Quiapo and Chinatown: The Palengkera’s Tittle-Tattle

Folks, forgive me for being a dormant Palengkera for the past 2 months.  My main source of living has been very demanding and frenzied and so I was not able to rove the markets.  Good thing is, I’m back with fresh start and still armed with fervor and boundless love of Palengkes.

I thought what better way to start an early Sunday morning than to focus on one of my favorite public places in Manila: Quiapo and Binondo. I know, the ultra rich and the social climbers (are and always be my pet peeves) would rather hang out in the confines of Rockwell or Greenbelt for their cozy atmosphere and spotless vicinities.  Many of us may hate Quiapo as it may connotes dirty, chaotic and disgusting place, but this reminds me of Carlos Celdran’s signature statement on how he is trying to change the way we look at Manila and Quiapo “…I can’t change the way Manila looks, but I can change the way you look at Manila” and that I agree that “Quiapo shows you what Manila truly is -dirty, noisy, colorful, authentic and full of soul.” Indeed.  Quiapo in many ways confronts the Palengkeras/travelers with real paradox.

A palengkenita-friend has joined me and we had 4 F-words to describe this adventure- FAITH, FUN, FOOD, and FORAGE.

FAITH. Our first stop was Quiapo Church. My palengkenita-friend being a catholic and a devotee, we both attended the 8:00 am mass. When I saw her concentrating on her faith and beliefs among other devotees, I was busy with my own thoughts. I initially thought of religion and Catholicism. I could also remember when I was a child on how I was thought of the basic principles of this religion. I wonder why my outlook in religion has evolved along with modern times.  It may have been influenced by my education-mostly by science or by my exposure to the western culture. After almost an hour of pondering, the mass ended with my final thought- I still admire people with Faith, people that have faith that tomorrow could be better, the faith that someone guides them through goodness, someone to thank for and a supernatural being that could help them when they are in need. The church housed thousands of devotees, and that I am glad to know the Filipinos are still not losing their devotion to a creator despite how cruel the universe at times.

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FUN. Please feel free to push the disclaimer button, this is not a mock.  It may not be funny to some but I was amazed and had fun with so much paradox. Quiapo is a place so rife with contradictions. Where else can you find a Church where they sell abortion herbal medicines (Pampalaglag) and pang-gayumas in its vicinity?  The righteous fortune-tellers armed with general logic and obvious observations as if they were gospel-truth? How about the syndicated crooks that use minors as snatchers? The church maybe a haven for catholic devotees but its alleys have been ruled by Muslims selling DVDs.  Some also offer items (anting-anting) against curse and polterguise (Aswang and other creepy creatures). The colorful candles that you have to light for different wishes. And ultimately, the many faces of scams like they offer a free religious bracelets then suddenly they ask for payments.

Here are the things I find a little intriguing (amusing). Again, I am not against to those who believe them. From what I remember, I don’t think early Christians did use these articles.

Various Herbal Medicines and Articles

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A Fortune Teller. The lady was not prepared at all- look at her blush-ons and glitters. Magical look.

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Candle Burning Ceremony.  The guy explained to us the practice of burning colored candles to affect changes in our lives. He has laminated list below, but I thought I was more amazed when I asked him directly. He handed us a prayer guide. P5 each candle or a combo P20 that has all the colors. Red candles, when lighted, for wish to have a better family relationship. Green is for money and general success in business. White is purity of thought.  The blue summons peace of mind. The black candles are for turning enemies to friends. ( very noble). And lastly, I giggled and thought of a different thing (not appropriate for this blog), Pink is for a positive love life (lol).  I chose the blue one for peace of mind while my palengkenita-friend lighted a bundle, I guess she wanted to have it all. It never crossed my mind that she was that greedy. lol

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In any case, Quiapo is a fun paradise. It may have an element of danger but in the end, you’ll experience the way of life in irony, which I find amusing.  Palengkita-friend and I had countless laughs with our experience navigating Quiapo and Chinatown.

Chinatown

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FOOD. In Quiapo, street food is given. But just across some few blocks, Chinatown is a food haven. On our way to Chinatown, vast array of food vendors were busy selling their goodies. Even though my digital camera was in danger of being snatched anytime, I had a heyday documenting the extensive variety of street food, as the pictures would show. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available along the streets. Some vendors, on the other hand, have their culinary specialties on Hidalgo St. going to the old SM Shoemart. They sell all sorts of lumpiang prito, kakanin and assorted pansit for as little as P5 to P20. Street food never came this cheap. Along the narrow streets (I have not taken notes) of Chinatown,  shops that sells hopia, ham, dim sum and other Chinese food are popular.

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As early as 9:30am, we were starving. And so we had to stop at a particular Chinese restaurant with Dimsum as their specialty.  We ordered steamed chicken feet, Sour and Spicy soup, spareribs, ox tripe with sesame and a bowl of fried rice.  The order is actually good for four, but we had to consume all for us to store energy for walking to Binondo and a final stop in Divisoria.  We were amused to be entertained by the owners-son that attends to our orders and everything that we need. And of course, it was time to show my talents- flirting.  Apart from filling our tummies with flavorful Chinese-dishes, we had fun with the guy.

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and who can resist this?

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FORAGE. A Shopping and Bargain hunt haven. Maybe Quiapo or Chinatown’s appeal to me lies to the fact that there is a secret waiting to be unraveled in its every nook and cranny. In any case, it is a bargain shopper’s paradise. Be it traditional medicine, Chinese medicine, Food, Jewelry, fake goods and documents and everything that you need, are always available in Quiapo and Chinatown. Quiapo is known by many to offer some of the cheapest prices in for whatever you need. Hidalgo Street is also known as Camera Stalls line both sides of the street and the middle of the street selling clothes, rice cakes, pasta, fruits, DVDs, sunglasses, bags, necklaces and much more.

Pics of our foraging.

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The Palengkenita-friend Occasional click poses

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Our unforgettable visit to Quiapo and Chinatown also reminded me that our ancestors were successful in preserving our religion, culture and traditions which will be passed on to future generations.

I have to get back to work, and it’s Monday again., you know.

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