Fighting mall culture pt. 2 – Quiapo

Adventure number 2: Quiapo.

I regret not bringing a camera because, at the time we went, there weren’t thaaat many people. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. What I do have is the experiential article I wrote for my application to the Features staff of The GUIDON (I was accepted! The effort to not add about ten more exclamation points is ridiculous).

Quiapo: A Mallternative

It’s no secret that most Filipinos have a shameless fascination with luxury, and there’s no better evidence of this fact than the many shopping malls that litter our metropolis.

Their pervading presence and grandeur are impossible to ignore; With an SM at every turn and Greenbelt playing host to extravagant stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, it’s easy to forget that there is more to the urban experience than the mallrat concern for name brands, opulence, and air-conditioning. Surely there’s no reason any sane person would venture out into a place like Quiapo.

Obscure appeal
Isn’t Quiapo polluted, packed, and riddled with thieves and beggars? Can anything even be gained from a day spent drenched in sweat that might not even be your own, considering the crowds?

During my visit, I found that the answer to both questions is yes.

Yes, Quiapo is dirty. Spitting anywhere that men with overzealous salivary glands see fit is commonplace, and I passed a considerable number of couples taking turns perusing their partners’ scalps for lice. Yes, it can get congested, and one would be wise to be wary of pickpockets. The unsavory aside, however, my friends and I found that there was much to benefit from steering our way through narrow eskinitas and getting lost in Quiapo’s unpredictability.

“I’ll admit [going to Quiapo] is out of my comfort zone,” said Camille Jurilla, a junior at the University of Santo Tomas and one of my companions on the trip. “Crowded, less than clean spaces, and there are random people everywhere. But it’s like an add-on to the experience.”

Before and after.

United in diversity
The description most befitting of Quiapo is perhaps that it’s a cultural melting pot: Upon alighting the train at Carriedo station, my friends and I heard English, Chinese, and Filipino words darting through the lively streets; not too far from Quiapo Church, home of the revered Black Nazarene, is the Golden Mosque, the place of worship of Quiapo’s sizeable Muslim population.

Nowhere is Quiapo’s multicultural propensity more apparent, however, than in Plaza Miranda, which abuts the church. Sardonicism is thick on the fringes of this quad, where paraphernalia of folk magic and Christianity are placed side by side.

This plaza is where rosaries and plastic-wrapped icons of the Sto. Nino, Virgin Mary, and Black Nazarene are sold alongside anting-anting (talismans) that are said to have supernatural powers, herbal medicines that can allegedly cure any malady, colored candles lit for divine intervention, and, though we didn’t see any, furtively-sold pampa-regla (abortifacients); a legion of manghuhula (fortune tellers) is also parked here, calling on believers and nonbelievers alike to have their palms read or their futures revealed with decks of worn Tarot cards.

A second look
Moving away from the plaza, we walked through the streets where once-illustrious Ilustrado homes have given way to food stalls, ukay-ukay- (second hand clothing stores), and optical shops.
At first glance, the streets took on a chaotic and surreal quality. Sunglasses were sold on the same table as rubber dildos; a cat slept snuggly on a tray of gold watches; on 10 pieces of jewelry, I spent what I would have on just one of the same quality in an upscale mall; vintage Rolleiflexes and the latest SLRs could be purchased at prices untainted by the rental rates of mall space.

All that jewelry (and the pieces I’ve already given away) for P400. For someone as cheap as me, this is like a dream come true.

Upon closer inspection, however, there is a certain, albeit obscure, magic to seeing Manila stripped of the constructed glamour and forced order that characterize our shopping malls and their surrounding areas.

“There’s a different aura in Quiapo,” said Carmela Bangsal, a student of the University of the Philippines Diliman and an occasional visitor of the area. She added, “It’s a given fact that most of the country’s population falls under the lower class brackets, so as the masses, they are what govern our media and culture. Quiapo definitely isn’t a middle class place. Given that, it’s where our culture thrives.”

Vintage high-wasted shorts for P50

Like any worthwhile adventure, the trip is not an easy one. It’s a far cry from comfortable, but its constant change and bustling disorder are the very things that drive its allure and make you slaves to its appeal. Embracing its uncertainties guarantees an unforgettable experience, and it takes no more than a visit to know it is not a place you can resist returning to for long. A place best visited with a mind open to opportunity and surprise, Quiapo has a pull to it that shopping malls have no choice but to yield to.


Fighting mall culture pt. 1

In a fit of boredom, I recently did an online search of “must-visit places in Metro Manila.” The expected hits (Ayala Museum, Intramuros, Divisoria, and Quiapo) turned up, but also making it to every Top Ten list and photo compilation were… shopping malls.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. We’ve got Mall of Asia, the 4th largest mall in the world, the Greenbelt complex, awarded for its architecture, and an SM everywhere you turn. In general, the well-to-do Manilenyos of today have very much become a mall rat people, so naturally a shopping mall is what comes to mind when we think of our cities. But I refuse to believe that a look into our consumerist culture is the best of what Manila has to offer. Surely we have more to boast about than our concern for name brands and luxury, opulence and airconditioning. And so the search is on for places I can show off to both non-Manilenyos as well as Manilenyos who are tourists in their own city.

First stop: East Kapitolyo Drive, Pasig.

Kapitolyo is best known for Charlie’s Grind and Grill, but just down the street is a place called Poco Deli. Like its car wash-cum-grillery neighbor, Poco Deli’s outside looks nothing short of sketchy, an image aided by their having a doorman armed with a golf club (security budget’s tight). This inside is spacious and warmly lit though, and it feels homy without trying too hard (That’s you, Mary Grace).

Dan pondering the significance of mini chocolate chips in her life.

Dan and I shared the salmon pasta that didn't have much salmon. Still good, but I wish I had gone with the recommended 4 Cheese Pizza.

Andrew's German Nuemberger Sausage. Looks like an Offbeat Burger, but makes so much more sense.

Camille had the steak sandwich. One of their bestsellers, it's mozzarella cheese and grilled steak jammed between a bagel. It was suuuperduper.

Then we walked further down the street to Mad Mark’s Man Sandwich and Frozen Desserts, where they serve homemade ice cream at reasonable prices (P68 per scoop, in relation to Gelatissimo’s cringe-worthy P110).

Clockwise from top: Half-baked Madagascar, Madagascar Crumble, Javan Cocoa Hot Chocolate, and Dark Roast Sumatra.

Cams with her Dark Roast Sumatra and Andrew with his Madagascar Crumble

Ending it a little poorer, stuffed to bursting, and ready to go to bed (baboy reflex), I thought the evening was an encouraging start to what I really need to be an adventurous summer.

Cupcakes are always the answer

During Holy Week, everything shuts down: The MRT doesn’t run, radios emit static, and even malls that operate on Christmas day don’t open shop. For some people, these days leading up to Easter Sunday are set aside for the observation of religious traditions like visita iglesia and stations of the cross. For others, it has evolved into an extended holiday meant to be spent away from Manila, which empties the usually-packed roads so much that you half expect tumbleweed to roll by.

My family, however, ignores both these customs. We’ve never really been religious, which rules out taking part in the traditional Holy Week events. As we got older and things at home started to change, family trips just stopped getting planned; my mom works, my dad is with his girlfriend, and my siblings are married and have families and trips of their own.

So with nowhere to go, nowhere to be, no one to spend time with, and no way around, I’ve come to associate Holy Week with resourcefulness. What can be done to repel the boredom?

Yesterday, after two movies and a book, I decided that the answer to that question was an improvised cupcake recipe: Dark chocolate cake and three different kinds of icing.

I got the cake part of the recipe from here (sour cream and cupcakes just don’t make sense together though, so I scrapped that part).

I made vanilla buttercream frosting at first, but that was boring.

So I turned it into chocolate buttercream frosting!

I didn’t like the consistency of the icing though, so i tried out a peanut butter version instead.

I don’t eat what I bake though, so these are up for grabs.

Next, lemon sorbet :)

Jaq and Gus for a day

My cousin, Gabbie, is a fashion student as De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. I’ve seen her sketch skirts and party dresses, heard her crack jokes about zippers and fabric, and last night I watched her make Cinderella’s ball gown.

One of the classes she’s taking right now is children’s clothing construction, so of course the logical decision was to make a princess dress for her final project.

Children’s clothes are deceptive though. They may be small and make you want to take the nearest and fattest child out for a shopping spree, but they’re just as (if not more) difficult to make as big-people clothes. So her sister, Dan, and I played Jaq and Gus in her Cinderella sweatshop story.

Dan helps with Gabbie’s projects so often that she really ought to graduate with a fashion minor. She’s had just as many sleepless nights, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s able to relate to Gabbie’s jokes about different types of pockets.

Dan, Cinderelli's #1 mouse, working on the nine feet of fabric that will make the skirt fluffy

All I really did was take pictures and make pa-cute.

Wrapped in my wedding veil that smelled of feet and dried sweat. <3

Seven hours, a cup of coffee each, and lots of inexplicably weird moments (“If you had to get raped by any animal, which animal would you choose?”) later, this is how far we’d made it: