Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo & Ongpin’s Chinatown in Manila

Quiapo Church in Manila Black Nazarene

Early Filipinos cure wounds, ailments, and different forms of illnesses with plants and animal parts formulated by shamans, priestess,and folk healers commonly known as albularyos. The medicinal practice is still applied until the present times especially to those who are financially incapable. Instead of purchasing jaw dropping expensive scientific medicines, some people especially inhabiting remote areas of the country, prefer the albularyos, than regular doctors.

Some say this Pre-Hispanic practice is only a superstition, but on many accounts of older people (referred to as “mga matatanda”, e.g. sabi ng mga matatanda), such medicines are really effective. My dad grew up in a small fishing island in Cebu where there are no nearby hospitals, and according to him, herbal medicines are remedies to their sicknesses – a practice he still exercise until today. He told me about a plant called, Lubigan (scientific name:Acorus calamus)which strengthens weak lungs, coughs, gas spasms, etc. and asked me if I could buy in Quiapo. I haven’t tried taking photos in Quiapo so I decided to bring my camera, and asked my supportive girlfriend to tag along.

To avoid the morning rush hour, we left the house around 12:00 PM and arrived at Carriedo station approximately 1:30 PM. As we head for Quiapo, I quickly dropped by Hidalgo Street to purchase an accessory for my camera. Crowd flocked on the small streets pointing to the church, probably, for the holidays are fast approaching.

The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, popularly known as Quiapo Church, came to our sights when we reached the end of Hidalgo St. Standing as one of the most popular churches in the archipelago, many devotees from all over the nation visits the church. Some pilgrims even make their way from the door to the altar kneeling. And since it is a regular destination, vendors selling different merchandise and services are scattered in front of the church, which is Plaza Miranda, and beside the cathedral. Although prohibit, it seems like business is booming for many vendors still finding ways to sell the products. Aside from food, services like fortune telling is available in Plaza Miranda. Merchandise like religious items and images can be found on the side, and not far from here are the herbal medicines area and asked around for Lubigan. To our misfortune, the plant seems like a top seller for vendors went out of stock.

Quiapo Church in Manila
Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene facade

begging for alms in quiapo church manilaThis beggar sitting right in front of the church doors struck me the most.

Superstitions does not only run in the bloods of Filipinos, but almost every country has their own mysterious beliefs just like ours. A country rich in culture, history and mysticism is China. Lighting chinese incense sticks, a common practice in Chinese countries, believe that these drove bad spirits away. My dad saw the practice when he was working in many Chinese countries, and on Discovery Channel, exercising such practice may not be that bad after all so why not do it as well. He also asked me to buy incense sticks, and Ongpin probably would be the best place to purchase authentic Chinese goods. It may not be authentic but it feels so Chinese to buy those in Chinatown.

chinese incense sticksFragrant Chinese incense sticks

Ongpin is situated not that far from the Church so we decided to walk under the 2:00 PM sun. From Quiapo, we head back towards Carriedo and walked to BPI which is really noticeable due to its architecture. After crossing the roundabout, you are walking the sidewalks of Santa Cruz Church on your right, and Escolta Street on your left. Right in front of the is the Ongpin Street. There are lots to try and taste in the district but time was not on our side, so right after buying Chinese Incense sticks, we walked our way back to LRT 2 – Recto Station.

sta. cruz church in Manila
Fountain in front of the Santa Cruz Church in Manila

ongpin in chinatown binondo
Walking in Ongpin Street makes you feel you’re in China. Jeepneys cruising the street remind you that you are in Manila.

Herbal medicines, and incense sticks are some of the mysteries that builds cultures. Science require facts and figures, superstitions require faith. Powers of this practices may or may no be true, nevertheless, they still exist and passed from generations to generations.

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