I Spent the Lunar New Year in the World’s Oldest Chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

The long celebration for the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, has begun — and there’s no better place to celebrate the new year than to spend it in the world’s oldest Chinatown: Binondo, Manila.

world's oldest chinatown

Binondo, one of the districts located in the Philippine’s capital city of Manila, covers a landmass of 66 hectares (0.66 square kilometers). The district is also considered as the world’s oldest Chinatown.

world's oldest chinatown

Established in 1594 by Spain, Binondo was created as a settlement for Chinese Catholics. The location was chosen due to its close proximity to the Intramuros, or “Walled City,” which was built by the Spaniards during the Spanish Colonial Period.

world's oldest chinatown

There are many routes to take if you want to enter Manila’s Chinatown, and one of them is the Goodwill arch.

world's oldest chinatown

It’s located next to the China Town Gold Center along Ronquillo Street in Carriedo; the arch itself is adjacent to Santa Cruz Church and Carriedo Fountain.

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

Spending Chinese New Year in the world’s oldest Chinatown in the world was definitely an unforgettable experience.

world's oldest chinatown

Upon entering Ongpin Street, which is the main street of Binondo, at about 2 p.m. on February 16, we were immediately greeted by this huge crowd of spectators watching the street performers do what they do best.

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

Moving forward was tough, as Ongpin Street was packed with so many people. Some of them were just there to shop for fruits or Chinese delicacies, while others attended the festival to soak in the Chinese-Filipino culture and experience.

world's oldest chinatown

Aside from its very rich culture, Binondo is also famous for other things, from vendors of lucky charms to large shopping centers dedicated to jewelry and gold.

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

Further down the road are many other establishments, including a hotel, commercial centers, and the district’s ever-so popular restaurants. There was also a shrine on the corner of Tomas Pinpin Street dedicated to Sto Cristo De Longos De Binondo.

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

It’s imperative for Chinese-Filipinos – and Chinese from around the world – to wear brightly colored dresses or shirts during Chinese New Year. And in Binondo, this is very much noticeable, even before you enter Chinatown or the street that leads up to Goodwill Arch.

world's oldest chinatown

Not just clothes, but other merchandise as well.

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

Of course, Chinese New Year in the Philippines wouldn’t be complete without the popular delicacy for Chinese-Filipinos in the country: tikoy.

world's oldest chinatown

Tikoy (Hokkien), which is also known in Cantonese as Nian Gao, is a widely popular dish in the Philippines at this time of the year. This delicacy is usually given out as gifts before Chinese New Year and it is often part of any Chinese-Filipino household feast.

world's oldest chinatown

There are also parades that roam the narrow streets of Binondo – but they are mostly on Ongpin.

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to watch the famous lion dragon dance in Binondo. We did, however, get to see a lion dragon parade.

There were those who did not venture the streets of Ongpin during 2018 Chinese New Year. Some just enjoyed the spectacle through their house’ window.

world's oldest chinatown

Surprisingly, cosplayers also went to Binondo to showcase their amazing costumes. There was Bumblebee from the “Transformers” film series and also Sun Wukong, also known as Monkey King – at least, a version of him.

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

world's oldest chinatown

Batman was there, too, in his samurai costume that will be featured in the upcoming Japanese animation movie “Batman Ninja”.

world's oldest chinatown

Chinese New Year in Binondo is definitely an unforgettable experience. Was it tiring? Heck yeah! But it was so worth it, especially for a Chinese-Filipino like me who wanted to fully embrace my second culture and rediscover my Chinese roots.

world's oldest chinatown

There’s something about the place that somehow makes me feel like I’m at home. Maybe it’s the smell of dumplings and roasted chicken and duck in the air, the sound of customers and shop owners bartering and people chatting, and the sound of cars, jeepneys and motorcycles in the distance that makes Chinatown so appealing.

Happy New Year everyone and best wishes to you all! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Support our Journalism with a Contribution

Many people might not know this, but despite our large and loyal following which we are immensely grateful for, NextShark is still a small bootstrapped startup that runs on no outside funding or loans.

Everything you see today is built on the backs of warriors who have sacrificed opportunities to help give Asians all over the world a bigger voice.

However, we still face many trials and tribulations in our industry, from figuring out the most sustainable business model for independent media companies to facing the current COVID-19 pandemic decimating advertising revenues across the board.

We hope you consider making a contribution so we can continue to provide you with quality content that informs, educates and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for everyone’s support. We love you all and can’t appreciate you guys enough.

NextShark is a leading source covering Asian American News and Asian News including business, culture, entertainment, politics, tech and lifestyle.

For advertising and inquiries: info@nextshark.com