Everywhere in the world, you will find a Chinatown. In the Philippines, we call ours "Binondo".
With trade relations predating the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in 1521, it is not a wonder that there is a lot of Chinese elements in contemporary Filipino Culture. Chinese heritage is very much well and alive here in our country, and its center is the district of Binondo, in Manila.
Upon crossing Jones Bridge, the great Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch will greet you. At the mere site of it, there will be no doubt in your mind that you are indeed in Chinatown. What should you expect as you walk along the streets of Binondo? Here are a few:
Food: Everywhere you turn, food is a fixture in Binondo. From authentic Chinese restaurants, such as Wai Ying, to fruits, to delicious breads and pastry shops like that of Salazar Bakery. If you have money, you’ll never go hungry in Binondo.
Binondo Chuch: At the heart of this little China you’ll find one of the older Catholic churches in the Philippines, the Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, or simply, Binondo Church, which was founded in 1596.
Ongpin Street: Among the many streets in Binondo, Ongpin Street is probably the most popular. Threading Ongpin, you’ll find yourself immersed in the thick fabric of Chinese heritage. Here you’ll find more food places, Chinese stores that sell authentic Chinese products such as ornaments or traditional medicines, and even jewelry. Likewise, you will pass by several arches commemorating the rich Chinese influences.
Binondo is definitely a destination worth visiting over and over again; and even if I am a Filipino without (to the best of my knowledge) Chinese blood, when I am in Binondo, it always feels like I am close to home.