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The Manila's China Town is Binondo!


During a group tour led by Mr. Carlos Celdran in Manila's Chinatown, we were told that one of his clients from China have considered the place as ""more Chinese than China". But to me, I can say that the place looks more of a hispanized area. But maybe it is the impression I got after I have seen the old Binondo Catholic chruch and have seen many horse- drawn coaches around which is for me, a Spanish thing in the Philippines centuries ago even the there are lots of Chinese kiosks and stores all around. The most remarkable of them is the gold store in the area.. Thus, to compromise our opinions, at least we may consider the place as a good blending of Spanish and Chinese cultures.

The place was a bit stinky, crowded, not beautiful and was very humid and dirty. It was a place of history for Filipinos though. Also, I have learned that Chinese believe that the wealth is not found outside, so no matter how dirty it can be out, those inside the houses might be keeping millions of pesos!

The Old Style Transport
In the busy roads of Binondo, where churchgoers come after another and jeepneys around the place are noisy and also in abundant supply, I have seen various coaches where a horse pull as guided by their respective coachman. Before we started our tour, I met up with some co-tourists that I know in the Binondo Church. It was really a lucky day because there was a wedding ceremony at that very moment. Quite a luck! It was a traditional Filipino/Chinese wedding in Philippines which is very posh! Even the foreign tourists who went with us was left in awe when they have seen the bride.

In that afternoon, our tour master made us experience the feeling of riding in the horse-drawn coach. We have toured around the Chinatown area carried by these kalesas, the local term for these horse-drawn coaches. A kalesa can carry three people, the coachman and the two passengers.

Rediscovering Binondo
Starting from the little fountain of the little plaza right across the Binondo church, we treaded through the famous Chinese streets named after some famous Chinese in the Philippine history. The Ongpin Street. Old Chinese houses and establishments are in the place to see on how they survive until now from a long time of existence. Of course, not to be missed is the current slums in the area with little children around shouting to us as we pass by telling that the horses smell bad because of their excretes. We took photos around and after visiting the tenants of the old Chinese house (yes, we did get in) and after our tour master has given his gifts and donations, we went back at the center fountain near the church. It was the end of the coach ride.

We then had a walk to the other side of the town where we tried various stores and tasted some Chinese delicacies especially their famous hopia. Old chinese buildings and offices as well as organizations/associations headquarters were introduced to us. We also went to the Chinese Shrine where the God of war is praised. Also, we proceeded to the Christianized Chinese altar.

The Old King Building
While we were still having the kalesa ride and amidst the heavy traffic among jeepneys and private vehicles around the area, we have managed to reach the Pasig river where the old big buildings were during the early days. There we went inside the old 3-floor Ayala building and we have seen that it looks something familiar and western. Only we have realized a little later that it is the location of some advertisement in TV for a famous Filipino fastfood, the Jollibee and where the singer-actress Sarah Geronimo was the indorser. The design and ambiance of the area seems foreign if given some imaginative touch and effects in the TV. It is closed for public though. We only had special permission to enter with the negotiation of our tour lead.

The Coachmen Converse<

As I was aboard the coach with another lady from the tour, I was holding a conversation with the coachman of our kalesa. It was a great feeling to be told first hand about the area. Generally, coachmen are gentle and sometimes offer their passengers to see how they raise the horse in the city and how they miaintain the animal at their backyard (if they have any in the slums). They are only, however, taking care of the horse as a source of livelihood. It is owned by someone else who is more better off in life and rent out the horses to coachmen in the area. The coachmen maintain the horse and pay the rentals to its owner at the same time.

One piece of advise though. If you happen to contract any coachman, don't let them overcharge you. If they know that ne is new in the place, they tend to take it for granted. This is true to most drivers of taxi too and not only in Manila it happens but also in other places (i.e. Malaysia).

A Great Afternoon!
The experience of taking the kalesa was really thrilling and it was wonderful to feel and do something like the people in the country before, especially during Spanish times, and to have experienced riding their kind of transporation.It was a necessity back then but now, it is a luxury to have this kind of ride because the fee for normal jeepney ride is Php 8 and the ride for the kalesa is Php 50 minimum. For us, however in the tour, we have paid Php 400 per coachman because of the long tour. It was worth the experience though.

Moreover, I have learned a lot of Chinese ideas that afternoon. I even burned a candle and have burned my wish to the Chinese God! Try to visit and Binondo area when you happen to visit Manila. Mabuhay. Or better, contact Mr. Crlos Celdran.because he will make your stay in Manila "different". I assure you!

Related Posts:
About Mr. Carlos Celdran and His Walk This Way Tour.


Anino said...

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Anino said...

Napakaraming mga Chinatowns sa iba't-ibang panig ng mundo. Napansin ko din na ang mga MIlyonaryo at bilyonaryo sa Timog Silangang Asya ay mga Tsino at Tsina.

EMOTERA said...

hahaha, yes - Binondo Manila is not that sophisticated nowadays and you're right "filthy and dirty" pero masarap Chinese Food at ang famous HOPIA so who cares! Anyway, gold are usually burried on the dirtiest soil. =)

I Love Philippines! said...

Wow! Correct! The golds are buried in the dirtiest soil.

Emotera said:

"hahaha, yes - Binondo Manila is not that sophisticated nowadays and you're right "filthy and dirty" pero masarap Chinese Food at ang famous HOPIA so who cares! Anyway, gold are usually burried on the dirtiest soil. =)"

Noemi "Mica" Watson said...

wow...i guess u had a great time

I Love Philippines! said...

yup. you are right mica. the fact that our tour guide wasy amazing, it was a very big thing. he was (and still is) very jolly. also a robin hood type for he gives out donations to people there. actually, i posted something about him in my other blog, at http://ilovephilippinestoo.blogspot.com

The title is "A Bagong bayani For Me"

KaUste said...

Magkano na po ang package ni Mr. Celdran? 1 day tour lang po ba? Siya yung nasa commercial ng Nescafe eh diba?


Anonymous said...

I feel that every country I know has a Chinatown, maybe every major city. It sounds like you had a good time in Chinatown. I suggest though that you change the header of your blog and maybe not have such a blocky picture.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

Thumbs up, and keep it going!

Christian, iwspo.net