Friday, November 13, 2009

The Pagoda of Quiapo

The writhing entanglement of wires and rot that forms the heart of Manila-- seedy Quiapo, home of the Black Nazarene and historically home to Chinese and Muslim traders as well as landed Spanish gentry-- is probably one of the most fascinating areas I have ever encountered. I have written so much about the district, especially the Feast that has defined its borders, aesthetics, and faith for centuries, that my readers probably already know more about it than some Filipinos. One of the most interesting structures there is the so-called 'Quiapo Pagoda', originally built as a residence for a wealthy family back in the early days of the twentieth century. From the excellent My Sari Sari Store website:

The Pagoda was built by Jose Mariano Ocampo in 1935 on the northern side of his vast estate, and was to house his realty office. Jose was a realtor but a lawyer by education.

Mr. Ocampo was artistically inclined. He had collections of Philippine paintings, which later would line the walls of the Pagoda. He adored Oriental art, and although he had never traveled to Japan, he dreamed of having his own Japanese pagoda. He began scouring through a collection of photos and pictures from magazines and books and began the painstaking task of designing his pagoda. He hired the best engineers of the day - Maximo Paterno and Juan (?) Cortez - and together they set the foundation of what was to become a landmark of Quiapo.

Ocampo’s pagoda is a blend of Eastern pagoda design and medieval Western architecture.

Mr. Ocampo's office never occupied the Pagoda. A few years after its completion in 1939, World War II broke out and Pagoda was transformed into an air raid shelter. By the end of the war, while the rest of the city was razed and flattened to the ground, the Pagoda survived the bombings.
Although it retains much of its character the Pagoda is now in a dilapidated condition. The tile roofs are falling apart and many of the pre-cast brackets are broken or precariously leaning on edge. It no longer sits on a garden since Ocampo’s heirs sold most of the land. A grand statue of a Chinese-looking Our Lady of Carmel sitting on a globe and carried by exotic looking figures is completely surrounded by houses. You can only access this statue by a small smelly alley.

The Pagoda is a survivor of the war and of a devastating earthquake (1992) during which a portion of the tower broke and fell onto the lower roof. Alas the high cost of maintenance has led to its actual complete deterioration. What a pity!!!
The Pagoda is now a boarding house for sailors waiting for their next assignment. Visitors are not allowed to visit the inside of the Pagoda.

The rest of the photos may be viewed at this link: Filipino Folly: The Pagoda of Quiapo. I really must visit this place soon.

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


You remind me that it has been too long since my last visit to Quiapo.