Quiapo district is a good place for street photography in Manila, Philippines because apart from always teeming with pedestrians at any given time in the day and early evening, the place is replete with contradictions that easily make it one of most abundant sources of street photographic narratives and epiphanies. The Basilica of the Black Nazarene for which the place is known, for instance, stands as a striking counter-discourse to the marginal and subaltern identities and activities happening in its immediate environs. Fortune tellers dot the plaza fronting the church and so do vendors of various concoctions alleged by some to be agents used for self-administered abortion. Right outside the doorsteps of this highly venerated and imposing house of god, there also lives a community of people burdened by homelessness, hunger and other forms of depravity from the most basic of human needs.
The streets and alleys leading to and away from the church, furthermore, are sites of some form of pilgrimages in their own right as they serve as trade areas for goods like pirated DVDs, dildos and other sex paraphernalia, photography equipment, bicycles, home wares, electronics, clothes, toys, and food products sold at bargain prices. Pedestrians and vehicles of different forms and sizes inch their way in these streets crowded by an eclectic mix of street and ambulant vendors, parishioners, students, tramps, petty thieves, and children at play.
Quiapo, together with its neighboring districts, used to be the center of commercial and cultural life in the national capital but it somehow lost its footing as the metropolis expanded, developed and gave birth to new and more modern cultural and commercial enclaves. It is justified, therefore, to say that it has terribly lost its “glitter.” Cellular phone theft, heavy traffic, dirt, and noise are easily associated with this place that was once the seat of urban pomp and pageantry. Nevertheless, Quiapo’s cultural significance has remained if not increased as it continues to simply be itself or what her inhabitants wishes her to be without apology and pretension. She might not have the body and form of business and lifestyle quarters that the State prefers to show off and glorify like a trophy girlfriend. But her heart beats more similarly and sympathetically with that of a greater number of Flipino people who, like her, continues to struggle to come to terms with and be side-lined by modernity.