It’s that dark side of the populous city your parents have warned you about — where vendors hawking pirated DVDs mix with quick-footed snatchers freely, and where bombing incidents seem as routine as police raids on drug dens.
With all that notoriety, how do Quiapo certainly be a tourist spot?
It took two fully booked trips and positive feedback from visitors before Ann Marie Cunanan, the founder of Meaningful Travels PH, could believe it herself.
The trip, among the tourists said, banished her fears, biases and misconceptions relating to this Muslim majority community in Manila.
Said Jenny Pascua, another Quiapo traveler: “I don’t need to go far [to find out about Muslim Filipinos] because we’ve a rich culture here.”
The half-day tour involves talking with Muslim Filipinos to understand about their history, tasting their food, and visiting a mosque where guests can connect to students in the madrasah and also figure out how to wear the hijab.
For 2018, Meaningful Travels has scheduled three trips to Quiapo: one Saturday monthly from October to December.
The Quiapo tour was a concept that found Cunanan following a friend showed her round the thriving Quiapo community early this season.
The colors, the distinct culture and the sense of community blew her mind.
Contrary to the grim realities presented in media, the social individuals who Cunanan met in Quiapo were warm, welcoming and kind.
Their sense of pride about their customs, religion, food and fashion was unmistakable also.
“Why I didn’t know these exact things existed?” Cunanan remembered asking herself when she saw the hidden side of that which was usually portrayed as a warren of makeshift stalls, decrepit homes and criminal lairs.
Was it possible to customize a tour round the certain area? Might it be safe? Will people be interested? she considered to herself.
“I had reservations even,” recalled Nords Maguindanao, a radioman whom Cunanan tapped to describe to participants days gone by history and tradition of Muslim Filipinos.
But the thought of calling others and explaining their culture and traditions made Maguindanao warm-up to the theory.
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“What we make an effort to do would be to show Quiapo’s beautiful side, the medial side that few people about know,” Cunanan said.
Cunanan, a Davao native, founded Meaningful Travels due to her love for community work.
As a mountaineer, she took participants to different remote upland areas often, like those in the Cordilleras, where she hopes to supply adventure and cultural learnings via immersion in the neighborhood community, and present with their hosts back.
“Our purpose would be to move people. If, following the trip, you’re happy however, not moved, we’ve didn’t do our job then,” Cunanan said.
Several trips later, Cunanan envisioned a tour that could offer more learnings concerning the culture of Muslim Filipinos.
But taking participants to Mindanao wouldn’t normally only be expensive but would also devote some time, she thought.
It was only after she met Amanah Lao, a Maranao Shariah lawyer in Australia, that the essential notion of a Quiapo tour began to turn into a reality.
Lao frequented the certain area to greatly help Muslim communities, year especially those that evacuated as a result of Marawi City siege last.
As area of the Quiapo tour, Lao explains the Shariah, the rights of Muslim women and the limits set on polygamous marriages.
“You can find so a lot of things [we have yet to learn] here,” Cunanan said. “My goal is usually to be such as a treasure hunter also to find these meaningful items that are neither silver nor gold.”
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