All I see is red in a good way in the somewhat beautiful chaos of crowd on the first day of the Year of the Horse in Binondo China Town. I think it was two years ago when I last experienced the Binondo Chinese New Year celebration in Manila. I thought it would great and hope would bring good vibes to welcome this year’s Chinese calendar which coincides with mine, who is also born in the Year of the Horse. So off I go to Manila and met some friends who joined me chase dragons, shop for lucky charms and get some authentic Chinese bite or two.
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.
I have always relied on Maps when I travel. Whenever I visit a place for the first time, I always try to get a map first. If I have a reliable map on hand and a compass, I’m not afraid to get lost as I’m confident I’ll find my way back. When I heard famed Binondo Food-walker Ivan Man Dy released the Big Binondo Food Wok Map, I got really excited because Manila really have a shortage of good Art Maps like this. So last weekend, a couple of my friends trouped to Chinatown to taste-drive this map.
Most of us know the famous Street Walkers in Manila, like Ivan Mandy and Carlos Celdran. They have made a name for themselves simply by their informative yet entertaining walks around Manila. They are the perfect model ambassadors to show around foreign visitors here the Best of Manila. But of course they couldn’t accommodate everyone so DOT (Department of Tourism) created a Mabuhay Guides Program and trained a few select individuals to be accompanying guides.
Kung Hei Fat Choi! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Kiong Hee Huat Tsai! Happy New year! Whichever or however you may say it, the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world which significantly celebrates the Chinese New Year since Filipinos have very rich Chinese Roots as well. In Manila, the premiere place that celebrates the new year is in Binondo.
One of my favorite places in Manila is Binondo. Its Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, popularly known as the Binondo Church also shares a fare number of crowd during Simbang Gabi. It isn’t surprising since the Church is located beside the busy street of Quentin Paredes Road near the main Plaza of Binondo. It was a chilly morning and the lights of the plaza were well lit that night and we can’t help notice the huge crowd right at the church portal.
Binondo is a really amusing place in this part of Manila. I enjoy the smell, the structures and especially the food. The old 16th century Binondo Church still retains its old stone walls. The interiors looks more grand than most churches and the altar seems similar to those in European design. Did you know the first Philippine saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, started here as an altar boy? I certainly didn’t. Hmmm… this would be a very interesting church to take picture of for Simbang Gabi.