Fortune telling

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We walk through the streets of Quiapo, the stench of fish lingering in the air. The road is narrow and full of people, making us sweat on this hot summer day. It doesn’t seem to bother the vendors proffering their vegetables and DVD’s. But we’re not interested in their wares.

We make it to the large open square known as Plaza Miranda. To the north, a large church looms over us: Quiapo Church, a symbol of salvation for some, a path to fortune in the after-life. While inviting, it is still not, however, what we’re here for.

We look around, and right across the church we spot a row of makeshift tables and chairs. It takes us some time to realize it, but these are merchants of fate, manghuhulas. They eye us from afar and, sensing our interest, motion for us to come closer. With hesitation, we oblige, ready to seek our fate.


We each face our own psychic for the next half hour. Up close, we see there is almost nothing on their tables: no crystal balls, no talisamans or anting-anting’s; only a stack of tarot cards.

Our manghuhulas begin by asking us to share some personal information, like our names and birthdays, a seemingly harmless request. In an instant, we are given various generalizations about our respective Zodiac signs; certain personality traits associated with our astrological counterparts.

Facts about our “soul mates” and the types of people we should avoid are given in accordance to the stars. For instance, we hear that a Leo should be paired up with a Sagittarius or a Pisces in order for true love to succeed while Capricorns should not be a valid option as a lover because according to our trusty psychic, “Aanakan ka niyan tapos iiwanan ka nalang bigla.” Point taken.

The manghuhulas tell us things about ourselves—like being jealous, and intelligent, some of which ring true. But not without errors: one of us is predicted to be hard-working and experiencing financial difficulties, though it is far from the case.

Our fate in the cards

After hearing the unexpected introduction, we are asked to place one of our hands directly above the deck of tarot cards and choose between love and career. Coincidentally, we both choose differently, and then we are both given the task of choosing seven random cards face down, a task so deceptively simple that the thought of choosing the wrong card that might end up revealing a terrible future never pass our minds. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. It is then time for the next set.

Round two of the tarot card reading begins in the same manner. With one hand on top of the deck, the manghuhula tells us to think of a question we’d like to ask about our love lives. “Kahit hindi mo na sabihin kung ano yung tanong mo, makikita natin sa baraha kung mangyayari ba o hindi,” advises our trusty fortune tellers. We draw nine cards this time; nine cards that will supposedly reveal the answers to our heart’s desire. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. We hear the highs and lows of our love lives, both a happy and scary future, and whether we like it or not, the show must go on.

The last set of card reading goes through the same process. We have our hand out resting over the tarot and for the third and final time, we are asked to think of a question; only on this occasion, a question that we want to know about ourselves. Unlike the first two rounds, the fortune tellers ask us to pick thirteen random cards, this time facing down. Our fortunes are read to us card by card and for one of us, mixed feelings of shock, excitement, and disappointment soon follow, and for the other, only apathy.

For one of us, the telling is filled mostly with good fortune. You will be successful if you work-hard the next year, go abroad and you will find success there as well. We are both given warnings, however. Your friends will be jealous of you, people will try to poison your drink, and your future will be filled with heartbreak.

The people behind the tellings

After the tarot card reading, we take some time to ask our fortune tellers about themselves. One of them was Mang Cancho, a middle-aged fortune teller who has been practicing the craft for many years. However, being a psychic has not always been how he thought he would end up as. “Noong una, nagtrabaho ako sa granite. Pero noong namatay yung nanay ko, doon na ako naging manghuhula.” Mang Cancho claims to have a gift for fortune telling, a talent he discovered after foreseeing his mother’s death in one of his dreams. Like mother, like son: Mang Cancho reveals that his mother was also a fortune teller for 22 years and believes that her powers had been passed on to him.

Brother Alex, as he calls himself, started telling fortune at the age of 13. At first, he was not very good at it, so he prayed to the Lord to help him to send someone to help him. Not long after, a supposed ‘ninja’ manghuhula saw potential in him and taught him. Alex was told to continuously pray to the Lord to get better.

Brother Alex believes that his ability comes from the Lord, but that isn’t the case for everyone. “Meron sa Diablo, meron sa Diyos,” says Brother Alex on the source of power. That source also depends on the morality of your everyday actions.

Parang may nararamdaman ka, [parang dumdating lang] sa isip ko,” says Brother Alex, explaining how the readings work. The tarot cards only serve as a guide, and aren’t necessary in telling fortunes.

In the end, however, he again goes back to our everyday actions. “Ang hula gabay lang, pero kailangan kumilos din tayo. Kung umasa ka din lang sa oras, wala din,” he says, something that definitely holds true whether or not you believe in the power to of fortune telling. 

John Sarao

By John Sarao

Jeanne Marie Cornista

By Jeanne Marie Cornista

28 replies on “Fortune telling”

For hundred pesos I will tell you that the prince charming is near by..for a thousand pesos i will tell you that I am the prince charming !!!

I also tried the fortune tellers in Quiapo and I can say that there are a few who can really give accurate readings. The thing that I don’t like there is the way they deliver their messages (the scare tactic so they can offer their other services). Until one day I was looking for a good psychic on the internet and saw I was skeptical at first because I never heard of that website owner’s name but I took my chances. I had to travel from Makati to Bacoor just to get to his place but I never regret it. On my first session, I was amazed that he could read my personality and even gave me helpful tips to improve myself. And then, all of his predictions about my love life life, family and travel came true. He’s very accomodating and a really good adviser so I highly recommend Tata.

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