Lca_120_september_2014_header
Have an account? Login | New to Lomography? Register | Lab | Current Site:

Manila Chinatown: The World's Oldest

It's Chinese New Year. Ongpin Street the main thoroughfare of Manila Chinatown is a traffic jam of shoppers weighed downed by their bags of tikoy (rice cake), ube hopia (taro pastry), and ma chang (meat-filled sticky rice). Despite their heavy load, they continue to jostle, crane their necks and chirpily browse the sidewalks of trinket hawkers bargaining jade amulets, bracelets, and good luck charms in Fukien-accented Tagalog. Goldsmiths, vegetable vendors and traditional medicine sellers soon chime in.

It’s Chinese New Year. Ongpin Street the main thoroughfare of Manila Chinatown is a traffic jam of shoppers weighed downed by their bags of tikoy (rice cake), ube hopia (taro pastry), and ma chang (meat-filled sticky rice). Despite their heavy load, they continue to jostle, crane their necks and chirpily browse the sidewalks of trinket hawkers bargaining jade amulets, bracelets, and good luck charms in Fukien-accented Tagalog. Goldsmiths, vegetable vendors and traditional medicine sellers soon chime in.

Beneath all the hullabaloo, at a nearby alleyway, an elderly woman picks up three sticks of red incense, lights them up, and kowtows to a black crucifix: Santo Cristo de Longos, a 16th century cross that miraculously made the mute who found it in a well exclaim over his holy discovery. The woman murmurs her prayers and shuffles away faster than a click-clacking kalesa. Suddenly, her reverie is taken over by the vigorous din and whirl of a lion dance.

Covering an area of only one square kilometer, Chinatown of Binondo, Manila is a jam-packed crossroads of history, cultural fusions, bustling commerce and, of course, gastronomic delights. Since the Sung Dynasty (A.D. 960-1279) centuries before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, this riverside area has long been a trading post between native Filipinos and visiting Chinese.

Officially established in 1594 when the Spaniards gave the parcel of land tax-free to Roman Catholic Chinese, Manila Chinatown is one of the, if not the oldest Chinese communities in the world. They were given the privilege to self-govern, anxiously within range of the walled city’s cannons across the river.

Rows of Oriental shops are juxtaposed by fervent Catholicism. At one end of Ongpin St., you can find Basilica Minore de San Lorenzo Ruiz (or Binondo Church, erected in 1596) and Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz (formerly Plaza Calderon dela Barca), where monuments in honor of St. Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637), the first Filipino saint martyred during the persecution of Christians by the 17th century Tokugawa shogunate; Tomas Pinpin (1585-1640?), the Prince of Filipino Printers; and the Chinese martyrs during the Japanese occupation, now stand. Beside the basilica stands another statue: that of Ramon Ongpin, a Filipino-Chinese businessman and philanthropist who helped finance the revolution against Spanish rule in the late 19th century.

To get to Manila Chinatown, alight at the Carriedo LRT station (P15.00) and walk to Plaza Lacson (formerly Plaza Goiti, where the central terminal of the tram via once stood). At the plaza, board a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage), and tell the kutsero to take you to Ongpin St (P50.00, two passengers). Note: take pity, and pick a strong horse. Compassionate animal lovers can opt to walk to Ongpin instead: from the plaza, turn right into Sta. Cruz Church, cross the Carriedo Fountain and stroll into the Chinatown archway guarded by two big fu dogs.

written by eazy360

4 comments

  1. thaiseb

    thaiseb

    Great review ! And the pictures are not bad too ;D

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  2. eazy360

    eazy360

    Thank you thaiseb!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  3. lomollete

    lomollete

    Great review and amazing pictures as well.

    over 5 years ago · report as spam
  4. eazy360

    eazy360

    Thanks lomollete!

    over 5 years ago · report as spam

Where is this?

Nearby popular photos – see more

Nearby LomoLocations

Submissions are hidden while this competition is running