A couple of weeks ago, I met up with old friends in Quiapo.
I had posted on Facebook that my dog ate my glasses, and Tracey suggested we get new pairs made on Paterno Street. Two other friends decided to come, and that's how four of us bespectacled Gen Xers ended up in Quiapo one afternoon, having glasses made and eating Jolli Dada's pancit palabok, then buying marble mortar and pestles under the Quiapo Bridge. Later, we'd decide to have coffee, cake, and nachos at La Cathedral Cafe Intramuros.
I've gone back to Quiapo two times since.
First, I brought Keona and we had a tour of Escolta, Quiapo, and Intramuros. Escolta was pretty much empty so the walk was pleasant. We went to HUB: Make Lab at the First United Building, where we shopped a little and had coffee. Then we walked to Quiapo where we also did some shopping.
Keona didn't realize she was hungry until we had fried chicken and rice in front of us at Ristorante delle Mitre in Intramuros. She'd been there before but not at night, and she found the lights lovely. Our Manila sojourn ended with us riding a tuktuk across the new Binondo–Intramuros Bridge to get from Intramuros to Plaza Lawton, where we chance upon a UV Express van headed for home.
The second time I went to Quiapo, it was to pick up my new glasses. I went in a rush, but I still walked from Escolta to Quiapo and back, and then I treated myself to Tropical Hut.
I'd never really explored Quiapo before then, and now I can't stop thinking about it. Maybe I can romanticize my visits because I'd been mostly stuck at home since 2020, or maybe it's because there weren't many people because we're still in a pandemic.
Or maybe it's because I connected with the dying capital's will to live. Walking to Quiapo from Sta. Cruz, you still get a feel for how beautiful the place used to be. Wealthy people used to thrive in the area, and while wealthy people still go there, it's the masses who now give it life. It's unfortunate how unconcerned they often are about the place's fading beauty, but it's also impressive how they've carved out their lives in whatever part of Quiapo they can claim.
I am aware I sound so "boujee" saying that, but I haven't really completely articulated my thoughts to myself yet. Manila has a lot of problems, and I've always had a love-hate relationship with the city, but these days, I'm appreciative of anything that insists to live, even with little bits of hope or little pockets of beauty.
I think I fell in love with pandemic-times Quiapo because it gives my pandemic-times feelings a home.