Manila’s Quiapo district is notorious for pickpockets, pirated DVD vendors, and year-round traffic but it also has a special place in many Manileños’ hearts.
It’s the home of the much-revered Black Nazarene, the steel-made Gothic church San Sebastian Basilica, as well as myriad halal restaurants that cater to the city’s thriving Muslim community.
This September, Quiapo aims to showcase this more positive side of the area with its first community-led tour called Bukas Quiapo (Open Quiapo).
Organized by the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, the monthly tour will be led by Quiapo residents, from stay-at-home moms to senior citizens, and out-of-school youths.
Said to be immersive, the tour will include spots such as the historic Plaza Miranda; the Nakpil-Bautista house, which houses artifacts from the Spanish Occupation of the country; as well as the dining spots by the Golden Mosque which serve Maranao cuisine.
The tour will also delve deeper into the Quiapo Church, the home of the Black Nazarene, which used to be off-limits to tourists.
Though the price of the tour has not been finalized, participants can expect it to last from four to five hours and cover around 10 — 12 sites.
In an interview with Coconuts Manila, the tour’s Community Development Manager Samantha Pacardo said the project started last year after they received a grant from non-profit foundation Fundacion Santiago. After which, they turned to Quiapo’s denizens for help.
“We asked the different representatives of the community of the places that they think best represents Quiapo,” said Pacardo.
“We had volunteer researchers collect data from different barangays. Then we chose tour guides from the community. We have about eight to 10 guides — we opened it to anyone who had the time and patience [to do the tours].”
By organizing the tour, it will give the community members the chance to discover spots in the district many have never been to, such as the Muslim quarter.
It will also give them a glimpse of the massive refurbishment that San Sebastian Basilica is currently undergoing, led by United States-trained conservator Tina Paterno.
The restoration, currently in the design phase, aims to strengthen the basilica’s overall structural integrity. It also seeks to repair the paintings and intricately made stained glass windows, both of which date back to the Spanish colonial period
“We want to make the restoration approachable for the community, and get people involved in the work that we do,” said Pacardo.
As this is a livelihood program for the residents, tour guides will be paid for each tour. Profits will also be divided among the sites included in the itinerary.
To know more about the tour, visit the Bukas Quiapo Facebook page where more information will be shared closer to the tour’s start date.