Friday, May 23, 2014

Market Tour of Old Manila: A Visit to the Vibrant Yesteryears

Wazzup Pilipinas!

One sunny day of summer is an almost perfect time to do a tour of the market area of old Manila and get a taste of true Filipino culture. All kinds of merchandise from local medicine herbs, birds, flowers, candles, statues, clothing, fruits etc., can all be found here.

The tour will give visitors a glimpse of the not-so vibrant part of the Manila streets and discover the infamous Chinatown and see how Filipino cuisine is deeply fused with old Chinese recipes and traditions.

We went first to the Quiapo Church. It was a Friday (notably Quiapo day) so it was expected that there will be a lot of people attending church that day. We didn't go inside the church because there was a mass going on and it was too crowded because of the numerous devotees.

There was a lot of things to buy outside the church from sampaguita to saint's figure, rosary and other religious items. There was also a booth selling color coded candles which you can light if you want to wish for something or you want your prayers answered.

On the other side of the street was a lot of people, like the Fortune-Tellers, hoping for potential customers. Many people consult here to see a glimpse of their future, career, overseas work opportunities, and even love-life. The fortune-tellers will claim that they see the future in the card's may it be good or bad.

Across the street, under the Quezon Boulevard bridge, lies a hidden place that I discovered. It's a souveneir haven place. There was a lot of things to buy with the locally made products all over the Philippines. I also saw a toy here that's almost impossible to find anywhere.

Our next top was the Muslim community and the Manila Golden Mosque in Quiapo area. This Golden Mosque is said to be the largest mosque in Metro Manila.

Before we went inside the vicinity of the mosque, we asked permission first from the administration office that was located just beside the entrance.

We didn't enter inside the mosque because we are not allowed to go there. We remained outside and just took a peek from the windows to see what our Muslim brothers do inside their mosque.

The one thing that Muslims do before they go inside the mosque is they leave their footwear outside as a sign of respect to their religious establishment and maybe also to keep the mosque clean.

Some of the items you can buy outside the golden mosque, I forget the name of the spices (like spring onion on top) that they make as dipping sauce in their dishes. Also among their specialty is Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna and the hat or head gear worn by the Muslim men. You can see it here modeled by Nympha of Smokey Tours.

After visiting an old house called Bahay Nakpil which is now a museum, we went straight to Sta. Cruz for the Binondo part of the Manila market tour. This is Sta. Cruz church, one of the historic churches in Manila. This church is in front of the Chinatown arc in Binondo.

While walking around Binondo, we saw a lot of people buying from a store. They all wanted to buy fried siopao, so we also tried their special siopao. Eating siopao has never been that great. This is one of a kind siopao that you don't need to have the sauce because it's full of flavor inside. You can enjoy this fried siopao for only 17 pesos per piece.

Along Binondo street their is an altar where you can pray and light up incense.

Along Caravajal Street are vendors selling fruits and Chinese delicacies like Black Chicken and Sea Cucumber. Along it are Chinese groceries, Noodle Houses and Snack houses.

Binondo Church was built in 1596 and is one of the oldest places of Christian worship. The Church is home to Our Lady of China and in-front of the church, Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, is named after the Filipino-Chinese saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz.

In front of the Binondo church is one kind of transportation that you can only frequently find common in Manila - the "kalesa." This "kalesa" is old style but still a unique means of transportation. If you're going to Manila especially in Binondo, do not miss an aopportunity to ride the "kalesa."

Walking from Binondo church to Escolta under the heat, we passed by a vendor of halo-halo just in time when were craving for something cold to ease our thirst. This is not your usual halo-halo that you can buy in your favorite carinderia because it consists of 4 fresh seasonal fruits.

And the last part of the tour was a visit at Escolta street where you can find historic buildings. This street was the business district of Manila before the boom of Makati, Ortigas, BGC and Eastwood. The street was home to several fine examples of early skyscraper designs in the Philippines. You can find well-known buildings here like the Regina Building, the Burke Building and the Calvo Building - the location of the first radio station of DZBB-AM before they transferred the DZBB studio at GMA Network Center along EDSA corner Timog Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City.

These were all the places we visited within Manila with the help of our tour guide Nympha of Smokey Tours. The tour took around 2 -3 hours or more depending on the participant's pace. Nympha said it usually takes longer when the participants decide to buy things along the tour.

Go and book a tour with Smokey Tours and get ready to share your experience to show the world how interesting Manila is, not only because of its beaches, mountains and parks, but also because of the many.

For more info you can contact them at

Contributed by Jonathan Nava

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