Quiapo: Your new drugstore



Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quiapo: Your new drugstore

Listing the top alternative medicines around the sacred place

By Angelique P. Manalad, Contributor

“In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the moneychangers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’” —John 2:14-16

IT was like a scene taken from the Bible itself. The fringes of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene—Quiapo Church—festering with all that is pagan and unchristian. Fortune tellers and prayers-for-hire, rainbow colored candles, brass Masonic talismans, stone pyramids, glass orbs, jade Taoist and Buddhist zodiac symbols as well pirated DVDs, many sold by local Muslims.

But then again, the church itself is home to a most pagan tradition—the Black Nazarene that attracts a fanatical mob of devotes that shove another in a frenzy just to touch the 400-year-old holy relic once a year. And “pagan” is not a bad word. It’s better that it be known as “indigenous Filipino and Asian beliefs.” That we practice Christianity in a very Filipino way is a successful subversion of a colonial tool. If Christ were here today, perhaps he’d be cracking the whip inside the church. He may even go out to do some shopping.

Aside all this spirituality, we discover many alternative medicines for common ailments that we can buy for prices cheaper than a craven idol. We listed some services and merchandise:


OK, so it’s not spa-quality service, but what the heck? If you need a quick relief for those soaring muscles, take a sit and let the masseurs of Quiapo work their wonders on you. With your choice of alcohol, oil or powder; a full body massage costs P150 and P50 on single parts like shoulders, back or foot massages.

Fortune telling

It’s an unscientific scam. But it can be therapy. Like religion, having possible answers to one’s dilemmas gives one relief and hope. But as it’s Filipino term hula means, these are nothing more than possibilities foreseen. And a word of advice: if the session costs P20, give them exact amount. There is an on-going price hike here worse than the oil and food crisis.


The colorful sticks sold near the church is said to have meanings that suit every aspects that a person prays for. Whites, signifying purity, are wish candles. Red is for romance or love offerings for families. Blue is for peace of mind, green for money, yellow for good spirit, pink for health, orange for brightness, brown for good fortune, peach for studies, violet for material wealth and black for conscience. Three sticks costs P10. A rainbow package—complete with all the whishes you could ask for—costs P20. One wonder if they have other packages available like a trendy pastel-colored package or citrus scented candles. You’ll also encounter candles in the shape of a girl; their meaning is obvious.

Herbs and others

They have a lot of these in different shapes and sizes, some in their raw form and other already in capsules. There’s the gamot sa binat (cure for fever) for only P50 and gamot sa kulam (cure for curses) composed of lubigan, atis and anonas. There are capsules for dysmenorrhea (menstruation) costing P75/6 capsules. Cogon, boiled for the treatment of urinary tract infection, is sold for P10. The Pito-Pito (seven-herb tea) also cost P10 per pack. Tawas (alum), the age-old treatment for body odor sold as rock-hard crystals here will surely tear all those smell off your body. Choose your own herb, it’s better than the idiotic products advertised with no therapeutic claims written on it.

Surely, your prescriptions can’t be bought in the shabby streets of Quiapo. But with the increasing prices of other commodities, alternative medicines can be a source of relief. And perhaps those prayers said inside Quiapo Church can help as well. Always note: be careful of those Quiapo resident pickpockets wandering around praying to have a victim each day for their own medications


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