First things first, the Urban Roamer is proud be on print. You heard it right folks! Your friendly, neighborhood, urban roaming blogger is proud to be a contributing writer for an upstart and promising publication, the DDG Magazine. Please check out my contributions there (yes, I manage to write a couple of articles there) as well as the other articles there which are very informative. For a lifestyle magazine, it is one of the few publications out there that has managed to pack in so much diverse content with substance that should make it a must-read. I am proud to be part of such a promising publication.
DDG Magazine is available now at major National Bookstore and Powerbooks outlets. Please grab a copy guys!
Niow, to the second part of this special feature: the Urban Roamer’s Quiapo Shopping Guide…
If this street’s name may sound familiar, that is because the street was named after the same guy who was the visionary for Manila’s waterworks system and after who the Carriedo Fountain at Plaza Santa Cruz nearby was named.
For one thing, Carriedo serves as a link between Manila’s religious-political center that is Plaza Miranda and the once-bustling entertainment and commercial center of the city that is Santa Cruz, in particular the Avenida Rizal area. It is Carriedo’s strategic importance that it has grown to become a landmark of its own as a shopping mecca that is only rivaled with that of Divisoria. The whole length of Carriedo is lined with clothing stores and budget shopping malls selling a wide range of goods. One particular thing to note is the presence here of two prominent department stores who have actually started out in Carriedo: the Isetann Department Store that has grown modestly to have four branches and the biggest success to have come out from the area, the SM Clearance Store which has grown to a large network of shopping malls, among many other interests.
Interestingly, the site of the current SM Quiapo was not the original site where SM first started back in 1958. The present SM actually stands where the Manila Royal Hotel used to be before it closed down in the 1980’s. What made this hotel popular was its revolving restaurant located at the hotel’s topmost floor. At the moment, there are no plans known yet as to what SM plans for the old towering hotel building, but here’s hoping this could be utilized in some way to be an attraction in the area.
The “Photographers’ Hub”
South of the Carriedo shopping area is another popular area in Quiapo district dubbed as the “Photographers’ Hub.” As the name implies, the area that encompasses Hidalgo Street (the western section), Padre Gomez Street up to the corner of Carlos Palanca Street is mostly populated with shops devoted to photography, from cameras to lenses and other accessories.
With merchandise being sold at lower prices compared to those found in malls, this area has grown in popularity and has earned quite a loyal fanbase not only among professional photographers but among casual customers who are getting into photography in this digital age. As Gilmore has become synonymous with computers, Hidalgo and its environs has become synonymous with cameras which is a testament enough of its status being a “photography hub.”
Carlos Palanca Street
This street was known before as Echague, which, as the case of Raon and Ronquillo, was named after a Spanish Governor-General. (Rafael de Echague, tenure 1862-65) Now it is known as Carlos Palanca Street, named after a prominent Chinese-Filipino who was the first Chinese Consul to the Philippines. In addition, he was also a businessman who founded La Tondeña Distillers, which used to manufacture the famed gin of the Philippines, Ginebra San Miguel out of their old factory along the same road up ahead. Apart from his name immortalized in this stretch of road, his name is also immortalized in the prestigious annual literary awards set up by his family, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.
The length of Palanca Street is lined with various businesses from clothing material to household items. One cannot miss the smell of chestnuts or castañas being roasted on some sidewalk stall there. Of course, there is the famous landmark along this street which is the Excelente Ham, reputed to be one of the best homemade hams out there.
Around Quinta Market and the “ilalim ng tulay”
If Quiapo is known as one big marketplace, it owes its distinction to one of Manila’s oldest markets, the La Quinta or the Quinta Market. Owing to its strategic location near the banks of the Pasig River, it grew as a popular marketplace when it was first opened in the late 19th century, as Manila’s commerce was in full boom. Back in the day, merchants would ply their goods to and from the market either with their boats along the river or the carriages or vehicles. Today, Quinta is still a prominent marketplace in the city, though it has somehow outgrew itself that market vendors are now plying their trade outside the market into the outlying streets.
Speaking of outlying streets, there are also some prominent stores that primarily offer food products. Then there’s Killion, the store found along nearby Orosco Street is famous for being THE place people go to for their baking needs and food items like dimsum products and meats.
One cannot do a shopping trip in Quiapo without paying a visit to the famous handicraft stores found along the underpass of Quezon Bridge, the famed “ilalim ng tulay” or “under the bridge” stores. The items found here are all locally-made handicrafts that came from different parts of the country. Items such as carved figure, bags, and brooms among others.
And because a shopping guide here would not be complete without a shopping mall listed…
As it is the reality today of the urban landscape here, there is no escaping the presence of a shopping mall, or to be specific, the giant kind of a shopping mall. Even in a place as diverse in shopping experience as Quiapo, one can still find such commercial behemoth dominating a part of its urban landscape.
Interestingly, the mall in question is not a mall belonging to one of the retail giants but one belonging to one of the smaller yet well-established retailers. This is the Cinerama Complex of Isetann. For a retail chain that made its start in Quiapo, it seems like it’s a good idea to establish its mall right near home, so to speak.
What’s more interesting about this mall is its history. Apparently, the mall stands at the former site of one of the most premier moviehouses in Manila back then, the Roman Super Cinerama. Opened in 1964, it was the first cinema in the country to have an escalator and a red carpet. It was also state-of-the-art as it employed one of the popular movie formats of the time: the panoramic “Cinerama” widescreen format. Think of it as the equivalent of today’s IMAX format. Sadly, Cinerama was lost due to a fire and the mall was built over it as we see today, though somewhat respectful of the place’s heritage by naming the mall “Cinerama”.
With that, the Urban Roamer wraps up his humble little Quiapo shopping guide. However, let this serve rather as a jumping point for the people to discover more about this understated gem in the city. Whatever its faults, Quiapo is one of those places that still manages to exude a different kind of charm and beauty to anyone who would have the time to explore it. Here’s hoping the city’s officials also realize and help make a better Quiapo in terms of safety, cleanliness, and development that it deserves to have.
Acknowledgements as well to the book “Daluyan: A Historical Dictionary of the Streets of Manila” published by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines
© The Urban Roamer