Chinky-eyed and thrifty. These two perfectly define me so I guess it wouldn't be a complete surprise if I had an ounce of Chinese blood in my veins. My maternal grandmother's side of the family has a one syllable three letter family name. Majority of the family is chinky-eyed too with eyes tending to thin out as we smile or laugh. Alas, no one knows how to speak Mandarin. Lost in translation perhaps? I don't know really but I'll stop these random bits of whatnot and get this introduction over and done with. In my previous post, I mentioned that we had this little jaunt around some of the sights and places to see in Manila. This is part two. Behold Binondo aka Manila Chinatown!
The term "Binondo" was coined after an antiquated Tagalog word "binondoc" which means mountainous. This was because the place where Manila Chinatown sits used to have a hilly landscape. It is also known to be the world's oldest China Town. Dating back to its foundation in 1594, Spanish Governor Luis Pérez Dasmariñas established it for purposes of permanent settlement for the Sangleys, a Spanish term for Chinese immigrants, who converted to Catholicism. It is through this that many intermarriages occurred paving the way for a new mestizo class called the Tsinoy or Chinoy. The first Filipino saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz, belonged to this class with a Filipino mother and a Chinese father. Trade and commerce strive in the area such that Binondo, particularly Escolta street, used to be the country's center of commerce before Makati. I wanted to go to Binondo for two main reasons: food and splashes of color. That is what I exactly got plus a dip into the Chinoy culture.
People of different race and religion can live harmoniously together and the Santo Cristo de Longos Shrine is proof of that. Located just on the corner of Ongpin and San Nicolas streets is the synchronicity of Catholicism and Buddhism decked with red votive candles, incense and sampaguita garlands. Legend says that a deaf-mute Chinese regained his speech and hearing after finding an image of the crucified Christ on an old well here. It was dubbed as the "Santo Cristo de Longos". The original image can be found in the side entrance of Binondo church encased in a glass. The shrine was made on the site of the very well where it was found and people can light candles, burn incense and say their prayers here.
This was the splashes of color that I needed. I'm known for my preference over soft and pastel hues but sometimes I just like seeing bold colors and details. Manila Chinatown is decked with all sorts of lucky charms or "pampaswerte" as my uncle would have it. Whether you need luck in terms of wealth, love life, health, career or whatnot, you are bound to find something here for you. Many people here in the Philippines, Chinese or not, believe in Feng Shui, a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing oneself with their surrounding environment. I didn't buy any for such purposes though because I've always had this belief that we create our own luck. Optimism need not have a tangible symbol. Of course, that's only for me. We have our different beliefs and opinions on this matter. To each his own.
There was so much more of Manila Chinatown that I wanted to see and experience, the infamous "estero" being one. We only walked past it but didn't linger too long as we were headed to Intramuros right after. My uncle told me that the estero had numerous food stalls filled with fresh sea food choices. You can pick which ones you'd like to eat and have them cooked according to your preferences. Oh well, at least I'd have another blog entry should I go there and visit again right? Yay more food! *cue food babies in applause*
More of Out and About Manila:
Part 1: The Binondo Church
Part 3: Fort Santiago and Jose Rizal Museum