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A Visit to Chinatown in the City of Manila

Chinatown, Manila, the Philippines - January 29, 2012

We missed the opportunity to see Chinese New Year celebration in Manila last Janaury 23, 2012 so I and my wife decided to go here in Chinatown 6 days after. Actually, we have no any plan of going here and go buy jewelries at the popular Ongpin Street where Chinatown is also popular about. It was just a what-you-see-is-what-you-get tour and my main intention is to actually capture different angles of the town as well as of the scattered items with Chinese traceability. Take a look on these first few photos that I took.

On the Photos: The China Town "Welcome" Street Structure

We walked straight from Quiapo Church going to Binondo Church via the famous Ongpin Street. This could really be the highlight of Chinatown primarily because on everywhere you look, there is something about Chinese that can be seen. Even the posts, the establishment names and the advertisement banners are in Chinese language. It was our first time to reach the place and so we happened to realize that we were already at Chinatown when this "Welcome" sign appears in front of us.

On the Photos: Chinese Signs, Items and Symbols Seen from Everywhere

And so we continued walking after passing the Chinatown Welcome point. All I wanted to do by that time is to take photos while my wife keeps on looking for something that is Chinese. Our necks are about to break looking from side to side, corner to corner, here and there, until we saw something attractive. After a few minutes, we found ourselves sitting inside the popular Four Season Cuisine restaurant. Looking from the outside, this restaurant seems to be just like the ordinary street restaurants here in the Philippines. But when our orders were served inside, it was like eating in Beijing. Since we do not want to eat exotic and unusual Chinese foods, we decided to eat common-to-see cuisines in the Chinese fast food chains in the country. The special wanton noodles with lots of toppings, the canton noodles with authentic sweet Chinese oil, the so-called "lumpia" in the Philippines and the fried rice called "kiampong" boosts our appetite. I used chopsticks of course. It was the highlight of our being in the Chinatown that day. Fabulous foods!

On the Photos: Chinese Foods at Four Season Cuisine Restaurant

After that excellent food trip, we moved out and go look for something more amazing. And yes, we were amazed by these colorful fire trucks. White, black, violet and red and some other colors at the sides, corners and accessories obviously made these trucks very eye-catching. These are the Binondo fire trucks that are rescuing lives every year. Binondo community is very active when it comes to fire prevention campaigns. After these trucks is the Binondo Church, one of the oldest Church in the Philippines. The architecture is completely Gothic and western.

On the Photos: Binondo Fire Trucks on their Assorted Colors

On the Photos: The Binondo Church in China Town

Beside the Binondo Church are the huge street signs, the old Manila's trademark horse carriages, and the busy people and cars passing back and forth. The blending of Chinese and Filipino cultures can be seen at this portion of the Ongpin street. Filipinos are visibly working while Chinese are on their feet going here and there. Inside the Binondo Church are people expressing their faith.

On the Photos: Different Views of the Ongpin Street

We then decided to return back and get inside the stores that caught our attention earlier. It was the Eng BeeTin - Home of the Best Hopia and Tikoy, that gave my wife a very brilliant idea. That idea is, of course, to buy these delicious hopia and tikoy inside that store. Right at the very entrance of this store is the ube pao stand. We didn't buy ube pao but we were able to see the different colors and it was impressive. And there was so many more Chinese delicacies inside. Every customer seems to be in a hurry getting the items they want. It was after our shopping when we heard people talking about Eng BeeTin's 100 years anniversary. We looked around and yes, promo ads are posted everywhere. We were happy upon knowing that what we bought are on their discounted prices.

On the Photos: The Famous Eng BeeTin Store in China Town

In that short period of time, I was able to observe how Chinese move inside this town. It was an ordinary day but I realized that it was really a way of life for Chinese people here to walk and do their business just like the normal Filipinos. Some are buying stuffs, some are in groups and taking photos, some are in the street mini-temple offering prayers to their god, and some are there to live simply like the ordinary Filipino people. I saw this high tower where Chinese are coming in and out. I was able to capture three cute Chinese girls with an old lady as their guide. I was also able to take photos of the Binondo Chinese Mission Parish, the Binondo Suites Manila and the President Grand Palace Restaurant.

On the Photos: People and Landmarks in China Town

As we leave Chinatown, I was able to witness how some Filipinos are spending their everyday in this community. An old lady asking for alms, some young boys in the Manila-Beijing Friendship Bridge asking for coins from the by-passers, vendors with their carts parked at the street-side, polluted river seen on the bridges, and pedicab boys waiting for passengers; all of these can be seen at this long stretch of the Ongpin street. Since this is my first time to be here, I realized I was wrong with what I'm thinking before. I thought Chinatown is like the Makati Business District and the Ortigas Center in Pasig City. I just thought that this town is well-organized and generally luxurious and beautiful. I was wrong base on what I had just witnessed.

On the Photos: Filipinos' Way of Life at the Ongpin Street in Chinatown

It was a memorable day, indeed. We tour the streets of Quiapo and then we commuted going back to Pasay via the Light Railway Transit or LRT. Chinatown in Manila is just one of the many Chinese communities in the Philippines and in the world. I have no enough idea about the history of the Chinese occupation of Manila during the past centuries. I am just aware that there are thousands of Chinese in the Philippines and most of them are operating their own businesses. Somehow, I really feel the Chinese presence that day mainly because of the lucky charms, symbolic street decors, Chinese characters seen from every corner and red arts and symbols of the Chinese New Year. But I was also deeply concerned about these Filipinos living in this community who are still seeking for lucks but there seems to be none.

Got the ideas about Chinatown in the Philippines? What about the Chinese things, got curious about them? Find a time to visit this place and it's up to you to discover more about Chinese.

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