Friday, March 18, 2011

Quiapo Stroll: Near The Church

Across the church entrance and the parking area called Plaza Miranda, there is a Mercury Drugstore in one corner and itself is a landmark known to most Filipinos. This time, it has a bigger digital ad signage above it that will surely catch the attention of many a first time visitor. It’s like a gigantic TV. Beside this drugstore is one of the entry/exit ways to a well-known (or shouldn’t I say ‘notorious’?) old infrastructures of Manila City – ‘the underpass’. Going beyond it and away from the parking lot (okay, Plaza Miranda) is going towards “Ils Da Tuls” – yeah “ilalim of the tulay” or “under the bridge” (Quezon Bridge) which is known for cheap native handicrafts and souvenirs but similarly known too, as still part of the domain of snatchers and pickpockets. Let’s not go there for I did not, okay? I may go back there sometime soon. We headed right instead towards Hidalgo St.

This Hidalgo St., is very popular to older photography folks. I hear that in the past, the stores that line both sides of this short street were popular and reliable suppliers of cameras, camera parts, photographic equipment and paraphernalia. They still are, I guess, but for the uninitiated, this place is at times either uninviting or totally disheartening. Why? It really depends on who is mayor and what his disposition is. There was a time, this street was cleared of vendors, pavement spruced up (made of red bricks) to look like old cobblestones as in the Hispanic era. At least I saw this once during such ‘lucid moments’ of the street. It was beautiful and even nostalgic walking around as it felt like you were transported back in time with old style lamp posts and park benches in the middle and on the sides. Well, now? You won’t even get a clear view of the camera stores on both sides as the whole street is lined with hundreds of fruit, vegetable and what have ya vendors from the very middle to everywhere you look. These vendors have those big umbrellas, canvass or sewn rice-sacks to shield their wares from the sun and rain. Ugly!

Okay, there is that big building of a bazaar with hundreds of cubicles, stalls selling everything from fake cellular phones, fake rubber shoes, fake branded apparel and just about everything called “imitation”. Of course the DVDs won’t be absent from your sights even if the ‘DVD capital’ is on the other side of Quezon Blvd. – there are too few on ground level but a plethora on upper floors. This building is a popular alternative for those who don’t like going to Divisoria or Baclaran. Did you know there are now new terminologies when referring to fake or illegal imitation of various products? Yeah, I learned about them in that building… ‘Generic’ or ‘Standard’ is any product (e.g., phone chargers, covers, keypads, etc) that are generally usable for 1, 2 or more branded gadgets but were not made by the brand name itself. They are either substandard substitutes or outright imitations made to look like the real ones. ‘China’ means a gadget or product that is an outright imitation down to the shape color and brand name but made without the authority or even the knowledge of the original brand maker. And ‘china’ means definitely cheaper and shoddy. Those are just two words and there are more terminologies like ‘DVD copy’, ‘Blueray’, ‘overrun’ or ‘factory reject’.

Together… the church, Mercury Drug, that fakers’ building and the Quezon Blvd envelop the little quadrangle of a parking lot called Plaza Miranda.

Oh, btw, that building mentioned above has a Jollibee store in its upper floor but am not sure if anything sold there is also ‘generic’, ‘standard’, ‘china’, ‘DVD Copy’ or ‘factory reject’ hahaha. Gosh!

Moving elsewhere, left side of the church, if you’re facing it, is a little street where both sides teem with a lot of stores and vendors. It starts near the entrance to the church where a lot of tables are laid out with candles. Yep, candles of different colors and sizes, bundled or not. These are targeted to the faithful who visit the Quiapo Church. And if its any consolation, those candles are just laid out on tables and not brought to you by throngs of vendors seemingly ready to pounce at you like in many a church all around Cebu. Sometimes vendors manning them tables are even nowhere to be found, so buyers have to wait. When I was there and overheard a woman asking where the ‘vendor-in-charge’ was. Another vendor answered with “nagpa-load lang sandali”. Oh ha?! Sosyal!!

Further on that little street, aside from those buildings that seem to be hub of dental and optical products are many stores that sell just about anything to everything. We had fun looking at stores that sell trophies, plaques, medals and other such things all related to ‘awarding ceremonies’! Now I know where people buy those! Yey! And yes, these stores offer engraving services for the names and/or the type of award that the trophy is to be given out for. I consider myself well-traveled but yes, this was the first time I saw rows of trophies my height or even taller! Hey, Regina, you want to brandish a sash or scepter that you once was Ms. Whatever? You can buy them there any quantity, color or style you want hehehe! Ah yes, sold in those stores are also a plethora of sports things like balls, bats, rackets, cue sticks, dart flights, weights, nets, even scoring cards and just about everything sports.

There’s more about Quiapo, but let’s do it in the next installment…


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