Friday, October 18, 2013

Ethnography 101: Ina ang Laging Saklolo (Baclaran Church)

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I would always ask my college and graduate students in Anthropology, aside from learning anthropological concepts and theories inside the classroom, to explore places, experience cultural or social happenings, and write ethnographic accounts using the participation-observation method.

I am posting in my blog with the writer's consent selected ethnography penned creatively by my students to contribute to the emerging sub-discipline of anthropology called 'Virtual Ethnography'.

Basically, virtual ethnography is also referred to as Webnography. We cannot deny the fact that with increasing use of technology and the Internet, there is now a demand for online spaces on various ethnographic accounts.

By Maria Gisela Orion

Ina ng laging saklolo.  That was my very first memory of Baclaran.  I was 9 years old and attended the simbang gabi.  I remember it was cold; the lights were bright, like any other kid would admire the shining lights; and the puto bumbong was still warm.  It was a big crowded place for a child.  A place where you can be lost in the crowd and trapped in the market place.

After 19 years, Baclaran is still unscathed.  It is as if it is in a time warp where it remains the same as before.  Wednesday is Baclaran day – the novena day for the Mother of Perpetual Help.  The varying vendors are still there selling shoes, slippers, candles, prayers etc.  It was a religious place of worship and a business district for the low income class.  However, the dayos came from upper, middle and low classes.  Baclaran, contrary to my perception as a place for the poor, is a mixture of varying classes. It is an open area for all classes – a point of convergence – for the socially structured society.

Ano bang pinagkaiba mo sa Quiapo?  Since Quiapo is the main reference of our papers and film, I cannot help to compare the two.  Baclaran is known for the image of Perpetual Help while Quiapo is for the Black Nazarene.  Both areas have become commercial districts.  Both have historical churches with taga-dasal and candle vendors.  Ang pinagkaiba nila? Baclaran is constrained with Christianity while Quiapo equalizes Christianity and Muslims.  Baclaran has a matriarchal church with the Mother of Perpetual Help as its patron signifies the comforter of the problems; while Quiapo with its patriarchal image of the Black Nazarene signifies the hardship of a God. 

Both have days of worship and expressions of beliefs through novenas and events such as the famous annual Nazareno walk. Both may have similarities; but honestly, between the two, I believe Quiapo has more avenues for diversity.  Baclaran makes me feel that the main purpose why people go there is because of the people’s strong belief and devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help.  The open or flea market place on its sides is just an added bonus for the devotees.  Quiapo, on the other hand, makes me feel that neither Christianity nor Muslim community is the centre of Quiapo.  People come to Quiapo because of its own untarnished reputation.  It is a destination. It is the Quiapo with all its mysterious, tasteful and exciting diversity--- and not because it has one section there that is the main destination. 

The best way to know Baclaran and tell its stories is through the eyes of the people.  Historical places can only be valued and appreciated once a person visits the place.  Baclaran’s history is re-painted again and again for as long as there are people devoting to come to the place and continue to tell its story.

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