Manila – Been There

My favorite place in Manila is Quiapo. Here is why.

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Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Manila – Been There

My favorite place in Manila is Quiapo. Here is why.

I know Manila like the back of my hand. Many visitors are surprised to hear that the Quiapo district – renowned for its cheap shopping, is one of my favorite places.

Ian Gill
Ian Gill Writer

Two policemen patrolling the streets of Quiapo, Ray Agapito and Arnold Solatorio, grin as they give me a warning. As in many parts of the world, they say, it's an area with a fair share of purse-snatchers and pickpockets.

Camera shop manager Mary Ann Suzon complains of a fall in business but all work stops as one of her staff arrives with bowls of macaroni soup. With typical Filipina hospitality, she offers me some.

This shopping district of Manila offers an unusual and quixotic range of goods and services and, thanks to lower rents than in more upmarket areas, cheap prices. I see goods ranging from fruit and native artefacts to bicycles and electronics, including high-end cameras. But beneath the hard work and poverty that make up for a first impression, there is real human warmth.

On Plaza Miranda, Raquel Sarmiento, a small and unpretentious woman who has been treating sprains and knotted muscles for 15 years, gives a vigorous shoulder massage to one of her regulars. Her client, Vilma Manasala, sighs as she tells me she experiences a lot of stress from her job as a washerwoman and from carrying an infant grandson.

In another corner of the plaza, fortune-teller Meanne Domingo says that tough times means she gets more business from people depressed by financial, family and personal matters and hoping for a break in the clouds. Among her customers are broken-hearted girls. “I advise them to forget the guy and promise them that other people are coming into their lives,” she says. “Because that's what they want to hear.”

Generally cops in Manila are very friendly especially towards tourists.

Generally cops in Manila are very friendly especially towards tourists. Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Generally cops in Manila are very friendly especially towards tourists.