Curious about Muslim Town Quiapo? Take a Muslim Town Tour with Meaningful Travels PH to see the Manila Golden Mosque, try halal food, and visit hijab shops.
Two years ago, my partner and I were running errands around Quiapo, Manila. We had shopped for electronics in Raon and gifts in Divisoria. Since we finished early, he suggested for us to explore the nearby Muslim community.
Immediately, I hesitated. I have heard that the Muslim Town was one of those drug dens impenetrable by the police and Muslim territories are stereotypically associated with terrorism. It also did not help that Quiapo, in general, was known for illegal trade of goods and crime.
After a few meters of walking around the Manila Golden Mosque, I saw unfamiliar sights like spices and shops for Filipino-Muslims. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen in Manila before. Given the horror stories in my head, I felt overwhelmed and panicky, as I was wearing shorts and we were carrying goods. I wanted to get out of Muslim Town Quiapo as soon as possible.
“I thought you wanted to learn more about local cultures?” my partner asked as I was dragging him to the main road. Teary-eyed and frustrated I said, “Well, you don’t know how it feels to be a girl wearing shorts carrying valuable items in a place like this.”
Fast forward two years later, Meaningful Travels PH sent out media invitations to cover a Muslim Town Tour in the exact same place. The tour is for people like me who are non-Muslim and unfamiliar with the Muslim community in Manila. I knew I had to go because I did not want my previous biases to hold me back again.
Muslim Town Tour with Meaningful Travels PH
Quiapo is known for cheap counterfeit products such as DVDs, fake branded items, electronics, automotive and bicycle parts, and hardware supplies. It is an interesting spot where multiple religions and folk beliefs co-exist, with the Quiapo Church and the Manila Golden Mosque located on the opposite sides of the Quezon Bridge, and many folk mysticism relating to tarot cards, pampalaglag, and mambabarang are literally in between.
Over roti and teh tarik at the Arab Asian Cafe, the three tour guides, Ann Marie Cunanan (founder of Meaningful Travels PH), Nords Maguindanao (Salaam Radio host), and Amanah Busran Lao (a Shari’ah lawyer) shared about the history and culture of the Muslim community in Manila. Together with us are some local government officials like Brgy. Chairman of Muslim Town Quiapo, Abubacar Sharief, and the President of Manila Islamic Institute, Haj Ali Alawi, who were fully supportive of the Muslim Town Tour.
Manila Golden Mosque and Cultural Center
Our first stop was the Manila Golden Mosque (Masjid Al-Dahab) situated in Globo de Oro Street in Quiapo district. It was constructed in 1976 for Libya’s President Muammar al-Gaddafi, who as a place to stay and pray should he visit the Philippines. Though Gaddafi’s trip was canceled, the Muslim community flourished, attracting more shops and restaurants devoted to halal culture.
The Manila Golden Mosque is an infusion of local and foreign Islamic architecture. It features a typical Middle Eastern architecture of an onion-shaped dome topped by a golden crescent with designs and colors inspired by ethnic Maranao, Maguindanao, and Tausug arts. Like most mosques, the place of prayer faces West, in the direction of Mecca.
The mosque administrator told us that non-Muslims are welcome at the mosque. However, women are required to wear a head covering and clothing that reaches until the wrists or ankles, while menstruating women are not allowed inside.
Currently, the Manila Golden Mosque needs more funding for renovations and basic improvements. Though it’s supposed to be the biggest mosque in Metro Manila, the accessible areas are actually quite small.
Halal Food in Manila
One of the things we learned from our Muslim Town Tour is the real meaning of “halal”. Before, I thought this only applies to non-pork food. Halal actually applies not just to the ingredients but also the manner of slaughtering, preparing, and cooking food, in such a way that trucks, kitchens, or cookware are not contaminated in any way and adheres to Islamic practices. Halal also applies to fashion, tourism, and even banking.
Generally, it was hard to find halal food in Manila for Filipino-Muslims who migrated from Mindanao. Good thing that within the Muslim Town, there’s a lot of halal food found in eateries that are relatively cheap such as Junaira, Arab Asian Cafe, and Landap Cafe.
Some of the traditional halal food found at Muslim Town Quiapo are:
Pater. The must-try Mindanaoan food is pater, which is rice wrapped in banana leaves forming a triangular shape with grilled flaked fish, chicken, or beef at the bottom. Also called pastil, patel, or paster, it is a complete binalot-like meal that’s cheap at around PHP 10.
Palapa. Another Filipino-Muslim staple you should try here is palapa, which is a spicy Maranao condiment comparable to sambal sauce. It is a mix of chopped scallion bulbs, red chilis, ginger, and toasted coconut flakes sold in plastic jars. I’ve always thought Filipino food is not spicy, unlike our other Southeast Asian counterparts — now I know better!
Dodol. Made of sticky rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar palm, dodol is commonly served during celebrations as desserts or sweets. You can find this around town wrapped in corn husks and brightly-colored cellophane hanging from street-side stores. Try eating dodol with durian fruit to make it more delicious!
Hijab Shops at the Muslim Community
Since wearing a hijab is a must before entering a mosque, it’s great that there are many clothing shops within Muslim Town Quiapo who can help non-Muslim women to fasten their scarves. You can find many fashionable items for every occasion, such as for daily use, costumes, and formal ceremonies.
A hijab is a symbol of submission to Allah for Muslim women and it was my first time wearing one. Before this experience, I have thought of hijab negatively because of the fact that only women are required to wear such. I also know how difficult it could be to be fully covered in a tropical weather. But when I donned my own hijab, I realized that it was a choice that these women made and I respected it even more. At some point, I think I have even become comfortable wearing it that I didn’t remove my scarf until the whole tour was over.
Overall, the Muslim Town Tour gave me fresh eyes for Islam and the Islamic culture in the Philippines.
Many of my misconceptions about halal food, wearing a hijab, and entering mosques as a non-Muslim were corrected during the half-day walking tour. It also made me aware of how though some of our neighborhoods in Manila could have a totally different religion, culture, food, and language, we can still consider ourselves Filipinos.
Next time when I go back to Muslim Town in Quiapo, Manila I will be the one dragging my partner into trying more traditional halal delicacies and attractions in the area — hopefully more fearless and trusting next time around.
Our coverage at GMA Network’s 24Oras
Tips for your Muslim Town Quiapo Tour
- Best time to travel. The Muslim Town Tour is a half-day event, undertaken in the morning until lunchtime. Since it’s a walking tour, it is advisable to consider the weather beforehand.
- How to get to Muslim Town Quiapo. When commuting, you can take LRT 1 Carriedo Station and walk into the Muslim Town arc. You can also take jeeps and buses going to Quiapo, get down at Quiapo Church, and walk to the arc. When driving, you can ride a car and put the Waze pin at Landap Cafe and park within the perimeter of the town.
- Where to eat. There are cheap karinderia (eateries) all over Muslim Town Quiapo selling halal food. We recommend going local and eating at these small food stalls to try traditional food I shared above.
- What to wear. Since the tour includes going inside a mosque, it is necessary to dress modestly. Wear clothing that covers the skin up to the ankles and wrist, and head covering for women. If you want to save some money, bring your own scarf like mine from HeadWare. Wear comfortable flat footwear such as sandals or flip-flops.
- Things to bring. A bottle of water, a fan, and an umbrella would go a long way! Bringing cash is also a great way to buy halal food and souvenirs. It’s best to pack light for the walking tour for convenience and safety. For more safety tips, read this.
- Muslim Town Tour rates. Avail of Meaningful Travels PH’s Muslim Town Tour! Rates are at PHP 1,500 starting 2019. Great for families with kids.
- Contact. Get in touch with Meaningful Travels PH via their Facebook page, send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (+63) 905-559-9040.
- Things to do around Muslim Town Quiapo. Visit other nearby attractions like the National Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Anthropology, Rizal Park, National Museum of Natural History, Planetarium Manila, Escolta, Intramuros, etc.
More tours to take from Manila
- Manila City Tour
- Manila Food Tour
- Manila Museums
- Manila Nightlife
- Tagaytay Attractions
- Roadtrip near Manila
If you have any questions, send me a message on Facebook, I answer everything!