Ongpin was filled to the brim. People were flooding in all corners, drumbeats pounding in different directions, dragons dancing on top of the crowd and fireworks call their attention. I could really feel the festive atmosphere here. It was 2 years ago when I last visited Binondo on a Chinese New Year and it certainly wasn’t like this before. Perhaps because from now on, the first day of the Chinese New Year would be a holiday to the delight of everyone, Chinese or not. We met with some of our fellow photographer friends who attended our previous Backpack Photography Photo Tours to enjoy and capture the revelry in China Town.
Noticeable are the mixed influences here apart from the traditional Chinese celebration. While I know Chinatown has a unique quality of having both a Chinese altar alongside a Sto Nino, seeing people wearing garbs ala ati-atihan with Sto Nino in their arms was different and surprising. Bothersome are the transvestites doing dance performances with the centre of attraction are the fire breathers mimicking dragons. While I have no problems with their show, they are actually good and the drumbeats adding a lively vibe, some of them can be annoying and aggressive when asking for donations from the envelopes they give.
Amusing though are the young dragon dancers giving in a mini-show of their own for that precious 20 peso bills you have. We could clearly see their efforts, funny and clumsy at times but sincere and enjoyable. But we also tried to chase the larger dragons that dance with firecrackers to give fortune to an establishment. There were few ones we saw but not as many as I saw two years ago.
The crowd was too much for our group besides we were there since morning. It’s amazing how commercial the Chinese New Year celebration is now. Major TV stations now line up at the plaza to cover the events live and amazing number of people toting their DSLRs. If I’m not mistaken, 7 out of 10 people there have DSLRs wringing their necks.
We didn’t stay for the parade and decided to go but still it was a fun afternoon especially when most of the group got their Imperial Chinese hats people kept asking where they were bought. I never got to buy some items or my favourite eng bee tin hopia but I can always go back. We bumped into Ivan Mandy when we dined in at one of our favourites, Dong Bei. We were happy with the little things, especially the food trip part. So I leave you with some images and wishing you all a prosperous year ahead.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.