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A Beginner's Guide to Quiapo

by Joseph Bawar

Mention Quiapo and images of the Black Nazarene procession comes to mind.

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However, this is just the surface of what this Manila district has to offer.

Named after a species of water cabbage once abundant in the area, Quiapo has its share of events which shaped Philippine history. Nowadays, it is enjoying a cultural renaissance and has become a bustling district for commerce.

Read on for the places and things to do if you plan to visit Quiapo soon!

1. Offer a prayer at Quiapo Church

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Since Quiapo is famous for the church, might as well begin your journey in this 432 year-old Manila landmark. Officially known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene and Parish of St. John the Baptist, it is one the churches in the Philippines built in baroque style. Perhaps it’s the image of the Black Nazarene attracting thousands of devotees which made Quiapo popular. While at it, you may also try your hand at fortune telling or get some anting-antings (amulet) just outside Quiapo church.

2. Visit Hidalgo Street for your photography needs

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If you’re looking for good quality cameras but are on a budget, Hidalgo St. is the go-to place for you. Shops at Hidalgo St. pretty much covers everything related to photography and if you still have photos on film, a shop or two at Hidalgo can process it.

3. Try the famous lumpia at Globe Lumpia House

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Dubbed as the “best fresh lumpia house in Manila”, Globe Lumpia House’s small shop has patrons every single day lining for a taste of their famous offering.

Fun fact: Globe Lumpia House still stands on the same location since they opened in 1956!

4. Check Raon St. for entertainment and music-related finds

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Perhaps Manila’s version of Japan’s Akihabara, Raon St. is popular for those looking for anything related to entertainment. This alley is a stretch of shops selling DVD players, television, and sound systems to name a few. The best part? you can get them at a cheaper rate compared to malls.

5. Marvel at the architecture of the Ocampo Pagoda Compound

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Who would have thought that somewhere in Quiapo one will find an architecture gem which dates back to the 1940s?

Commissioned by lawyer and realtor Don Jose Mariano Ocampo, the structure was inspired by his admiration of Japan. According to accounts, the pagoda served as a bomb shelter during World War II, while and the rest of the compound provided shelter for war refugees. The most famous and preserved relic is the enormous icon of the Lady of Mt Carmel (or Birhen de Eskinita) atop a globe which is only accessible through a two-foot wide alley.

6. Buy Philippine-made products at Ils de Tuls

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Ils de Tuls (a play on Ilalim ng Tulay) is a Quiapo staple especially for those looking for handmade products. Here you can find an assortment of handicrafts ranging from bags to home accessories at different price points and sourced all over the Philippines.

Insider Tip: Haggling is allowed!

7. Learn about Philippine history at Bahay Nakpil-Bautista


The Nakpil-Bautista house is one of the oldest houses in the Quiapo district. Designed in art nouveau style by Arcadio Arellano, it was the home of key figures in Philippine history such as Dr. Ariston Bautista (a professor who developed a cure for cholera) and Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio who later married National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil).

At present, Bahay Nakpil-Bautista has been transformed by their heirs into a museum dedicated to the Revolution of 1896.

8. Visit the first all-steel church in the Philippines

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Unknown to most, the Basílica Menor de San Sebastián, (better known as San Sebastian Church), is still part of the Quiapo district. Completed in 1891, San Sebastian Church is noted for its gothic architecture and having the distinction of being the only all-steel church in the Philippines.

It was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1973 and as a National Cultural Treasure in 2011. In recent years, efforts have been spearheaded through the Save San Sebastian Sustainable Restoration Project towards the preservation of this architectural treasure.

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About Joseph
An art/ design junkie by heart who loves museums, DIY, and coffee.

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