It was one sunny afternoon when we hit Manila. And it’s the first day of the year of the Earth Ox according to the chinese calendar. I and my wife Tina decided to go to the Chinese New Year celebration in Manila Chinatown : Binondo & Ongpin Streets. I blogged it before and I’ll state it again that we’re not chinese and there’s nothing in our bloodstream that speaks mandarin or cantonese but our brains & stomachs crave for something chinese! That strong urge gives us the reason to enjoy anything chinese even how they celebrate festivities just as much as the next chinese guy.
And so from Quezon City, we dropped off to Plaza Lawton in Manila where the Main Post Office is located. It is, in my opinion, our closest version of Lincoln Memorial in Washington. It’s historic & iconic, still functional amidst the age of email & SMS & City of Manila isn’t complete without it. It is where I began shooting photos intended for this blog.
Traffic was real heavy that we agreed to walk from Plaza Lawton to Binondo, crossing the bridge at Escolta and seeing exerted efforts in keeping the Pasig River garbage-free. Small steps lead us to the facade of Chinatown. It was overwhelming to hear that inspite of the humid weather & chaos in traffic, Tina still managed to say that walking in those streets and being excited to eat authentic chinese goodies bring back memories of our trip to Hong Kong a couple of years ago to celebrate the (non-chinese) New Year then.
Before enjoying anything, Tina & I went to Binondo Church, a.k.a. Basilica Minor del San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila. It was where the first Filipino saint spent his years as a sacristan and a server of God till his last breath. I remember my mom used to bring me with my dad & my 3 brothers to these 30 (read : THIRTY, representing 30 silver of Judas) churches every Holy Week, including this one, for her/our Visita Iglesia. That is why I became so familiar with most streets of Metro Manila even at a young age.
The Binondo church’s interiors hasn’t lost its grace and charm attracting not only Pinoys but the Filipino-Chinese-Catholic community as well bringing them closer to the Lord.
Few minutes of giving thanks to the Lord and we’re off to streets again. We forgot to bring ear plugs for fireworks and drum rolls signal the lion & dragon dances that halted the traffic and put everyone in the festive mood.
This is one of the reasons why people troop to Binondo & Ongpin during Chinese New Year. Aren’t those lions an eye-candy?
Even a group of nuns let their veil down and posed with those colorful lions for a souvenir shot. I found this so cool that made me take pictures of them too.
So I didn’t hesitate to have photo-ops too… hey, it doesn’t happen daily in Chinatown!
Thanks to my wife Tina who took my photos. We just felt our ”trip” was incomplete for not wearing RED that day, for good luck, as most people there that day wore crimson, scarlet, and other shades of red…
ENTER THE DRAGON that hopefully will bring us luck. Isn’t it lovely? Dragon is usually chasing what, a candy ball ? =)
That street in Binondo was once called CALLE SACRISTIA but renamed in 1915 to Ongpin Street. The monument of Don Roman Ongpin stands proud beside the Binondo Church that leads everyone to the street named in his honor. Chinatown, here we come!
And as expected, it was all properly draped for the occasion and decorated with red lanterns all over.
Few steps after the other and one cannot miss those purple signs of Eng Bee Tin stores that sell the most delicious chinese deli : hopia & tikoy, our favorites! Hopia is Mung beans cake while tikoy is a made of glutinous rice flour that is usually fried with beaten eggs. Those Eng Bee Tin stores can be seen in almost every streets of Manila Chinatown. They even had a purple lion on display for tourists (like us) for free photo-ops! Wish there were also hopia & tikoy give-away, hehehe !!! LOL !
Enjoying everything that meets our eyes, from many lion & dragon dances that paraded on most streets to red balloons being sold and charms & crystals on the sidewalks, to gold jewelry stores, we began looking for a chinese resto to satisfy our gastronomic craving for dimsum & dumplings…
We found our consolation to ease our fatigue of walking at HAP CHAN tea house. It was good that we entered the reastaurant with more seats still available because after we ordered food, people watching the festivities also came in pack to eat.
It was not our first time to munch there but actually have tried Hap Chan’s other branches at West Avenue in Quezon City & Market Market in Taguig…
Tina and I decided to eat merienda as if there’s no tomorrow – We ordered Hakao (shrimp dumplings), sharks’ fin dumplings, wanton noodle soup, seafood canton noodles and 2 glasses of Hong Kong lemon iced tea with free glasses of hot house tea. Sounds yummy ? Look and see what we enjoyed in our little afternoon chinese feast…
Some like it HOT : See how hot it was served!!! made me grin for more!
And our Chinese New Year experience in Binondo & Ongpin would not be complete without going to queue for whatelse but those Eng Bee Tin Mung Beans Cake or HOPIA and that deli made of sugar, starch & glutinous rice flour called TIKOY..
A second shot at our basket before hitting the cashier counter…
Our next Binondo / Ongpin date will include a visit at a small restaurant called DONG BEI that, according to other blogs, serves the best dumplings in Manila Chinatown and perhaps try eating at the ESTERO ( or eateries beside the creek ) Damn, we missed that ! Anyway, there’s always a second time (and a third, and a fourth, and so on… =)