This Quiapo Day Tour Will Make You Love Old Manila Again

Go on a DIY Quiapo adventure and look beyond the vendors. Say a prayer, have your fortune told, take a peek at a mysterious pagoda, and visit beautiful ancestral houses from a more genteel past.

Photography: Glenn Martinez

The Quiapo of today is associated with so many things, mostly negative—chaotic Fridays, over-crowded streets, horrific traffic jams, aggressive ambulant vendors, dingy movie houses, and dilapidated structures—all images of urban anarchy and irreversible decline.

The transformation of pre-war Quiapo from a genteel residential suburb of streets lined with shady trees to a rowdy downtown commercial hub in Manila began when the devotion to the Black Nazarene intensified as citywide cult. The image of the Black Nazarene arrived in Manila from Acapulco in 1606. It was enshrined for decades in San Nicolas Church in Intramuros until 1787 when the image was transferred to the Quiapo Basilica. The annual Traslacion (means “transfer”) procession that is joined by a massive crowd every January 9 commemorates the transfer of the image from Intramuros to Quiapo.

With the construction of the iron-braced Quezon Bridge that replaced the pedestrian pass of Puente de Colgante in the 1920s, the regular open-air forum at Plaza Miranda, and the rule that a movie must open on a Friday, made Quiapo the crossroad for worship, bargain shopping, and entertainment in Manila.

A tour of modern-day Quiapo is like searching for that ancient city of gold that is buried deep under decades of progress and cultural amnesia. But its amazing cultural and heritage landmarks can still fascinate you. Here’s where to go, categorized by its streets:


Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene


The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church is the center of the Filipino devotion to the Black Nazarene, a life-sized image of Christ. The miraculous icon has drawn countless common folks from different walks of life. They would crowd the basilica on Fridays and during a massive procession every ninth of January. The present church was built after a fire in 1929 from the designs of National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil and was expanded in the 1980s to accommodate the growing number of devotees.

Plaza Miranda

This public square right in front of Quiapo Church was the site of political rallies since the time of President Ramon Magsaysay and right until August 21, 1971 when grenades were thrown at the stage and the spectators during the Liberal Party’s campaign rally. Recent additions to Plaza Miranda are the faux Roman pillars, aqueduct-like structures, and an obelisk as a monument to the Freedom of Speech.

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Folk remedies and anting-anting stalls

Bounding Plaza Miranda are several side streets that cater to the common man’s special needs. Sold along Evangelista Street are the fabled herbs, stems, twigs, seeds, potions and oils believed as cure-all for all kinds of physical ills and a lackluster love life.

The same herbalists of folk remedies double as vendors of anting-anting. These talismans and amulets that come in forms of sundry objects sealed in small glass bottles, and bronze medallions that are engraved with pidgin-Latin text and folk-religious imagery like the All-Seeing Eye. They make interesting giveaways because they are believed to protect its bearer from harm and are also harbingers of good fortune.

Candle-lighting kiosks and fortune-telling corners


Colored candles and wax figures shaped into human forms are sold in candle-lighting kiosks at the Carriedo Street-facing area of Plaza Miranda. The color of each candle used for the candle-lighting ritual is believed to have a positive effect in someone’s life.

Also in the same area are the palmists, numerologists, astrologers, and tarot card readers who fearlessly forecast the fortunes of their patrons. Both skeptics and believers come to the fortune-telling corner to have their fortunes told, past lives read, lost objects recovered, and have estranged couples united. Although the practice of using anting-anting and fortune-telling are discouraged by the Catholic Church, they continue to thrive around the Basilica.


Bahay Nakpil-Bautista

During the onslaught of World War II, the Black Nazarene was taken from Quiapo Basilica to the safety of this house across the street. Bahay Nakpil-Bautista’s construction in 1914 was inspired by a set of furniture in the Viennese Secession style (the art movement of Gustav Klimt and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Europe—Ed.) that was given to Dr. Ariston Bautista. Architect Arcadio Arellano experimented on post-Art Nouveau, pre-Art Deco geometric forms by applying tapered frames with three vertical lines encased in a square in the main staircase and the unusual grillwork and stylized lotus design in the callados on the upper part of the walls.


Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was transformed into a museum with replicas of the original furniture and Juan Luna’s Parisian Life. A permanent exhibit is dedicated to the Revolution of 1896 and the house’s most famous resident, the Lakambini of the Katipunan and widow of Andres Bonifacio, Gregoria de Jesus. After Bonifacio’s death, Gregoria married Julio Nakpil. The couple was taken in by Dr. Bautista and his wife Petrona Nakpil who was Julio’s sister, and was allowed to live in the entresuelo at the ground floor.

They will be holding a Lakad Bonifacio event on November 25, 2017, at 9am at the Tutuban Plaza. For more updates about the activities at Bahay Bautista-Nakpil, visit their website

Boix House

Right next to Bahay Nakpil-Bautista is the Boix House. Built in 1890s by architect Juan Hervas in the Neoclassical style, it was inherited by the Jesuits from its original owner. After World War II, the Boix House was put into adaptive reuse with a printing press in its ground floor and a dormitory on the upper floor that was fittingly named the Manuel L. Quezon Dormitory because it is said that the future Commonwealth President stayed here while studying law at the University of Sto. Tomas.

Today, it is home to families of informal settlers who have partitioned parts of the grand house into small living quarters.The Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautista is actively researching and gathering support for the restoration of the Boix House.

To learn more about the restoration of the Boix House, follow the Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautista atbp. Lugar Inc. on their Facebook page


Golden Mosque

A short walk down south from A. Bautista Street is the Muslim quarter of Quiapo. At the heart of it is the Mosque del Globo del Oro or Golden Mosque. This architectural landmark was built in 1976 by then-First Lady Imelda Marcos for visiting Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi who she thought might need a mosque to while in Manila. However, Gaddafi’s state visit was cancelled.


The mosque’s exterior walls are decorated with colorful mosaic-tile patterns of geometric and floral designs called the okir, a Filipinized version of the arabesque motif in Islamic art. Its spacious floor area is divided by low columns supporting the pointed arches. The wide arched-windows allow air to circulate freely, while natural light fills the yellow walls and gleaming marble floors, providing a mellow atmosphere for prayer.

Men and women should be in appropriate dress and should remove shoes before entering the Mosque.

Ocampo Pagoda

This pre-war structure that is part-Japanese temple part-medieval castle known as the Ocampo Pagoda. Built in 1935, presumably as a folly (an ornamental building—Ed.), it once dominated the Quiapo skyline as part of the landscaped garden of Don Jose Mariano Ocampo. After the war, the vast estate was portioned off and sold to different owners.

Today, the garden house is repurposed as a dormitory for sailors and maritime students. By walking through narrow and quaint streets that is occasionally patrolled by aggressive dogs, one can still find remnants of the legendary garden filled with random religious stone figures.

The Ocampo Pagoda is private and can only be viewed from the street.


San Sebastian Church


Standing majestically at the end of F.R. Hidalgo Street (above)—the former millionaires’ row of grand houses—is the all-steel gothic revival Basilica Menor di San Sebastian. The prefabricated steel parts of this church were manufactured in Belgium and were delivered in Manila by six ships. The pulpit and the massive stained glass windows were imported from Germany. It took two years to reassemble the church in Manila in 1892.

The best time of the day to be inside the church is around three in the afternoon, when the interior basks in golden sunlight. The sun highlights the trompe l’oeil on the vaulted ceiling, and the walls painted by Lorenzo Rocha and his students Isabelo Tampingco and Felix Martinez glow like marble and jasper.

A group of local and international experts have teamed up to prevent this architectural marvel from rusting away. Funding is needed and by joining the regular tours to San Sebastian Basilica anyone can give their share in preserving this heritage gem.

For more information about their tours, follow the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. on their Facebook page

Casa Consulada de Monaco

At the back of San Sebastian Church is a 117-year old house of the Iturraldes. It served as the Consulate of Monaco when Dr. Augusto Iturralde was appointed as honorary consul of the Principality of Monaco from 1955 to 1967; hence the heritage house received an informal sobriquet as Casa Consulado de Monaco.


Restoration efforts are currently ongoing under the leadership of Paul Itturalde. Casa Consulado is envisioned to be a private lifestyle museum and an intimate venue for those who prefer to bring back the charm of the olden days to their gatherings.

To know more about their activities, follow Casa Consulado Museum and Library on their Facebook page.


Far Eastern University

Touted to have the largest Art Deco assemblage in the country, the Far Eastern University or FEU main building was designed by National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio in 1929. After the war, additional buildings were put up in the campus following Antonio’s Art Deco design.

The FEU Chapel is home to important works of National Artists that includes a cinematic mural of the Stations of the Cross by Carlos Botong Francisco (above), a Filipinized version of the La Pieta by Napoleon Abueva, and an Our Lady of Fatima mosaic chapel’s façade by Vicente Manansala. There are also religious statues by sculptors Anastacio Caedo (Tolentino’s apprentice and model for the Oblation in the University of the Philippines) and Maximo Vicente (the go to santo-maker at F.R. Hidalgo Street).


Central to the campus quadrangle are cubistic human figures in bronze by Manansala. On canvas, Manansala is famous for his overlapping planes known as Transparent Cubism. In this sculpture, the cubism master applied his trademark style by breaking human figures into planes and arranging them around the central flagpole. At the base of the flagpole is a small pond filled with kiapo, an aquatic plant from where Quiapo got its name.

FEU tours can be scheduled by calling Ms. Mae Nerida at (02) 736-4897 or email them at pcc[at]

Glenn Martinez is a heritage enthusiast and a travel blogger. Follow him on his artistic and cultural adventures in his blog Traveler on Foot. To see Glenn’s house, click here.

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