The Philippines and China has strong historical connections. The Chinese traded with the Filipinos even before the Spaniards step in and colonized the country for 300 years. Not surprising, a significant fraction of Filipinos have some Chinese ancestry, I myself have 12.5% Chinese blood running through my veins.
On the 19th day of this month, the Chinese community around the globe celebrates the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. Where in the country is it best to experience? Well I suggest in the oldest Chinatown in the world- Binondo, Manila. I’ve been to Binondo before however this will be my first time to celebrate Chinese New Year on its streets.
I reached Binondo via LRT Line 1. From Carriedo Station, I took short walk to Plaza Sta. Cruz and traversed Ongpin St. starting at the Arch of Goodwill. The revelries for the Spring Festival concentrated at Ongpin St. up to Binondo Church. The crowd is surprisingly thick although it drizzles all throughout the day. Another unanticipated observation is the varity of the crowd, there were a lot of Caucasian tourist as well as pure Filipinos celebrating the Chinese New Year.
What to see?
Chinese were known for Fung Sui, thus it’s expected to see lucky charms sold everywhere along Ongpin. From jade charms to round fruits, Ongpin is a one-stop-shop for those who are seeking luck in the Year of the Goat. To further bring luck to the coming year, lion and dragon dances were performed on the streets.
Taste of China
In addition to the sights and reveries, Binondo is known for authentic Chinese cuisine. On of the biggest and affordable hit in this district is the “fried siopao” sold at Shanghai Fried Siopao located along Ongpin St. They said that in order to quantify the taste of certain food stall, you may check the number of the people who eats or queue in there. Certainly, this is one of the best siopao since I lined for more than 15 minutes under the drizzles just to sample a bite of it. What made their siopao unique are the fillings, it’s spicy with the herbs and it’s fried unlike any other siopao. For solo travelers who are on budget, this place is a good stop. You can buy a siopao for Php 18 only.
Overall, my unexpected trip to Binondo is worthwhile. The food, the crowd, the revelries is worth trying for even under the rain.