Monday, July 30, 2007


We were introduced to Manang, a popular amulet and talisman vendor in Quiapo, by Carlos Celdran when we joined his Escolta and Quiapo walking tour some time ago.

During my visits to Quipao, thereafter, whenever passing by the rows of street vendors on Evangelista Street near Plaza Miranda, almost always it is only Manang whom I notice to carry quite an impressive variety of these items believed by some locals to exude certain magical powers.

Now, although both amulets and talismans are locally referred to as anting-anting, they are not at all necessarily the same.
According to the book, Quiapo: The Heart of Manila, edited by Dr. Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita, a talisman is either offensive or defensive; whereas, an amulet is always defensive and/or protective.

Moreover, the anting-anting is further grouped into two types: the positive Right Hand Path (Kanan) which is created by God's angels and saints, and 2) the Left Hand Path (Kaliwa), powered by demonic spirits and dark, elemental spirits. Why anyone would buy the latter kind is somewhat bewildering when it only attracts ill health and bad fortune to its owner.

Most buyers of these magical items are Filipino overseas workers who, on their return trip abroad, either give them as pasalubong (gifts) to friends and co-workers, or sell them to fellow Filipinos in their destinations. The most expensive amulet is the aluminum or brass figurines of the naked Santo Nino which cost 200 to 250 pesos each. The medal of Saint Benedict (or San Benito) is another very popular amulet but costs less. It is believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits and demons.

Here are ten of the most common amulets and talismans sold in Quiapo:

1. Medallions with cabbalistic engravings that prevent general to specific accidents;

2. Large Ivory medallions with the decapitated head of Saint Paul, which confer bravery in adverse circumstances;

3. Assorted brass medallions that protect against witchcraft;

4. Kambal Tuko, a figurine showing a couple in Siamese embrace that is meant for lovers or married couples, or for making one more attractive to the opposite sex;

5. Atsuwete (annatto-colored) hand, which is meant to attract good fortune in business;

6. Brass figurine of Santiago Apostol, (or Saint James the Apostle, often shown in combat while mounted on a steed), earlier used to acquire courage in battle, and today used to acquire courage in business;

7. Nazareno's face, to guide travelers;

8. Branch from a palaypay tree, to get lovers unsure of each other; finally hitched;

9. Green quartz colored egg, to obtain good luck in business;

10. Crystal quartz, for not very smart children.

Most of these items sold in Quiapo come from Cavite. A few come from as far away as Ilocos Norte and Baguio; some as near as Quezon City.

Supposedly, vendors did a brisk business of these magical wares during the '90s; however, with the start of the new millennium, business has slowed down. Perhaps, these vendors could use some extra help and should keep in their person an atsuwete, a brass figurine of Santiago Apostol, and a green quartz egg.

Edited by Dr. Fernando Nakpil Zialcita
The Cultural Heritage Studies Program
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Ateneo de Manila University

Metropolitan Museum of Manila


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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:30 AM


Anonymous rhodora said...

"Perhaps, these vendors could use some extra help and should keep in their person an atsuwete, a brass figurine of Santiago Apostol, and a green quartz egg."

Hehehe. Funny how these people selling good luck charms can run out of luck themselves.

There are also vendors (mostly natives from Mountain Province) selling other kinds of good luck charms in the form of tree barks, potpourris and dried fruits. They also sell certain concoctions (gayuma) in tiny bottles.

I never believed in any of these, though. :)

July 30, 2007 8:02 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Like you, Rhoda, I'm not one to have much faith in these magical wares; more amused by the traders of such.

However, I do believe (after having witnessed for myself) the healing effects of some of the natural oil, herbs and plant roots sold alongside Manang, which I will blog about as part of this series.

July 30, 2007 10:07 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

They need to get-on with the times... the internet is key !! Imagine an online store of anting antings !


July 30, 2007 11:23 AM  

Blogger ladybug said...

Haayyy, my mom and I would often get into arguments because she really believes in this stuff whereas I...don't. Over the years, we've both learned how to live with each other's beliefs. Maybe these amulets and talismans can be sold as pieces of art and not as anting-anting???

July 30, 2007 11:40 AM  

Anonymous Sheila said...

Hi! Love your blog! I really enjoy reading your posts, your photos make me sentimental. Used to come to Manila quite often when I was a kid, with my mom. We'd go to Quiapo and Sta. Cruz to hear mass and I'd marvel at all those anting-antings, magic herbal potions and whatnots. Then we'd walk down Carriedo going to Good Earth. So many memories! haha. Mom stills buy us ham from Excellente.
My I link your blog to mine?

July 30, 2007 11:43 AM  

Blogger kyels said...

In Chinese cultures, we have talismans too; but those offer protection. Parents will usually ask those talismans from temples and have it blessed. Later, it will be given to the child so that they will be protected from harm.


Interesting amulets in the photo! Never knew there were so much type though.

July 30, 2007 12:01 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Kool! I love your post on this truly pinoy belief in anting-antings. i don't mind having one of those on my riding vest, it would truly look cool among the patches of places I have been to. Quiapo will not be the same without all these variety of wares beibg sold on the sidewalks. Checkout "Talampunay" among he many herbal medicines you're going to see when you take shots for your next blog.

July 30, 2007 12:16 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Very good idea, Senorito Ako! But I think Manang prefers the in-person interaction with her customers, including enjoying the daily grind of Quiapo. Besides, she does better than her competitors since Carlos ushers in, on a regular basis, tourists who buy her wares :)

July 30, 2007 1:09 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

We can't argue with our mothers' beliefs, Ladybug :) But then again, the strength of their beliefs may somehow manifest the magical powers associated with those amulets.

A great idea! An enterprising jewelry designer might certainly do well by recreating these items and turning them into costume jewelries. Really!

July 30, 2007 1:13 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks for dropping by and sharing some of your fond memories of our city, Sheila!

My father used to take us kids to a movie on Echague Street (now Palanca) but would first buy some ham from Excelente and some fresh bread form a bakery nearby. You can imagine the sweet scent of the sandwiches we'd make inside the theater as we watched the movie -- annoying other patrons, I'm sure ... hehehe.

July 30, 2007 1:16 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

These talismans and amulets sold in the streets of Quiapo were rooted in paganism; however, Christianity did introduce its own with its scapulars, rosaries, and cross pendants. All essentially provide the same idea of protection.

I guess, every culture has its very own version of such :)

July 30, 2007 1:20 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

In a lot of ways, as long as the intention is good, there's no harm done in believing in such.

I have made note of "talampunay" and will try to take a pic, too, when I see one. And you'll have to elaborate more on it, after I've posted an entry on it, okay?

Thanks, Pete!

July 30, 2007 1:23 PM  

Anonymous sardonicnell said...

i'm reminded of the amulet my grandmother gave me as a baby. she use to pin it on my shirt, near my shirt pocket. according to her, protection from negative energies and bad omen. it was her belief and i respect that. now, i miss her, her charm and her herbal stuff =)

this was a wonderful post, eric. keep up the good work! God bless.

July 30, 2007 2:24 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

Whenever I passed by these stalls in the past, I was always tempted to procure at least an item, pero I felt dyahe, not one to be supposdly believeing is such mystical thing. I thought maybe---when I was so young then---I could make more girls like me and wondered if that could be done by magic...ha..ha..But haven't got to try it.

July 30, 2007 2:35 PM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

i am glad you did this topic because quiapo is synonymous with these (anting anting, etc), besides we all could use some good luck charm...not that i am a believer. great post.

July 31, 2007 6:57 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Nell!

My aunt was and still is, actually, a scapular fanatic, which I consider to be the Catholic Church's version of an amulet. She must have given every kid in the family a few as we were growing up. To date, I still keep one in my hand carry luggage that I use when traveling. I guess, subconsciously, I must be a believer in such :)

July 31, 2007 8:10 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I think what you wanted was a "gayuma" or love potion, Major Tom ... hehehe. They do have them, by the way :)

July 31, 2007 8:11 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Only in Quiapo, as they say, Photo Cache. And you're right, these items seem to be available in the Quiapo area only.

Yes, we certainly could use some good luck charms.

July 31, 2007 8:13 AM  

Blogger dave (",) said...

Perhaps if the local movie industry could, by some talisman-induced miracle, produce a new groundbreaking horror film featuring one of those items, the resulting fad could give them good business again.

August 02, 2007 1:07 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Or perhaps, a television series, Dave. You know how even more accessible and influential some of these these shows are :)

Nonetheless, I've a feeling there are firm believers amongst our locals enough to keep this industry afloat.

August 02, 2007 5:52 AM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

I always doubted faith healing and stuff like these: anting anting, sabi ng matatanda, dasal ng proteksyon, even horoscopes and superstitious stuff....anything to do with unexplained...then I stumbled upon Deuteronomy 18:9-14...

So I totally dont believe these things na... =D

August 15, 2007 8:01 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"There shall not be found among you any one ... that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord..."

But then again, G. Mirage, Christianity was ladened with paganism from the onset so as to make it more palatable for the masses.

August 15, 2007 8:57 AM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

True Senor, though it is not true Christianity but Christendom that did...I believe True Christianity to be pure. =)

August 23, 2007 2:26 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you for clarifying the diferrences for us, G. Mirage :)

August 23, 2007 4:05 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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