Sharing all things about pet-friendly travels and full-time work from home setup

Quiapo Muslim Food and Heritage Tour: A Visit to Quiapo Mosque plus Quiapo Market courtesy of Meaningful Travels Ph

I couldn't count how many times I have been to Quiapo but there's a particular spot there I always avoid for some reasons - the one leading to the Quiapo Mosque and the Muslim community that surrounds it. For some reasons, I feel like it is only for Muslims so as a Christian I must stay away from there. What if I get hurt? What if they shoo me away? I have these endless questions boggling my head. You know, I have been watching a lot of news about these Muslim terrorists that somehow my brain tells me that all Muslims are like that. I have been to Mindanao as well but whenever I go there I always make sure to be more extra cautious to save myself from anything that might happen. I know it is unfair to judge them so when an invite to visit the Muslim community in Quiapo I said yes in an instant! The last time I explored Quiapo was in 2013 sans the Muslim area unfortunately. You can click HERE my super old blog post about it.

Quiapo Tour with Meaningful Travels PH
These days I choose wisely all the invites I get as a blogger. I value every hour that I spend out of work which I am supposed to be paid.  Living in BGC, Quiapo is a big deal for me to commute to get there however I know this is going to be a learning experience that I do not get on a daily basis so I shrugged off all the negative vibes and decided to go.  Miss Ann Marie Cunanan, founder of Meaningful Travels PH personally welcomed us and gave us a brief introduction. The purpose of this tour is not to encourage us to embrace the Muslim religion but this is more of a cultural immersion for us non-Muslims. The Filipino-Muslim community is divided into many groups but here in Quiapo mostly the locals are from Maranao and Tausug groups. I learned that every Muslim minority group has its own identity from its beliefs to its food - in this particular tour we're going to learn more about the Maranao way.


Introduction to the Islam Religion in the Philippines
Philippine history books show that there are already Filipino Muslims long before Magellan arrived citing from the earliest record is year 900 to 1, 800. The Muslim groups before colonization era are very well-established that they have their own Sultans (leaders) like the Kingdom of Tondoc and the clan of Raja Soliman. Spanish rulers who arrived in 15th century call the Islam people who live in Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan a Moro. Thus, not all Moros are Muslims and not all Muslims are Moros. 

There are five pillars that a devoted Islam person should follow:
1)  The Shahadah or the declaration of faith.  He or she should only worship one god (Allah) and that there is only one messenger or prophet (Muhammad). 
2)  Pray five times a day (salah).  
3)  Fast during the month of Ramadan (Sawm) when there's presence of the sun. They can only eat and drink when the moon is already up.
4) Give of ahms (zakah) or services for the ones who do not have lots of money 
5) Pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia 

quiapo muslim food tour

The ARMM and the Bangsamoro in Mindanao
In 1989, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ARMM) consisting of five predominantly Muslim provinces ( Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu & Tawi-Tawi) was established. It's a region with its own government but it doesn't represent the entire Mindanao. In 2012, Pres. Aquino proposed the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region replacing the ARMM. In 2018, Sultans from Sulu archipelago in Zamboanga City wanted to form another group called Bangsa Sug separating themselves from the Bangsa Moro who are majority from central Mindanao. In 2019,  Pres. Duterte  signed the establishment of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Bangsamoro or BARMM). It is the replacement of the ARMM consisiting of 2 component cities, 116 municipalities and 2, 490 barangays. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia
The Quiapo Golden Mosque
The FIlipino Muslims in Manila do not have a mosque back then. It was only in 1976 when the Marcos family invited former Libyan President Muammar Janjalani to visit Manila. As a Muslim, his first question was where can he pray while he is here. So Imelda Marcos granted his wish by building the "Golden Mosque" in Quiapo plus a "Blue Mosque" in Maginhawa, Taguig. His visit did not happen though but these mosques remain up to this time as the holy place of worship for Muslims here in Manila.

Like any place of worship, Quiapo Golden Mosque technically only allows Muslims inside. For non-Muslims, you need approval to be admitted inside depending on purpose. One reason they allow for visitors who are not Muslims in Quiapo Mosque is if you're there to learn its history. I was told the mosque of Quiapo is open 24/7 unlike the churches and cathedrals of Catholics here in the country.  

Proper clothing is strictly observed specially to the women who should be covered from head to knees. During our visit, I did not see any women. I think there's a specific place for them. I should have asked our guide! You need to leave your footwear outside at all times. There's a huge difference as to how Muslims do their prayer compared to Catholics. There are no chairs inside mosque. You can sit and even lie down if you wish so!

For those who travel for photos, at the right side of the Quiapo Golden Mosque is an Instagrammable spot showcasing the best of Moro arts: floral motifs following the principle of okir  (geometric and flowing designs unique to Muslim arts). Check the right side of my main blog photo.  

Where to eat in Quiapo
The Muslim cuisine is characterized mainly by its yellow color and it should be Halal certified. Of course, you're not going to find any dish that is made of pork - only beef, chicken and fish. We visited two of Quiapo's highly recommended restaurants serving authentic Muslim food: Arab Asian Cafe and Junairah. What I am surprised about the restaurants in Quiapo is that they do not invest in visuals.  They do not have big signages nor the walls are Instagrammable. They focus on  food! 

First stop: Arab Asian Cafe
For light bites, I recommend going to Arab Asian Cafe. You can order "Paratha" a type of flatbread that comes with sweetened milk or garlic sauce for Php 25 only. If you have more budget you can choose to pair garlic cheese sauce or chocolate and nuts sauce for Php 45 both.  It's like a local crepe but it will make your stomach full in no time so for me if I can have just a quarter of that - I am good already. The "Teh tarik" or milk tea or the "Yougurt Lassi Laban shake" are the best options for drinks. If you really want to try some Arab Asian Classic food, they have "Beef rendang", "Keema" (spicy ground beef) and "Chicken Pianggang".

arab asian cafe quiapo review

Second stop: Junairah
Junairah is bigger than the Arab Asian Cafe so if you belong to a big group, this is the better option. While we did not eat here, a very nice Muslim woman patiently told us the names of the Muslim dishes that are shown in front: piyaparan a manok, pinayapa ran a udang (with shrimp), piyaparan a bakas (with fish), budi (fish belly with eggs) and more. "Piyaparan" is a local Filipino Muslim cooking process of adding coconut milk with onions, garlic, white scallions, chili, turmeric, garlic and more. It can be compared to a kimchi in one way or another. 

"Piyaparan" also has grated coconut. We Filipino non-Muslims, we throw away the shredded coconut after we pour the coconut milk in any dish we make at home as far as I know.  Erwan Heusaff, a famous celebrity restaurant owner and food vlogger visited this restaurant who did his own version of a "piyaparan" dish just recently.

where to eat in quiapo

Third stop: Quiapo Muslim Food Market
I dedicate this last stop to the many "unnamed" food stalls that sell traditional Muslim food inside Quiapo Muslim community. We learned about "Bakas", a yellowfin tuna smoked fish.  I also learned of "Palapa", a staple condiment of Maranaos. It is made of thinly chopped white scallions; pounded ginger, turmeric,  sili labuyo and toasted then grated coconut.  Please see the photo below for reference. The ones in bottles are called Durian jam.


The Halal food in the Philippines is very much left behind compared to neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. I share the same wish with our Muslim brothers that one day, the Filipino-Muslim cuisine will be also known to the world. It is going to lift many lives of our dear Muslim brothers.

The Pagana Maranao, our version of Iftar dinner
"Iftar" is a kind of meal that Muslims eat after sunset. They do this after a whole day of fasting during Ramadan. Our tour may be short but it ended with a very humble dinner much like "Iftar" but we did it the Pagana Maranao way. During special occasions, the Maranaos have a unique way of expressing a table feast. Usually it starts with prayer then while eating, the guests are treated with local dances like singkil and if possible wearing local attires. They have a different kind of dining set called "dulang", where they use "tabak", food trays made of brass. Colorful tray cloths called "ampak" cover these food trays. Up to four guests sit on cushions and eat using hands alone. 

quiapo muslim heritage tour

Our dinner did not came with any performance nor we were dressed in fancy local attires. What made our dinner extra special is the Muslim food we ate which is I should admit much healthier than what we ate as Catholics on a daily basis. Also, the new friends I met during this tour. It feels great to be surrounded with people who share the same interest in promoting the culture and heritage of every group of Filipinos regardless of what religion they belong. I can now finally close that chapter in my life where I have this fear for people belonging to Islam community  particularly in Quiapo.


Meaningful Travels Ph is a social enterprise that specializes in cultural and community immersions in the Philippines. They have upcoming tours to Batanes, Batad, Lake Sebu, Isulan, Songco, Bukidnon and more. If you want to join their next Quiapo Muslim Town and Culture Tour, please click HERE.

No comments