Saturday, January 17, 2009


This group of basketball enthusiasts from Quiapo's Barangay 393 range in age from 11 to 16; the shortest is about 5', while the tallest stands 5'9", and happens to be only 12 years old.

They've been trained and coached during the past summers by previous varsity players, including a pro with the Philippine Basketball Association.
And practically every one has participated in various inter-barangay tournaments from the time they were able to; hence, each one knows how to play the game.

On weekdays, they
play full-court pickup games in the late afternoons or early evenings after school; whereas, on weekends, they oftentimes play both in the mornings and afternoons. About a month ago, they began playing at other courts in Quiapo against various ragtag teams, sometimes with members who were taller and heavier. So far, they have been accumulating impressive wins.

Their group remains without an official name. They're unable to think of something as unique as "Pechak", coined by a team of bigger and older boys from the same neighborhood. It is a meaningless word, but original and catchy, nonetheless. Until they could come up with one, they merely refer to themselves as "Bolpatz" when signing the schedule sheets.

There was an inter-barangay tournament held last month,
hosted by the barangay officials on Quiapo's Fraternal Street. The finals took place during Quiapo's fiesta weekend. Pechak won the Kids Division; their overall record was 10 wins, one loss. One can only imagine the impression Pechak has on Bolpatz, and how much the latter dream of someday playing against or with some of Pechaks' star players.

Bolpatz was unable to participate in this particular tournament because they lacked the sponsors to defray the costs of having their own uniforms and sign-up fees. Half of them don't even own basketball shoes; playing with only their slippers or just going at it barefoot, mind you.

Their parents are engaged in various lines of work -- from being street vendors to OFWs; thus, some of these kids go to public schools, while others attend private schools. But they have been friends since grade school; a few were even classmates at the nearby Mabini Elementary School. Some of them have been on the top ten of their respective class; to date, four excel in mathematics, Regrettably, three other kids in the team had foolishly dropped out of school this year. However, they all claim to going back next school year.

None of these kids are into drugs or alcohol, but of the three who smoke cigarettes, one had recently quit for good while the rest are struggling to kick the habit.

Another interesting aspect about this team is that it's comprised of Christians and Muslims. Despite of the differences in their religious upbringing, they share typical adolescent angst and eyebrow-raising dreams of grandeur, but the compelling force that binds them together is a passion for basketball.

Incidentally, the photo above does not show all of them; the other five or six were not present when it was taken. Their unusual large number for a team is due to a collective reluctance to say no to a friend who wants to join. Therefore, what should be a team of 12 kids has now grown to about 16, which only increases the potential costs for uniforms and sign-up fees (the more players, the higher the fees). "But how could we turn away a friend?" they'd ask in return.

When I chanced upon one of their evening games,
I was immediately impressed by their skills and sportsmanship. They played a good and clean game of basketball; devoid of silly street bravado. And when a couple of kids of the other team lost control of their elbows, Bolpatz disregarded the annoying, though painful, jabs and remained focused on the game. Indeed, I was humbled by the volunteer coaches they had in the past who guided them into becoming fine athletes.

Recently, Bolpatz hatched up a plan: to help them gain the attention of potential sponsors for the upcoming tournaments, they challenged Pechak, the champions of the recently-held tournament. It was accepted, though reluctantly. The game will be held in two weeks so as to give the shorter and younger Bolpatz more time to prepare.

The odds of winning are indeed against Bolpatz, but then again, in sports -- as well as in life in general -- the spirit to emerge victorious often spur incredible upsets

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Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
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posted by Señor Enrique at 10:34 AM | 19 comments

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Like most grand events in Manila, yesterday's fiesta in Quiapo -- highlighted by the Black Nazarene parade -- was not without drama; this one was a case of the peoples' will versus that of the organizers'.

The intent of the latter was to create the safest route possible for all the participants and spectators as the Black Nazarene is paraded from the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta
back to Quiapo Church. A noble intention, indeed; however, the local folks would hear none of it. They demanded the parade takes its usual, traditional route even if some streets along the way may not be as wide as Rizal and Recto Avenues.

They also argued that those who experienced serious injuries and even death in the past years were either drunk and foolhardy, or had simply overestimated their physical abilities to withstand the grueling task of pulling the rope while being literally crushed on all sides by their fellow barefoot devotees.

The organizers
remained adamant; seemingly indifferent to the religious and cultural traditions held high by the local folks. In the end, the seething locals were left without any other recourse but to snatch the Black Nazarene from the newly-planned parade route -- as soon as it crossed over the MacArthur Bridge from Plaza Lawton. And they did!

A large number of Quiapo residents -- longtime devotees wearing white ribbons tied around their foreheads -- overwhelmed the
visiting devotees who were pulling the ropes that moved the Black Nazarene cart. Grabbing the leading part of the ropes, the locals redirected the flow of the parade to their liking -- generally, back to its usual route that has been the tradition for many decades.

The authorities on the scene immediately decided to no longer oppose the will of the local folks so as to diffuse a volatile situation. The parade then proceeded peacefully without any incident of death as in the past years. There were reports, however, of minor cuts and abrasions on the feet of some devotees, as well as cases of fainting spells due to sheer exhaustion.

Incidentally, thousands of spectators and several media television crews along the new route were sorely disappointed upon realizing that no parade was ever heading their way. On the other hand, the residents on the old route and their fiesta visitors were ecstatic.

Minors are discouraged from joining the Black Nazarene feast parade, which has traditionally been marred by injuries and even death. Despite these frightful facts, going barefoot to pull one of the ropes of the cart that carries the Black Nazarene is deemed an honorable rite of passage by many Metro Manila youngsters
. Longtime devotees take pride in having started when they were merely 14 or 15 years of age.

For some Quiapo kids, they join the parade early in the morning and for as long as they could tolerate its physical demands; returning to their respective neighborhood afterwards to take a much needed break. They would rejoin the parade wherever it might happen to be -- to insinuate themselves with crude force back into a crowd pulling the cart that is sometimes coursing with perilous asymmetrical movements.

The younger kids often go with their elders to join the parade but situate themselves a safe distance behind the Black Nazarene cart, while some remain on their particular block; keeping an eye out for passing celebrities. Supposedly, quite a number of them happen to be devotees such as Jomi Teotico of the Pinoy Fear Factor.

The parade could last for more than 12 hours; hence, not every one who join is able to withstand the entire duration. There are those who join for only as long as they could physically manage, while others do so for only a few minutes, such as some politicians who do it more for the photo opportunity.

There is also the faithful lot, joining the parade only during the late afternoon or early evening hours
due to work or family obligation constraints.

The video below shows the procession at around 7:30 pm as it passed the corner of Guzman and Morillo Streets. I realized that the only way I could get as close as possible to those pulling the ropes of the Black Nazarene cart would be at such spot (a narrow side street) and at such time.

Nonetheless, notice how some people tried to squeeze through in order to be able to pull the rope, and the grim persistence etched on the faces of some devotees who remained pulling the ropes, even though appearing to be at the brink of collapse. Take note as well of those who climb over peoples' shoulders just to get on the cart and touch the Black Nazarene statue or the cross with their towels.

Also a common sight during the parade, which was captured by this video, was that of residents offering free water and bread to the exhausted devotees.

The cart of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo Church is followed by a number of replicas owned by various groups of devotees from Metro Manila and the provinces. Some opt to participate in the parade from start to finish, while others for only a few hours. Every year, many devotees start camping out on Plaza Miranda the night before the feast.

Without a doubt, with devotees coming in droves to participate in the celebration of the feast of the Black Nazarene, the Quiapo Fiesta is regarded as Manila's most heavily attended event.

all images © 2009 Señor Enrique

Related links:

Cardinal to lead Friday’s Black Nazarene feast - CBCP News

Red Cross: 229 treated at Nazarene feast - Inquirer

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Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!




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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:53 AM | 45 comments

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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