Exploring the relics at Quiapo’s Ocampo Compound
MANILA, Philippines — Aside from the famous Black Nazarene icon, Quiapo holds many hidden relics scattered among the residences of Mendoza Street. Tucked between Gonzalo Puyat and FR Hidalgo streets, the area is also known as the Ocampo Compound.
Over the years, the compound has drawn the attention of tourists, religious devotees, students, and artists who have promoted the place through their blogs.
“Kapag marami na ang dumadayo, halos mapuno na ang tao dito. Gina-guide sila ng barangay. Minsan, may mag shooting pa ng mga pelikula dito,” said Mario Yamit, a resident.
(When there are a lot of foreign visitors, the place fills up with people. The community guides them. Sometimes, people even shoot films here.)
Residents are comfortable with visitors roaming around. They shared how people always come and go, but rarely sit down with the residents to know their stories and the place they call home.
When I visited on Thursday, January 7, Robert Anaipo, a close friend of a direct descendant of the original owner of the compound, Don Jose Mariano Ocampo, shared the story of the place's transformation.
The Ocampo family
Don Jose Mariano Ocampo, whom residents call Don Peping, was a lawyer and a realtor. He bought the one-hectare area to build his estate. He was a devout Catholic, loved art, and was very keen on details. Not only did he build his home and real-estate office, but he also wanted to create a sanctuary of oriental art that he and his family could enjoy and that tourists could also visit.
As an art connoisseur, Don Peping had a collection of paintings that covered the walls of his home and one of the area's landmarks, the Chinese Pagoda. Some residents shared how they remembered seeing a life-sized portrait of Don Peping at the long-gone mansion.
His house was grand; high walls protected it from trespassers. According to Robert, Don Peping’s sculptor was a man they called Mang Pase. Mang Ado was his painter, and did all the details on the statues’ eyes.
According to some residents, before Don Peping bought the land and transformed it into a tourist park, it used to be an old cemetary. Their proof: Some tombs are now concealed in the houses of the current residents. When we visited on Thursday, January 7, many residents claimed to have unearthed tombstone markers during the construction of their homes.
According to Robert’s mom, the estate had been divided among Don Peping's heirs – Bessie, Trinidad, and Nanding – and they sold the property. Don Peping is said to have lived a long life and died. He lived to more than a hundred.
People say that a certain Nanay Caring Macaria is the current trusted keeper of the compound.
Despite experiencing many destructive calamities, the Chinese Pagoda of the Ocampo Compound is still standing tall. It is the most noticeable establishment there, rising above the neighboring houses.
Records show that it was built before the World War II. According to accounts, the pagoda served as a bomb shelter during the last war, while and the rest of the compound provided shelter for war refugees. The pagoda also took a few beatings from strong earthquakes, the most critical of which was the 1962 earthquake that collapsed some of its structures.
Currently, the pagoda is a transient house for seamen awaiting deployment. From the outside, it looks old and rustic, and no restoration efforts are evident. Visitors are not allowed inside the pagoda, so the best view outsiders can get is from the basketball court within the compound.
The garden and its relics
Robert said that all the houses surrounding the pagoda used to be a grand garden. Looking at the remains of the site, and the description of the people who have witnessed it, the garden may have been Japanese-inspired.
Large koi ponds and fountains, bridges, and many statues decorated it. Because Don Peping was a devout Catholic, many of the relics are statues of saints, priests, and nuns.
A scenic site, many film makers have made the compound a venue for shooting their films.
“Nagshooshoot na sila dito nung 80s. Pumunta dito sila Piolo Pascual, leading lady niya si Angelica Panganiban nung shinoot nila ang Mangarap Ka (March 2004 – October 2004). Hindi pa nasusunog ito [dahil sa sunog noong 2004]. Madalas na pumupunta dito ay sila Eddie Garcia, Gary Valenciano, at Jericho Rosales. Nagshooting sila Jericho Rosales kasama ni Heart Evengelista dito. Pati din sila Sarah Geronimo," Robert said.
(They were shooting films here since the 80s. Paolo Pascual with his leading lady Angelica Panganiban went here to shoot Mangarap Ka (March 2004 – October 2004). The place hadn't burned down yet [because of the fire that happened in 2004]. Eddie Garcia, Gary Valencio, and Jericho Rosales would usually go here. Jericho Rosales, with Heart Evangelista shot a film here, and so did Sarah Geronimo.)
As you enter the compound through ZP De Guzman Street, you'll have to search high and low too see some of the remaining relics. If you ask around, the residents are friendly enough to direct you to where the next icons are.
The icons have been mostly neglected, Because the property had been divided, only a few opted to preserve the relics; most opted to destroy them.
The most famous and preserved relic is the enormous icon of the Lady of Mt Carmel atop a globe. It's only accessible through a two-foot wide alley. Bloggers and outsiders call the icon the "Birhen de Eskinita (Lady of the Alley)" but the compound residents call it “Mundo (Globe).”
The 15-foot statue cannot be seen immediately, as it is tucked between houses. It is adorned with images people of different races bearing the globe. Each person had a plaque that described the relic's story, but they've now been covered by cement for a stronger foundation.
Robert said that Don Peping Ocampo was the model for one of the figures that represent the brown race.
At present, a man named Tatay Terio has made the most of the space to make a liveable home for his family. Even though there is a family living inside the area, they welcome guests who would like to visit the icon. Currently, the maintainance of “Mundo” is being supported by a Chinese entrepreneur from Quiapo, a devotee.
Myths and miracles
Mundo is known to many devotees. Many locals, tourists, and seamen visit the icon to offer candles, flowers, and prayers. Many testimonials on answered prayers have been shared.
“Natutupad din mga panalangin para sa mga kamag-anak naming sa abroad. Yung mag pamangkin at anak ko nasa Texas. Manugang ko seaman. Ang anak niya ay aalay din ng mga bulaklak. Dalawang pamangkin ko nasa abroad din. Kada Biyernes nagtitirik kami at nagaalay ng bulaklak. Kahit hindi Biyernes, minsan Linggo din. Kapag sumisimba kami as Quiapo, bumubuli kami ng bulaklak at kandila,” shared Rose Robrelang, 56.
(Our prayers for our relatives overseas are heard. My son and nephew are in Texas. My in-law is a seaman and his child also offers flowers to the relic. Two of my other nephews are also overseas. We light candles and offer flowers every Friday. Or sometimes, even when it isn't Friday, sometimes even Sundays. Whenever we go to church in Quiapo, we buy candles and flowers there.)
Robert adds, “Mga seaman diyan sa pagoda, gustong umalis, tumitirik ng kandila diyan. Sa awa naman ng Diyos, nakakaalis naman (Some seamen who went to the pagoda and want to be deployed, they will light candles for the icon. Through God’s grace, their prayers are answered.)
Even the younger generation, kids of those who have lived there for a while, claim to pray to the image of the Lady of Mt Carmel.
Their faith strengthened when a big fire hit the compound in 2004. It spread to most of the houses. But even if the house right behind Mundo was ablaze, the fire did not even touch the statue. The statue remained intact, as if the fire never happened.
Other stories that make the rounds in the compound keep some of the residents from harming the other relics.
Mario Yamit, 42, said: "Kung para sa akin, gusto ko na lang ilipat na lang sa labas 'yan. Kung babasagin, ayaw ko [galawin]. Mayroon na kaming karanasan diyan. Nakikita namin ang proweba na binasag niya. Nagkasakit lang ng isang sakit, ayun, namatay. Hindi pa natatapos building niya.
(If it were up to me, I'd move the icon outside. But if it's breakable, I don't want to [move it]. We've had experience with these icons. We've seen proof that someone broke one. He got sick just once, and then died. He wasn't even able to finish constructing his building.)
Some kids even shared stories of how they've seen the heads of the statues move or the Lady of Mt Carmel cry – it's up to you now, to decide what you want to believe.
Other countries have their relics too, and ours may not be much, but they're still great treasures. There have been efforts for restoration, but according to the people in the area, funding is a major problem.
Will you be checking out the hidden treasures at Ocampo Compound in Quiapo soon? Let us know in the comments! – Rappler.com
If you are interested in visiting the Ocampo Compound, you can get in touch with Robert Anaipo through his mobile: +639082133717