The home of the “miraculous” Black Nazarene is the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, a.k.a. Quiapo Church, a Roman Catholic church and one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the Philippines. Nestled at the very center of capital Manila, the 400-year-old baroque church is not only a beehive of Catholics in Manila. It is also an icon of irony.
While it serves as the focal point of folk religiosity in the city, it is ironically set against a backdrop of mass poverty and occultism. In its left and right are vendors selling amulets, talismans, voodoo-shaped candles, and odd roots of herbal plants offering cheap but unproven cure for ailments. Just in front the church are rows of fortunetellers, seemingly competing with the church in snagging people’s attention, as if beckoning the faithful to decide between heaven or hell.
Besides seeing its cream-colored exterior, gold-leafed interior, high altars containing the Nazarene’s head, and small museum containing the Nazarene’s clones and garbs, the reason to go to the church is to observe how the Nazarene’s believers display their unwavering devotion: walking on their knees as they pray, chanting the Nazarene’s hymn at the top of their voices, and being moved by the songs and the gospel at the point of crying or breaking down.
When to go
The church is open every day, from 6 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 8 p.m. Entrance to the church is free of charge. Photography is only allowed outside the church and from any of the entrances. Flash and mobile phone use are not allowed inside the church.
The best time to go there is on a Friday, when pilgrims flank the church for the Black Nazarene novena. Devotees can be seen in their maroon and gold garbs. Some walk on their knees as they pray the rosary towards the altar.
How to get there
Quiapo Church is at the very center of Manila, the capital. It is at a walking distance from the Carriedo Station of LRT Line 1 (open: 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., P15), and also nearby the Recto Station of LRT Line 2, although for safety reasons, it is more advisable to ride a jeepney than walking from Recto to Quiapo (P7, look for the ones with signs “SM Manila,” “Baclaran” or “Taft” and ask the driver to drop you off in Quiapo Church). Your best bet, however, is a taxi from any point in Manila (P30 flag down rate).