Thursday, July 20, 2006


I’m not a religious person but every so often, I stop by and visit a church; not so much to hear mass, but to seek respite. The tranquil cavernous ambience of a church is, indeed, conducive for quieting one's mind. Lately, it has been Quiapo Church for me, but definitely not on Fridays. It’s mobbed.

Quiapo Church is walking distance from the university belt area where I sometimes play badminton. The bustling commercial area that surrounds it is where I also buy my shuttlecocks at a sporting goods store over at Raon Street (now Gil Puyat Street). In the midst of numerous stores that offer affordable prices from electronics to native handicrafts, are the street vendors who sell candles, sampaguita garlands, amulets and herbal cures for a wide variety of ailments (and also from what I was whispered, cannabis).

The church itself is home to the famed Black Nazarene, a dark hardwood statue of Jesus of Nazareth. It was created by a Mexican craftsman and brought via galleon from Mexico in the 18th century. This statue is taken out of the church and paraded during its feast. Many believe that those who pray to it are granted special favors and miracles. It isn’t unusual, therefore, to see some devotees crawling on their knees from the entrance to the altar as if humbly and earnestly begging for a miracle. However, for the hurried or those overburdened with life’s daily grind, inside the church at the back, sitting on plastic stools are the women — prayer warriors — who will pray on their behalf if requested.

Everyone has a wish to make. I do, too. And I breathe life into it through my self-created ritual — burning of a candle. But inside Quiapo Church, you are no longer allowed to burn candles as a measure, I suppose, to preserve its interiors. So what I do is buy candles from one of the vendors outside. Their portable stands also provide metal boxes where the customers may light and burn these candles. In New York, one of my favorite churches, St. Francis near Madison Square Garden, much to my dismay, replaced their votive candles with electric bulbs — you slip in your contribution and then turn on a switch. However, the scent of burning candles adds to the divine ambience of a church, I think.

Burning three candles has become a personal ritual whenever I visit a church. One is to breathe life to the wishes that remain unfulfilled not only the wish made by me but also those by friends and families. Second is to honor the memory of loved ones who had passed away and whose guidance I sometimes seek. Third is to symbolize my unity with everyone on the planetary and spiritual plane, as well as ultimately with the higher creative force, I refer to as God.

During these gloomy rainy days in Manila — when these opportunistic blues seem better able to sneak in unknowingly — there’s no better way for me to spend a few minutes of some free time than to visit Quiapo Church and light some candles.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:58 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the first time I've heard candles being replaced by electric bulbs. I guess they just want to be safe.

July 20, 2006 12:32 PM  

Blogger Rey said...

Yeah, there is this ambiance within the church that gives tranquility within you. Unlike my grandparents and mother, I'm not into novenas and rosaries. I kind of just pray (if talking to God like a confidante is considered one)and meditate on some things. I like it especially if there's almost no one in there.

July 20, 2006 4:03 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very seldom that I visit Quiapo church. In the past, I have experienced so much distraction there instead of peace but on my recent visits there is order already that even on Fridays you could actually pay attention to the mass without being distracted.
If you happen to visit another church you could also stay in their adoration chapel. You don't have to light a candle, perform any ritual, utter novenas or let your mind talk. Just BE STILL and now that HE is God and He'll take it from there! God bless!

July 20, 2006 6:08 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I don't know, Niceheart, but I find it weird. So impersonal, really. Then again, maybe you're right. But there's nothing like the scent of burning candles inside a church.

BTW, whenenever I had a very important job interview, I made it a habit to go to this church, St. Francis, both before and after my appointment regardless of whether I got the job or not. It helped me relax and that if I didn't get the job, I would think that "it wasn't meant for me."

And my personal take on rosaries, Rey, is it may have been designed as a lengthy mantra -- because when I was a kid and did it, at some point, the whole act felt like a sort of active meditation as opposed to passive meditation wherein you quiet your mind and exercise silence. In other words, if say, the Buddhists practice passive meditation, the Catholics do rosaries -- both can be soothing to the senses.

And my prayer is similar to yours -- more intimate and personal, I think.

Adoration chapel? I shall keep that in mind, Anonymous. Goes to show I don't know much about churches.

As for my personal ritual, I sort of enjoy doing it much like bringing a "pasalubong" to friends and relatives whenever I visit with them.

Yes, I agree with being still and knowing :)

God bless, too!

July 20, 2006 9:03 PM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

(sniff) tama na... miss ko na quiapo... (sniff)

One more thing you can buy kitchenwares in Quiapo too cheaper than the malls. It's in-between SM Hidalgo and Quiapo Market.

I know Quiapo-Divisoria like it was the back of my hand.

July 21, 2006 11:08 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I know how much you miss your old haunt, so to speak, Senorito Ako, and that is part of the reason I've been featuring Quiapo, which I prefer more so than Divisoria. I have a lot of fond memories in this part of Manila, which I will be blogging about soon :)

July 21, 2006 9:21 PM  

Blogger j said...

I've never been inside the Church...maybe one of these days :)

July 22, 2006 12:16 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

If you you go, Jairam, explore the other parts of the church's property (use the left side doors when facing the main altar) to where they have mini chapels and all.

July 22, 2006 6:06 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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