Monday, September 03, 2007


They are self-proclaimed mystics -- diviners who provide uncanny insight to those craving for a glimpse of the future. Their fees range from 100 pesos at the start of the session to 500 pesos and higher at the end.

Skeptics, however, regard them as mystic misfits -- a gang of crackpots or fakes afforded with equal scorn as those document counterfeiters of Recto.

Nonetheless, these fortune tellers of Quiapo's Plaza Miranda manage to remain in business; attracting a steady stream of customers who regard them with a strange mix of caution and reverence just in case they turn out to be true seers.

And in response to the public's ambivalent attitude, they maintain a closely-knit association amongst one another for self-preservation, though adhering to a loose hierarchical order -- the tarot card readers on top, the numerologists and palm readers next, and everybody else at the bottom. As with any pecking order, those on top think and act with utmost superiority; hence, the tarot card readers regard the powers of those below their rank as less potent and whose readings may lack accuracy.

The following are the common methods used by Quiapo's diviners:

1. Tarot cards,
2. Ordinary playing cards,
3. Numerology,
4. Palmistry,
5. Crystal balls,
6. Automatic writing,
7. Automatic sketching,
8. False ouija boards,
9. Face reading, and
10. Trance divination (closing one's eyes, entering a light trance and telling fortunes).

Although many would want to be known as inherently gifted, they are quick to attribute their supernatural powers to their patron saints. And there are those who learned from family elders who were also practitioners, while some developed their skills by merely watching and receiving tutelage from seasoned fortune tellers.

The majority of these seers are women. As a group, they occupy a part of Plaza Miranda sheltered from the searing sun by their giant umbrellas, They are obliged to pay 75 pesos to the barangay office on a daily basis. In return, they are issued a provisional permit which allows them to set up their own tables and chairs within their designated niche in the plaza. Friday is their busiest day when most of their regular customers come to hear their fortunes told right after hearing mass.

Personally, I find them to be an intriguing lot, though I've never felt any urge to seek their expertise. However, truth be told, I dabbled in astrology, I Ching, and numerology when much younger. I even got myself a deck of tarot cards and made an attempt to learn its many interpretations, but alas! I lacked the necessary perseverance. I've also consulted with a tarot card reader on a couple of occasions, as well as had my annual astrology charts mapped out for me by a friend's mother. Eventually, my interest in these esoteric studies waned.

From what I understand, despite their prophecies, most of these fortune tellers of Quiapo urge their customers to follow their own path to salvation. Likewise, as I got older, I've learned to simply fill my mind with whatever I wanted to happen in my life. Consequently, some of those nurtured thoughts are bound to become actual experiences, or as Kahlil Gibran once quipped, "We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them."

If anything, these fortune tellers of Quiapo remind me of the truth behind the old adage that thoughts do, in fact, manifest themselves.

Additional source:
Quiapo: Heart of Manila
Edited by Fernando Nakpil Zialcita
Printed by Quiapo Printing, Inc.


posted by Señor Enrique at 6:09 AM


Anonymous kyels said...

Seers; I won't say I don't believe in them because sometimes anything they've predicted could be true unless one thinks it's only coincidence. For these things, there is an option to believe or not to and if one does believe he/she should not go to the extreme of listening to what the seer has said. Everything must have a limit. That's what I think.

September 03, 2007 11:38 AM  

Blogger Daniel Ted said...

I wouldn't go to them. I don't believe in such things. They are there to do business with you not predict your future.

September 03, 2007 12:54 PM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

I used to go there a lot when I was younger. And yes, I've had my fair share of readings from several fortune tellers. Some were really off while some said some things that rang true...on some points. I guess the way to approach this whole "fortune telling" bit is not to really take what they say as "gospel truth". Maybe just use what they said as a guide of some sort. But that's just me :)

September 03, 2007 1:50 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

For sure they add some color to the Plaza Miranda. One day I will let them read my future... money, success, health, love...

September 03, 2007 7:13 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

Some seers like Madame Auring or Jojo Acuin had in fact gained a good fortune on this occupation---using crystal balls. Maybe they should be at the uppermost of the pecking order.

All the while, I felt that the population could sometimes be so gullible that some raked in lots of money for this. But maybe, that is just the way thing goes...

September 03, 2007 7:42 PM  

Blogger Daisy said...

One of my friends who is a teacher in History and culture always used Quiapo as an example of a unique culture. Side by side in stark contrast. As observed people who go to the fortune tellers come by right after mass. In one hand the catholic faith discourage this and yet on the other, there is still a flourishing culture of fortune tellers right beside it.

such a good discussion indeed to examine this way of life of the Pinoys. Just amazing how things co-exist in the small enclave.

I used to have runes myself but someone borrowed them and never returned and it is OK.

Also agree that our thoughts are the blue print of our lives once we believe in something the Universe starts to manifest it. true.

September 04, 2007 7:47 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

A very smart observation, Kyels. Thank you :)

September 04, 2007 7:48 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You are one of the many skeptics who espouse the same impression of these fortune tellers, Ted.

September 04, 2007 7:50 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I tend to share tour views, too, Scrooch. These diviners somewhat provide people with optional thoughts to ponder upon. But in the end, you have to figure out for yourself what is best for you.

September 04, 2007 7:52 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

These self-proclaimed seers, Sidney, are part of Quiapo's street magic -- amulet vendors, herbal and root crop vendors, and the fortune tellers. And yes, they do add color to the life in this neighborhood.

September 04, 2007 7:56 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The pecking order mentioned here is basically for the Quiapo diviners only, Major Tom. But I'm sure that Madame Auring got all of them beat :)

As some had said, these fortune tellers of Quiapo somehow provide a necessary service to Manilenyos -- street psychiatry ... hehehe.

September 04, 2007 7:58 AM  

Anonymous SexyMom said...

oh, i thought one of the ladies (last picture) was using a Mac for her fortune telling (LOL). ako din, i can be a "seer" (but i don't want to entertain these thoughts anymore)

September 04, 2007 9:00 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

If she were, in fact, using a Mac, Dine, she could only be an astrology expert doing some charts ... hehehe. Seriously, they have programs that help create astrology charts.

Aha! So you're one of those with a keen "sixth sense," huh? I would consider that a gift.

September 04, 2007 11:39 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"In one hand the catholic faith discourage this and yet on the other, there is still a flourishing culture of fortune tellers right beside it."

This makes the whole thing puzzling, Daisy. The church does, in fact, discourage belief in such yet, in Quiapo's Plaza Miranda, right in front of the church, the diviners occupy a certain portion. And what's even more interesting, whenever I pass by, the chairs may not be a hundred percent occupied, but there is always at least a couple of customers seated to get a glimpse of their future.

You and I share the same school of thought :)

September 04, 2007 11:45 AM  

Blogger BW said...

Amazing how these fortune tellers never run out of customers and continue to ply their trade for years.

I can't imagine how people trust these fortune tellers and make their decisions on their prophecies :(

September 05, 2007 2:16 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My friend's mother, BW, who did astrology readings in NYC, made enough money to buy a five-storey apartment building in Manhattan's tony East Side. She had a clientele that included some Hollywood big names, including a handful of politicians from central and south America. I must admit, she was quite good in her craft. She has since retired, though.

And believe it or not, there are folks who take the words of their personal seers quite seriously. Nancy Reagan was one, especially during the reign of her husband. Yoko Ono was another. Weird, huh?

September 05, 2007 2:49 PM  

Blogger Francesca said...

True religion do not believe in astrology, sorcery,divination, hula dito at doon.

The only predictions I can count on are the Bible prophecies.

Catholics do not approved of it, but their members does it (as the photos shows, they are catholics i suppose)
good business though, doon sa nagpapahula, lol
kano ba bayad dyan?

September 06, 2007 6:04 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Anywhere from a hundred to a couple of thousand pesos, Francesca :)

Yes, it can be big business for the practitioners. There are some con artists as well who'd try to exploit the gullibility of their unwitting customers. Such was a big headache to NYC police who'd regularly receive complaints from people who got fleeced by Gypsy fortune tellers.

September 06, 2007 6:28 AM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

Hi Senor, I leave Deuteronomy 18:10-12 again.;&version=31;

I used this link for comparison of other bible versions.

September 08, 2007 2:05 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in [a] the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you."

Powerful words indeed, G. Mirage, but the staggering amount of people who dabble in esoteric studies/practices such as divination remains puzzling. And here in Quiapo, those practitioners actually occupy a prominent area of Plaza Miranda right in front of the church.

September 08, 2007 7:26 AM  

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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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