Chinese (Lunar) New Year in Binondo Manila 2019

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  • Post last modified:05 October 2019

What Binondo looks like in the start of the Lunar New Year? – Lunar New Year in Binondo Manila 2019

Kiong Hee Huat Tsai! February 05, 2019 marks the start of the Lunar New Year (most of us know that it’s being celebrated by the Chinese, but it’s also being celebrated in Korea as Seollal, so I’ll start with that).

In the Philippines, this day has been declared a Special Non-Working Holiday, which means I get to have a day off from work and tag along my friend and online media colleague Christian Mack’s journey into Binondo, which is the oldest Chinatown in the world, having been established in 1594 (16th century).

We met at Lucky Chinatown Mall, and along with his correspondents Keileen, Veronica and Estrella, we went straight to Ongpin. I’ve passed Ongpin before in my first field task, which was to assist in a major project which toured the media to different places.

Among the sights I saw along the way, I think that one keepsake I remember the most in this journey is when we just got off the mall and into the streets.

We can’t help but be amazed with the dragon and lion dancers, but in Binondo, these kids have a lion and dragon dance of their own. I say to myself, I think they’re following the footsteps of the experienced ones.

Having been through Ongpin for half a day, I’ve seen how dragon and lion dancers do their work of keeping bad luck away as per Chinese tradition:

  • They dance.
  • They ask the spectators to move away from them as possible, because
  • They will fire a Judas belt and dance around it to complete the sequence.
  • Everybody cheers.

This may be oversimplification in my part but I’ve seen three of these sequences done in the course of the trip.

Adding to the attractions in the area are street performers doing a variety of things: They either are formed as a band playing festive drums, or they burst fire from their mouths (as far as I understood, kerosene is involved — and it was hot, no joke).

Having experienced Singapore (sans its Chinatown as it was really out of my way during my itinerary there), I now see a foreign yet still familiar feeling in Manila’s Chinatown. The signage, the façade of the buildings there, it was as if I went back.

Well, the primary objective of the trip is to do a photo walk, and so we did. There’s this one store that sells lanterns — they have so many that it was we had fun taking photos of it. A few photographers even joined the fray and also took photos.

When I think of tikoy (glutinous rice cake — like Japan’s mochi), I define it in two ways: The ready-to-slice-and-wrapped-in-egg type; and the filled-and-rolled type that I prefer because all I have to do is to eat it.

Along the way I saw these toys scattered in the sidewalk, ready for scavengers to dig in to see if they can find the toy they want. This is something to me.

As we finished crossing the two gates of Chinatown, I was welcomed by a crowd taking photos of cosplayers — and here I was, expecting a cosplay photo shoot only to see one. I wasted no time taking this a few photos.


Now back to signages — like every vaporwave fanatic, I get nostalgic with signage especially at night. For now, these photos I took during the day should suffice.

Binondo at night was much wilder — aside from the crowds of people wanting to see the dragon and lion dancers, cars and other vehicles are also coming in slowly — and I mean slowly.

When we got out of Ongpin finally — and safely — we had our dinner, and off we go back again to point A.

As we finally got back to Lucky Chinatown, the lanterns in the area are lit up brightly. This calls for a few photos to be captured.

To cap off this photo walk, I’m thankful to Sir Mack for inviting me to join them do this Lunar New Year photo walk, which has been an annual tradition for them.

Finally, I was able to write and post something special on this journal.