Manila’s Binondo district boasts itself as the world’s oldest Chinatown. And I thought that welcoming the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Manila’s Chinatown would be a perfect idea.
I started making New Year plans even a month before the holiday. I hurriedly booked an overnight stay—from January 30th to the 31st—at Ramada Manila Central so I could take part in the festivities within the area.
Day 1 – Food Trip and Photo Walk
My sister, Roxanne, tagged along with me on the eve of Chinese New Year. We started our walk to Binondo from the LRT Carriedo Station. It was a long walk. We passed by a lot of Chinese stores and restaurants along the way. Ongpin Street was filled to the brim with vendors, locals and revelers. Vehicular traffic was at a standstill.
The plan for that day was simply to explore the whole neighborhood and immerse myself in the community. You know, just to get a feel of the New Year energy and rush. I took a lot of photos along the way. We also tried some Chinese food and delicacies.
My sister and I also passed by Santo Cristo de Longos altar somewhere near Ongpin Street. As we observed those who were venerating the image of the crucified Christ, we noticed a fusion of Christian and Catholic practices. We saw people praying with incense sticks before a Catholic image. Chinese lanterns also adorned the altar.
Day 2 – New Year Rush
The crowd grew immensely on the day of the Chinese New Day. January 31st was declared a non-working holiday nationwide. I guess that explains the huge number of revelers this year. It was hard to navigate around the streets of Binondo. Restaurants and stores were full. But the mood in the area was still festive.
There were a lot of lion and dragon dancers roaming around the streets of Binondo. It was really fascinating to watch them.
Of course, vendors peddle all kinds of lucky charms around Binondo.
Binondo did not disappoint. I think that this is the best Chinese New Year I’ve ever experienced to date! Somehow I felt that the Lunar New Year celebration in Binondo is much, much bigger than the one in Beijing. Indeed, it is more fun in the Philippines.