Ashamed as I am to admit this, I, a Filipino of 23 years, a valid driver’s license holder of, give or take, 5 years, have never been to the depths of Old Manila on my own free will (well except for the times I would go there with my parents when I was young, and that one time I had to go to Quiapo to get my NBI Clearance). It’s an embarrassing thing to come clean with, but it has to happen. I don’t know why I have never been there. Perhaps it was the non-availability of time, or the daunting task of driving Manila’s sacred esquinitas, and having to look for parking, or just the plain fact that going there never really crossed my mind…the bottom-line is, I have never truly savored the culture Old Manila has to offer… well, until May 19, 2011.
It started out as a simple request/demand, “I really wanna go to Divisoria!!!”. Quickly followed by a “Sure”, later transformed into a “Let’s plan it!”…which eventually became, “As soon as I’m free… or as soon as you’re free..”. Needless to say, It happened. It took a while, but it eventually did. After weeks of pestering and planning, it was finally set in stone. On May 19, 2011, Thursday, at around 8:30AM, my girlfriend and I would embark on an epic exodus spanning 2 cities, 4-7 LRT stops, 2 Jeepney rides, 2 cultural Manila locations, and an overall tally of 8 hours away from our beloved South.
Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera. So this post won’t have any “awesome” pictures I saw along the way (let’s face it, there are thousands of pictures taken by more adept photographers than myself, all over the interwebs, which perfectly portray how awesome Old Manila is). What this post will have, however, is a detailed explanation on what we did the entire day (the wheres, whys, hows) and, hopefully, a strong enough, and convincing call-to-action, to convince people to basically, not undermine one of the oldest cities in Asia, and actually check it out.
Being a Filipino driver for over half-a-decade now, I pretty much know that If you wanna do some exploring in Manila, or in any other city in the Philippines, thats at least 80 years old (that takes you out BGC), there are only two things you can do: 1) Suck it up, bitch, and use your car… or 2) Make do with the Philippines’ version of a public transit system. So, since I was not about to drive around, and waste gas looking for parking, my girlfriend actually decided to just do with option number 2, which in a nutshell, was an awesome experience. There is something deeply fulfilling with walking the streets of a city you are yearning to meet, riding the same modes of transportation as the people you are encountering. This is true for any city, wether or not you are a citizen of the country that city is in.
We drove up until the Vito Cruz LRT station, parked the car, and took the LRT to Doroteo Jose, which basically drops you off at C.M. Recto, a manila thoroughfare that leads to the heart of budding Filipino businessmen and women…Divisoria. Although we spent a majority of time in Divisoria, we barely scratched a fourth of it’s surface. This place is massive! I vaguely remember going here once or twice with my parents, when I was a kid, and already, then, I remember thinking to myself, “If I get lost, I’m fucked”. This huge-ass market could be sub-divided into little areas that cater to an entrepreneur’s needs: Textiles, Hardware, Electronics, Trinkets, etc. Fuck SM. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is where SM gets all it’s shit.
We spent a good 2-3 hours walking around DV, just browsing and basically just looking for things we might fancy. It’s a good thing I only brought enough cash for food, and transportation, cause If I did bring an emergency stash, I probably would have crap-loads of new stuff while being extremely broke.
For tourism, there’s really not much to see or experience in Divisoria, except for the wads and wads of shit you can buy at fucking bargain prices, and, of course, the People experience. In hindsight, Divisoria is, basically, a National Icon. Being there, by that regard, already is a tourist attraction. Plus, as mentioned earlier, since it’s an area business people fuckin’ venture to, on a weekly basis, from areas as far as Cavite to the south, and Pampanga to the north, people from all walks of Filipino life are present in this massive, massive area. If one really wanted to have a genuine Filipino experience, spending a day here could amount to a little sneak-peak.
After Divisoria, we hopped back on the nearest Jeepney, and headed back towards the D. Jose LRT station. This is where the 2nd and final part of our Manila adventure began. We again took the LRT, but this time, towards the next stop heading towards Baclaran, which was Carriedo (knowing what I know now, I’m pretty sure we could’ve just taken a Jeepney towards Carriedo, seeing as it was only one stop away from D. Jose…but Fuck it). Once we arrived at Carriedo, it was exactly like how it was in Divisoria… only this time, we were in Quiapo.
Quiapo also had its share of stalls and such, but they’re mostly for personal use… there are however some shops that sell materials for trinket making, which I thought was pretty cool. What I did notice about the shops in Quiapo was that a lot of them sold Philippine Handmade Crafts, the kind you would see in the shops inside NAIA, or hotels in far-flung provinces in the Philippines.
A must-see area in Quiapo is definitely the centuries-old Quiapo Church, located at the equally-important Plaza Miranda (look up Plaza Miranda bombings, and other historical events that involved Plaza Miranda, which makes it one of the most politically and historically important landmarks in Manila, next to EDSA shrine, of course). These two areas are perhaps the biggest difference between Quiapo and Divisoria.
In Quiapo, we spent a good 2 hours, walking around, looking at stuff, and finding our way to shops my girlfriend had previously visited a few weeks prior. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Walking around Quiapo may have been exhausting, but it was as exhilarating as walking around Divisoria, or, I dare say it, Madrid, Spain!
I think one take-away from going around Old Manila (well, at least these two areas) is the feel I got walking it’s old-ass streets. Divisoria and Quiapo aren’t exactly the most historical/cultural sites in Manila (it’s not Intramurros, Malate, or Ermita), but it’s still an important aspect of Filipino life. Truth be told, I could compare the feeling I got walking around these areas to the same feeling I got walking around the centuries-old cities of Spain, and the millenniums-old Rome, Italy. There’s something about the old structures one encounters, the delicacies one would see being peddled along the side streets, and the people one would encounter in these areas that makes you wonder: With all the shit that’s been happening in this country, one still cannot deny the fact that the Philippines is truly an amazing place.
Next up, I’m going to go around Ermita and Malate!
BTW, If anyone knows someone renting out a townhouse in Malate, Ermita, or the Vito Cruz area (manila) side, preferably 3BR and 1TB with a Maid’s/Driver’s room… Please do let me know. Im on the lookout for a unit! Email me if you guys know any! Thanks!
How to get to Divisoria:
1) Take Vito Cruz LRT going to Monumento
2) Go down at Doroteo Jose
3) Take Jeepney down C.M. Recto Most of the Jeepneys there actually stop at Divisoria… so it should be easy.
4). Going around DV, please refer to the map above!
How to get to Quiapo
1) Take Vito Cruz LRT going to Monumento
2) Go down Carriedo
3) Ah, Quiapo.