When There were No Vendors

church & house 1933

The first thing that people notice when they come to Baclaran is unfortunately the complete chaos in the streets surrounding the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. There are vendors anywhere and everywhere, the cars have to wait until the vendors are prepared to let them past and the pedestrians have to elbow their way through the crowds of vendors if they wish to get to the Shrine. People often say, Why don’t the police do something about it? Why doesn’t the barangay do something about it? What is the City doing about it?

Redemptorist Road is a National Road and once had four lanes of traffic and big sidewalks. All these was about to change as soon as the novena began in 1948.  We can find a clue of this in the Chronicles of the Baclaran Community. We read on September 28th 1949:

“During the past week a “subdivision” of Quiapo Market has been growing in front of our gate. Someone has counted more than 30 stalls. Many people have expressed disgust at this nuisance – but nothing much can be done about it. The police seem to be getting a “rake off” (as two or three have admitted) and so are not anxious to act.”

This was just one year and three months after the beginning of the Novena and there were only 30 vendors. Now the vendors are beyond count. And there is total chaos every day. Sometimes the MMDA clears the road for a day but the vendors comes back the following day. Many have been killed because of this cat and mouse drill.

Surely we can not go back to eden. But we dream of the day when there will be order and harmony on the streets surrounding the shrine so that the devotees can walk or drive in and out of the shrine smoothly and peacefully.

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)