Every year, millions of people observe the Lunar New Year with all kinds of festivities. But did you know that one of the best places to experience this celebration is in Binondo, Manila? Before you start making plans for the Lunar New Year, here are some reasons why you should spend it in Binondo:
Binondo, otherwise known as Manila’s Chinatown, is the oldest Chinatown in the Philippines and the world. Established in the 16th century during the Spanish occupation, it’s been a place of trade and commerce for hundreds of years. The area continues to be a thriving hub of business as visitors can see from walking along its streets.
You can experience the mixture of Spanish and Chinese influences through nearby locations such as Binondo Church which is also known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. Meanwhile, the New Binondo Chinatown Arch was built to commemorate the Filipino-Chinese relationship.
Also consider exploring the areas outside Binondo before taking part in the Chinese New Year festivities to learn about the Philippines. Escape the crowds for a moment and take the bridge across the river to visit Intramuros. This walled city provides lots of history lessons about the Philippines. Once you’ve had your fill of historical facts, simply walk back to Binondo and get ready to celebrate.
For centuries, Binondo has been the center of the Philippines’ Filipino-Chinese community. Numerous Buddhist temples can be found in the area and many visitors are sure to stop by to offer a prayer during the holiday.
The influence of Chinese immigrants and traders can also be seen through the businesses and establishments that have sprouted within Binondo. Schools, restaurants, shops, and more display signs in Chinese and you can even find people who speak various Chinese dialects. Of course, it’s also a place where visitors can experience Filipino culture and how locals celebrate the Lunar New Year. Binondo is a fine example of how different cultures have melded together and lasted for so long.
Anyone familiar with Binondo will tell you that eating is a must when you visit Binondo. In fact, many people will often spend hours doing a Binondo food crawl to get a taste of the food. And during the Chinese New Year, it’s even more of a necessity. Dumplings, noodles, and a whole lot more await hungry visitors hoping to grab a bite in between New Year events.
While the crowds might deter you from dropping by a restaurant, don’t worry about how busy it feels. Binondo’s many famous eateries are used to dealing with many customers so they can definitely handle everyone coming for Lunar New Year. Besides, you don’t want to miss out on specials and discounts offered for the day.
Don’t let hunger ruin your fun on Chinese New Year. Many vendors sell snacks along the streets and Chinatown is also full of places where you can buy a small snack or two. Be sure to try hopia, a pastry filled with all kinds of fillings that were introduced to the country by immigrants from the Fujian Province of China. It’s now a very popular pastry throughout the country and uses Filipino flavors for variety and to suit the local palate.
A trip to Binondo isn’t complete without shopping. Since it started out as an area for trade, Binondo has continued to be a destination for shoppers looking for a good bargain. During Chinese New Year and the days preceding the event, many shops offer sales for gifts and souvenirs. Get your haggling skills ready because Binondo’s storekeepers will throw in a great deal or two if you know how to find a bargain.
Once you’re done haggling for Lunar New Year gifts, take a trip to Lucky Chinatown Mall. Every year the mall hosts all sorts of events like food fairs, cultural activities, and even fireworks displays.
Reina Regente St, Binondo, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila
10:00 AM to 10:00 PM (hours may vary during the holidays)
Ongpin Street is one of Binondo’s major streets and is home to many stores and restaurants. On a regular day, visitors can easily spend hours just walking along the road and visiting shops and cafes to experience Binondo’s Chinese culture. But on Chinese New Year, it becomes even more alive for the celebration.
Along Ongpin Street, visitors line up to catch the lion and dragon dances to commemorate the Lunar New Year. In Chinese tradition, these dances signify good luck and fortune for the year, so the local lion and dragon dance groups give an incredible performance for the celebration. The dances just one small part of the New Year parade so it’s wise to stick around and watch the other performances and vibrant displays that pass through the street.
Experience something new and different by visiting Binondo for Chinese New Year. But don’t worry if you miss out on the celebration. You can always visit the Philippines’ Chinatown and take part in everything it has to offer. Book a food tour with KKday today to try its amazing eats.
*Featured image by Rainier Ampongan on Shutterstock