Friday, March 18, 2011

Quiapo Stroll: The DVD Country

I call this place DVD Country just because that is what came to mind when I first tried describing this sea of pirated discs for sale. Others call it a DVD hub, mecca, bazaar, bagsakan, central, arcade and whatever else. But that is one and the same place famous (or infamous) for the proliferation of illegal copies of virtually anything that can be put to disc. Yes, most of them are DVD movies and audio CDs, though not to be outshone are the various installer-discs for just about anything you could think of feeding unto a computer. Let’s go!

We went there after the San Sebastian Church accidental visit. But, this time, we took a jeep ride instead of continuing our leisurely walk. After having walked about 2.5 kms from Carriedo, to Quiapo Church, Hidalgo, Raon, MLQU and San Sebastian, somewhere in our muscles and bones started complaining hehe. The mind cannot always prevail when the body is tired. Tao lang hehe. Mind you, we still had the energy to roam around DVD country, so once we alighted near the Jollibbe, Chowking Greenwhich, Mercury Drug intersection, there was an air of excitement that we seemed to be walking too fast towards the stalls! I don’t know why… do you?!

It starts right at the street sandwiched by Jollibee and Mercury Drug, though others are already scattered as far out as the sides of Quezon Boulevard and elsewhere. But the ‘official’ rows and rows and rows of DVD stores, vendors, hawkers and what have yas start in this corner. We went in walking southwards. Oh my OMG… there is just infinitely too many of them I can’t seem to put the proper superlative on this. Virtually any movie title is available. English, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc language or subtitles are all available. Each store sell just about the same array as the other, yet there are too many of them. TV shows, compilations and other events are also there. When not available, they take note of it and ask you to come back next week or they get your number so they can alert you when available.

I tried testing them and asked one stall if she had all the James Bond movies. She easily, though quickly grabbed most of them from just about everywhere in the pile. In a second, I heard her hollering in a southern vernacular (was that Tausug? Maranaw? Ah whatever) and in no time another girl came with “Octopussy” that was missing in the pile. I was not about to buy them, so I declared the excuse that I wanted them in just one DVD or one pack like the National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Jumong, Marimar, etc collections that even have their own fancy packs. She scratched her head and told me to come back next weekend. Whoa! We were not even done talking yet, another ‘customer’ slithered himself behind me and asked “are those all the James Bond movies”? Girl did not even say yes but declared “sixty peso isa sir, DVD Copy”. The Blackberry-toting customer haggled and he got them at P50 each. Brisk eh?

I would like to invite Bill Gates to stroll along this strip. Ah, no problem with him going there. If he just won’t ceremoniously announce his presence to the authorities who will surely make a hullabaloo out of it, he can do a stroll at Quiapo, together with all his corporate officers hehe. Caucasians look the same to Filipinos, right?! With the proper ‘tourist’ attire, he can go for the most ridiculous stroll of his lifetime. Of course I won’t blame him if he picked a movie or two to bring home hehe. But I can dare Mr. Gates that every single version of his applications, installers and whatever already released by Microsoft out in the market ARE ALL available in bogus copies here – including no less the crack codes where needed hahaha!

Oh, well, if you were for the ‘listening in style’ type, don’t fret. Everything is there for you too. Let’s say sorry to Bob Marley and all the music studios that recorded his albums. Imagine this, for a mere P30, yes thirty pesos, I saw a DVD on sale containing ALL songs from 7 of Mr. Marley’s albums (songs properly sequenced as in each of the original albums) plus a Billy Idol album, an RnB Disco Collection and another album titled Reggae Essentials. Just count the number of songs those would add up to. Yep, in just one DVD. And hey, all are already in mp3 format, therefore easy to grab and transfer to your gadgets! I confess, I did not let this one pass hehehe. I bought it! the DVD cover says “Reggae Mania MP3”. Coolness!

Okay, now… this place in Quiapo is actually not just a strip nor it is a blockfull of pirated DVD stores. We counted something like 6 or 7 blocks of stalls that offer nothing but products in this “industry”. That is excluding the many makeshift stalls, tables and ambulant vendors out on the sidewalk or streets. I like the ‘style’ of those ambulant men and women. They don’t have the DVDs or CDs with them. All they carry are samples of the printed covers. They talk you out to buying them. When you say yes, that is the time you either go with them or just stand still and voila, they return with everything you wanted. Generally, the cuts they sell are on the X or XXX type movies, straight or gay. Some are full video recordings of local artists’ concerts or compilation of local TV shows/news. When I asked why, the answer was that they’re hot on the media therefore enforcers’ eyes. One dude even said “tulad nito” showing me a nicely printed compilation cover of Mike Enriquez’s program “Imbestigador”!

What surprised me is that some stalls do not actually do real selling. They serve as busy “production areas” where printed discs, labels and containers are delivered by trucks. Some men and women assigned to the task then start manually inserting discs and labels to DVD Cases or Jewel Cases. Then they count desired numbers and place the ‘finished products’ inside carton boxes and seal them with packaging tape. Final act… they paste a sample cover/label outside the box then write the number of pieces contained inside. End line of a real production process, really! I asked one woman as to where would those boxes go next. Pointing to boxes, she casually replied saying “ito Tarlac, yan tatlong yan Baguio, ito Bataan". Oh my, its an industry!

Let’s have my little discourse on this ILLEGAL TRADE and why it seems to be unperturbed. To sum up my views, the best possible quote that I can think of for authorities to ponder about will be… “If there’s a will, there’s a way”. Oh, a Tagalog quote has a similar meaning… “Kung gusto, maraming paraan. Kung ayaw, maaraming dahilan”!

As for now, the DVD Capital lives on.

Oops, at the beginning of this series of Quiapo articles, I promised to tell ways of going there other than drive into the place, right? Well, our way was park at the LRT’s central station and ride the train crossing the Pasig River to Carriedo Station. From the Isetann Department Store at that station, we walked the dizzying crowd of stalls along Carriedo St. to the church. You can also do it at Isetann Recto where the new LRT has a station and walk southwards to Quiapo. Then again, easiest is to take a cab. From the north (Caloocan) or east (Quezon City) you can alight at the very side of the church on Quezon Blvd. From the south (Makati, Pasay, etc) you can alight across said area and a few steps from DVD country. BUT,unless you are a serious devotee of the Black Nazarene, drop any visiting ideas on a January 9.

The sun was inching further down, so we called it a day in Quiapo and left the place. How? Ah, we had no easy choice... from the DVD country, we walked back to Quezon Boulevard and dared cross it via the ‘underpass’, emerged back at Plaza Miranda where we caught a jeep ride to Lawton and walked to the LRT’s Central Station where we parked.

Let’s go somewhere else in my next blog entry?!


  1. Yes, I had gone there too after I bought my Nikon D7000 DLSR camera and I'd concluded that no amount of TV-featured confiscations and destruction featured in the TV could stop this trade. It's an extra ordinary undertaking, hence, it needs extra ordinary response from the authorities.

  2. thanks edsan. hey if you have pics of/from that place, pahingi naman so I can use them to spice up this article hehe. we all had our point and shoot cameras when we went there, but no one dared take anything out. alam mo na... apprehensive hehe

  3. It just so happened that I was alone in visiting there and as a natural reaction, I was busy clutching my body bag containing the newly-acquired camera in my chest. I was tempted to take shots but my apprehensions prevented me from doing so. Next time, I'll bring with me some Hulk Hogan-type construction workers in Manila coming from our town so the not-so-good citizens will dare not harm me and the camera he he.