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"I carry your heart with me… always."

Quiapo

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At the very heart of the city of Manila, you will find Quiapo district, where the famous Quiapo Church stands. This Roman Catholic church, officially called Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, is where the Black Nazarene procession is held every year. I was able to visit the church again after many years, and it was my first time to see the Black Nazarene. The Black Nazarene, a life-size statue of Jesus Christ carrying the cross, is believed to be miraculous, that is why devotees flock the church every Friday (Quiapo Day) to light a candle and pray the novena.

During the Black Nazarene Procession in January 9th, thousands of people gather to parade the image of the Black Nazarene. Clad in color maroon, devotees “walk barefoot as an act of penance for Jesus on his way to Mount Calvary“. Many people claim that they have been healed of their disease after touching the Black Nazarene. Filipinos from all over the Philippines risk being jostled or trampled upon during the procession, just to touch the Black Nazarene, hoping for a miracle from Heaven. Every year, there are reports of injuries and stampede, even death, caused by too much congestion, heat and fatigue.

When my Mom, my cousin and I went to visit Quiapo Church, it was Wednesday, so there weren’t too many people around; however, compared to other churches, Quiapo Church has got to have more devotees coming every day.

When I entered the church, the first person who caught my attention was a woman of about 50, walking on her knees towards the altar, with a rosary in her hand. She was absorbed in prayer, I could tell, because she never paused when people passed her way to get to the other side of the church. She kept murmuring a prayer, her eyes closed and hands clasped tightly together. That scene is not uncommon in Quiapo, as well as in other churches in the Philippines. The Philippines is a country of “the prayerful and the faithful”… and I was glad to be back in my homeland for a while to visit Quiapo church and other churches in Pampanga (my hometown) my Mom and my sister usually go to. I feel like my faith has been nourished by the devotion I have witnessed in Quiapo. There was a man without one arm, who was praying beside me and wiping the Black Nazarene with his tears; an old woman who could barely walk went around to touch all the images displayed with the Black Nazarene. A little boy was praying solemnly, instead of playing or running about just like what other children do when their parents take them to church, and when his Mom told him that they should be going, he asked for more time, because he wasn’t finished praying yet. I realized how little my faith is compared to the many Filipino devotees who come to church regularly to pray. I am not a devout Catholic. In fact, I used to object religious statuary and I didn’t like to hear Mass. I was one of those who used to say, “Why do Catholics worship images?” I have read an article which explains this, but it’s another topic that I don’t have enough knowledge and right to talk about. If you are interested to read the article, here is the link to Catholic Answers.

I am a believer of prayers, and a place like Quiapo, no matter how crowded and oftentimes noisy because of the many vendors outside, is a great place to pray.

If you’d like to visit Quiapo Church, the best way to get there is by train. You can avoid traffic jam, and the commute is much faster and more comfortable if you take the LRT-1 (orange line) train to Carriedo station; then walk down Carriedo street to make your way into Quiapo. It is easy to spot buses and jeepneys going to Quiapo, but depending on your location, you may have to wait a little longer. Read the sign on the side or in front of the bus or jeepney that says Quiapo. You can also ask the driver. A taxi may take you there, but the fare would cost your more, between 150 to 200 Php (3, 982 to 5, 310 KRW) (3.62 to 4.82 USD).

To get more directions on how to get there, here is a detailed description of walking and commuting to Quiapo Church, as well as some useful reminders from Directions on Web.

Quaipo Church is located in Plaza Miranda and Queen Boulevard, Quiapo, Manila. The church is open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

After visiting the church, you can enjoy shopping in Plaza Miranda where a number of thrift stores and shops selling cheaper items abound. Be careful, though, not to buy just any herbal medicine sold outside Quiapo Church, as they haven’t been approved by the Department of Health (DOH). Some of them are said to be bogus or scams. Among other things you can buy outside Quiapo church or along Plaza Miranda are amulets, religious statues and prayer books, flowers and candles, army surplus, textiles, DVDs and CDs, bags and other apparel, mobile phones and mobile phone accessories, as well as cameras and camera accessories.

Plaza Miranda has become the center for fortune-telling and anting-anting (talisman or charm) selling. I have never tried consulting a fortune-teller, because I believe that nobody can tell one’s future. Most of the diviners outside Quiapo Church claim to have powers given by the Black Nazarene. The church is strongly opposed to this idea, but why are there so many fortune-tellers outside the church?

After our visit to Quiapo church, we were so hungry we decided to take our lunch at the nearest restaurant we could find. Good thing we passed by Ma Mon Luk. Ma Mon Luk is historically the best place to eat mami (Chinese noodle soup) and siopao (steamed buns). I’ve heard about Ma Mon Luk from my uncle and my Mom who told me that this Chinese restaurant serves the most delicious mami and the biggest, meatiest and yummiest siopao… so when I saw the sign Ma Mon Luk along the many army surplus shops in Quiapo, I exclaimed, “This is it! This is where we are going to take our lunch.”

The restaurant looks shabby and old, just like any typical turo-turo (small, cheap eatery in the Philippines). If I weren’t told good things about the food, I wouldn’t have thought of eating there.

My uncle and my Mom were right. The siopao was heavenly! ^^ It’s actually the biggest siopao I have ever seen, and yup, it’s yummy and meaty. I ordered  a take-out for Grandma, and even after hours of commute going home, the siopao was still delicious. Grandma could barely finish it, but it was so good she ate the whole thing! ^^

I am not a big fan of mami, so I didn’t order the soup, but Mom and my cousin Bart did. They loved the beef mami they ordered. I tried some of Mom’s. Ma Mon Luk‘s mami tastes different from other noodle soup I have tried. It’s a lot better than the mami in fast food stores… plus, it has more beef… real beef, that is. ^^

Their beef mami and special siopao has got to be the perfect combination in Ma Mon Luk. Too bad they have only softdrinks.

If you are thinking of going to Ma Mon Luk, there is a restaurant located in Quiapo or along Quezon Avenue.

Enjoy your Quiapo experience, but don’t forget the real reason you are coming to Quiapo Church. Pray. Eat. Shop. Love life. ^^

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