Quiapo is interestingly a congested melting pot of three classic Filipino communities: the Moro, Christians and Chinese. Thus, the Quiapo Church thrives with Muslim Mosque and Buddhist Temples.
People come here for exactly what the place offers: historical site of the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing, old streets in Escolta, Sta. Cruz and San Miguel which is leading to the present site of the presidential Malacañang Palace; old cinemas, holy feet of the Black Nazarene, halal chicken, joss sticks, fortune fortune tellers and relatively cheap name-what-you-want products including abortion herbs beside the church; updated DVDs; handicrafts pasalubong under the bridge; retail gadgets and gears for photographers and hobbyists; surplus appliances from Japan, China, Germany and elsewhere; recon shops, friendly pawnshops for jewelry, cellphones and watches and the open-secret shabu-flesh trade along with the sprouting of quicky motels and apartments.
There is no lazy commerce day in Quiapo and yet majority of residents and settlers here remain in paupery. And no wonder Quaipo is also a concentration of a population of Manila’s street children. They are the innocents so categorized being vending in the streets instead of being in school; they are the kids orphaned due to parents in amnesia or those who jumped from the bridge or those parents locked in jail for valid reasons surrounding poverty and urban decay; they are the young deprived of their youth who found a sanctuary in the street after their unforgettable experience that they would consider a successful escape from violence in their province or even from their very own households; and they are the fetus found from trash bins who then had seen the first light of day with hearts of stone.
Some of these children had the chance to see the day in another light. Behind the engaging façade of Quiapo for its daily mediocre routine and poverty-for-postcard-tourism is a drop-in center and shelter for children where their lives are rebuilt for the better.
Last year, I met Quiapo’s angels in this shelter: foster parents, teachers, street educators, social workers and their kid constituents in the Onésimo Bulilit Foundation.
We would meet since then during the weekends for theater games, a chance to share each one’s experiences and visions and learn about basic rights. In the process, the children gradually disclose their past and present while being dominated by their high hopes for the future. Their first mini-showcase, Munting Tinig Ma’y Makapangyarihan was an evidence of such optimism.
Spending time to listen, talk and share with Quiapo’s angels is a joy to cherish as I believe there’s a child in each of us with the purest of dreams.#