One Saturday morning, I find myself in Quiapo with Pastor Rene and Kenneth M. Pastor Rene has asked me to help capture photos of Manila’s street scene as part of his research in his graduate studies.

More than any other district in Manila, Quiapo has resisted change since the end of the Marcos regime. As I stand on Plaza Miranda, a spread out space in front of the Quiapo Church teeming with vendors and passersby, I find it easy to imagine the place as it has been during the martial law era, when it was a hotbed of political activities. This was the Manila where the elite once converged, to see and to be seen.

The modern era saw the emergence of other more progressive areas like Makati’s Central Business District, Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City and even Pasig’s Ortigas Center. And along with it the transfer of prestige. Quiapo nowadays is a shell of its former glory and what were once buildings that housed distinguished establishments are now decrepit structures that hide possibly surreptitious activities inside.

As Pastor Rene, Kenneth and I walk the crowded alleys behind the church, we are bombarded with offers of herbal medicines, fake IDs, secondhand books and other whatnots. But we march on until we see Ma Mon Luk. The venerable Chinese eatery still serves its legendary mami and siopao, which have been heaping praises from people like my parents.

When we finish our brunch, we step outside once more to take more of the old downtown of Manila.

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