the past is still lingering throughout its streets, especially seen with the religious iconography that is blended with the streets. Artifacts that caught my interest include the huge statue of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel that has been enclosed by houses, which seems to connote the religiosity of the locals, and which may have been caused by syncretic beliefs of misfortune if an icon is blasphemed. This may perhaps explain as well why the statue is well-kept, as it seems to be repainted on a regular basis. There are of course, statues that pertain to the communitys devotion to the Nazareno, which the locals take time to say a prayer to, before going to work, which I believe signifies a strong syncretism of Catholicism because of the focus on the power of the statue. Noticeable as well are the clothing of the residents, for most of them wear white or maroon shirts imprinted with the face of Jesus of Nazareth, an evidence that the devotion has became part of their daily routine, and that such shirts may pertain on the strong reliance on the image and iconography of the statue. Similar to these are several other statues of saints on walls such as that of Therese of Liseux, that were utilized by other residents as walls to build their houses on, and a statue of the virgin atop a column, which seems to be the La Soledad de Porta Vaga, facing a non-Catholic statue of a fierce carp.Such statues show the Japanese influence which is evidenced as well by the houses that surround the said statue of the Virgin. Such are good examples of the great interspersed architectural marvels throughout Quiapo, beginning with the Nakpil house and other such houses from the Spanish period. Notable is the structuring of the house, especially the lower level made of stone, which keeps that part of the house very cool. It is however, unfortunate that the very high cost of the materials to construct it such as the marble makes such houses on the verge of existence, and the knowledge of such form of construction may become lost in the future. Another landmark that is almost at the dusk of its existence is the San Sebastian Church, with the rust eating away at this steel construction. Amazingly, one of the venerated images in the church is the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which is connected to the statue that was reiterated earlier. This exemplifies the saliency of the Filipinos Catholic belief, as the statue is located at a considerable distance from the church. Perhaps if one imagines the previous architectural organization of Quiapo by eradicating the modern houses, one may realize the dominance of Roman Catholicism which seems to be competing with religious minorities who are erecting various architectures of their own, such as the Golden Mosque. Immersing into the Islamic community that surrounds the mosque, one will be able to compare their practices with those of the larger Catholic-centered community of Quiapo. As the mosque is segregated, I had the impression that it is relatively peaceful compared to the outside environment. We were quite fortunate to be allowed to enter the courtyard of the mosque, where children are playing. At an early age, they are socialized to the various practices and rituals of the people, the mosque being the center of their lives. To walk the streets of Quiapo is like a trip to the religious life of the Filipino, whose practice of syncretism very much dominates his religious practices. To the fan of religious topics, architecture and history like me, the trip is very much worth the risk.

Initial perception of the placeOrigin of the namesQuiapoBahay NakpilReactions per place visitedQuiapoBahay NakpilBlended/hidden statues along the streetsPagodaSan Sebastian ChurchMosquePracticesObservations of the folkCompare/Contrast CommunitiesBeliefs/FolkloreCompare/contrast Catholicism and IslamConclusionBeing introduced to the etymology of Quiapo, which I initially believed to be an inherently Spanish name, I was enlightened by the systematic naming that was utilized by the Spanish, as derived from the thriving plants of the area.