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Binondo, Manila Overview

Known to be the world’s oldest Chinatown, Binondo is a district in Manila that was established in 1594. The spinal street of the district known as the Ongpin Street bustles with market place fervour and is flanked with cosy shops of goldsmiths, tea houses, herbalists, bakeries, incense sticks and the like. Originally established by the Spaniards as a settlement for the Catholic Chinese near Intramuros, the place was a hub for the Chinese trade and commerce run by the Filipino-Chinese in the olden days.

Although the colonial Spanish architecture of the town is rapidly being torn down now, to make place for newer and better buildings, yet the culture and essence of the ancient town remains which even extends to adjoining areas like Quiapo, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas and Tondo. Among the most notable buildings and places of attraction, the top ones include Chinese Cemetery, Bahay Nakpil, Calvo Museum, Golden Mosque, Plaza Miranda, Quiapo Church and Filipino- Chinese Friendship Arch etc. The district now houses many more newcomers and immigrants which include Americans, Japanese and Spaniards.

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Places to Visit in Binondo

  1. Binondo Church

    Binondo Church is situated across the road from Plaza San Lorenzo Luiz. Established in 1596, the church is dedicated to Our Lady of China and is the most popular place of Christian worship in the area. Boasting of intricate and beautiful architecture, the church is thronged by tourists also.
    Binondo Church
  2. Santo Cristo de Langos

    Just next to the Binondo Church is an establishment which displays an image of Crucified Christ in a glass cover. It is believed that the image was found by a deaf and mute woman in a well.
  3. Ongpin Street

    Ongpin Street is the main street in town which bustles with Chinese stores, grocery stores, bakeries and other shops.
  4. Kuang Kong

    Kuang Kong is a popular Buddhist temple in the district which is also open to the tourists. Showcasing the roots of the Chinese- Filipino, it is also believed that you can also have your fortunes told here with the help of wooden half moons.
  5. Seng Guan Temple

    Seng Guan Temple is another Chinese Buddhist temple situated at the Narra Street. The temple stays crowded with devotees and pilgrims burning incense sticks and offering prayers at the temple.
  6. Escolta Street

    Escolta Street is a vintage street in the district which boasts of olden day decor and ancient architecture buildings. However, after the malls and modern day shopping complexes sprang up, the fashion brand outlets and retail stores on this street slowly declined.
  7. Arranque Market

    Arranque Market is the wet market in Binondo where you can find fresh seafood. You can pick up exotix raw seafood like crabs, oysters, snakes, octopus etc.
  8. Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz

    Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz is a major public square in Binondo which houses the Basilica of Santo Cristo de Langos and also the famous Binondo Church. It is one of the busiest suburbs in the area.

Food in Binondo

Desserts are the comfort food in Binondo. Most popular foods include pastries, hopia (local name for mooncakes), tikoy (sticky rice cakes), kiampong (kind of fried rice), siomai (a variety of dimsum), steamed buns with meat fillings, machang (glutinous rice with meat filling wrapped in banana leaf), mami (noodle soup) and hakaw (another variety of dimsum) etc. People also like teas and brews.

Festivals in Binondo

One of the biggest festivals celebrated in Binondo is the Chinese New Year which is celebrated in January/ February. People dance on the streets and light firecrackers. They also visit the temples and churches to offer prayers. This New Year festival is celebrated in collaboration with the Lantern Festival in which the celebrations go on for one week. Mid Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, is another festival which is dedicated to the Moon Goddess Chang'eand the God of Agriculture Shen Nong. People celebrate it by eating mooncakes and offering it to the gods and goddesses.

History of Binondo

Established in 1584 by Spanish Governor Luis Pérez Dasmariñas, Binondo was a district that was set up to accommodate the Chinese immigrants (which were locally called Sangleys). These Chinese immigrants were forcefully converted in to Catholicism by the Spanish Dominican Fathers. After the Chinese revolt of 1603, it is believed that the Spanish Governor executed over 24000 Chinese who refused to convert. As a result, the population of the town grew rapidly, as the local Filipinos married the new converted Catholics, giving birth to Mestizos (Chinese- Filipino). Later, many Spaniards, migrating Americans and Japanese also settled in the area.

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