Before its present identity, this whole area of Manila used to be a swamp van - a then-growing fishing village thriving due mainly to its strategic location at the center of intersecting rivers, canals and smaller marshes that connects the north to trade and most of the southern villages.
The name Quiapo was a reference to a variety of water cabbage (Pistia stratiotes) – locally referred to as Kiapo – that grows abundantly in this side of the marsh.
Now, Quaipo has established itself beyond its rural beginnings.
Being the location of the recently promoted Basilica minore Quiapo Church (and thus the name), it is now at the forefront of Catholic christian devotion - a place that annually draws a literal sea of devotees. (more later.)
Nonetheless, it is still a great contemporary place to fish.
Though not for bass nor milkfish - but for great finds in bargains, wares, (mostly for Chinese products, lead and melamine included) and other stuff even shouldn't be writing about in fear of offending your sensitivities. (and we kid you not.)
This long jump in purpose dates back as far back as the 16th century when Quiapo first turned from a poor, local fishing community into the center of commerce under the Colonization of Spain.
In a time when the main modes of transportation were chiefly naval, such geographical feature made Quiapo a suitable site to establish trade and commerce, an open port and an easy entrance to the heart of Luzon.
Theaters, vaudeville stages to early cinema houses, Arabies and flea markets sprouted one by one like mushrooms after the rain– catering (Surprisingly, THEN and NOW) to a spectrum of social classes from the proletariat, up to the Illustrados and way above to the elite and Nouveau riche.
One important incident in the colorful history of Quiapo that sealed its deal as the “Old Downtown of Manila” was the permanent assignment of the revered Black Nazarene to its then ordinary and unimportant parish church.
Brought by the Recollect Friars around 1600’s to its permanent residence, the image became the last catalyst in the proliferation and burgeoning of a once obscure part of old manila into what it is now.
And how the rest – the extreme religious devotion verging on religious fanaticism, the commercialization of faith, the blurring of the thin line between religiosity and paganism, the booming of the market and the underground market alongside the commercialization of Quiapo itself – is not that hard to piece together.