Quiapo is that one place we love and hate to be in at the same time.
The same things fascinate and frustrate, coming together with such impact everywhere else seems devoid of character.
The same dark, dank alleyways reeking of pee are home to food carts selling fried chicken and samalamig. Vendors of porn DVDs and abortion pills compete for a fraction of everyone’s money right in front an imposing Catholic structure with an image of Jesus Christ believed to be miraculous.
Call it anything—a maze, a mess, a mishmash of everything delightful and despicable. But there is one day—perhaps the only time each year—when this corner of Manila becomes just one thing: a finish line.
But it isn’t a finish line everybody scrambles to get to first, but rather a point they all have to reach, no matter what, no matter how long it takes.
This year, it took 18 hours to reach this finish line. That’s eighteen hours of bare feet, sweat, and wrestling with a crowd that was religious and rowdy. Yes, again, at the same time.