Did you know that our very own Chinatown in Binondo, Manila is considered the oldest among all other Chinese settlements around the world? The area near the Pasig River and across the Walled City of Intramuros had long been a Chinese trading hub even prior to its formal establishment by the Spaniards in 1594. Thus, Binondo is truly steeped in rich history, traditions and culture that are worth revisiting until today.
Here are just some of the must-see sites and must-try experiences in Binondo:
- Binondo Church
This is one of the most famous and easiest to locate landmarks in Binondo, known for its historic architecture and unique interiors. It is also called the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz or Our Lady of The Most Holy Rosary. It serves as a convergence point for many public occasions and socio-civic gatherings in the community.
- Seng Guan Temple
This is one of the most well-known and easily accessible Buddhist temples in the area and is highly regarded as a center of culture for the Filipino-Chinese community. It is said to have been named after a monk from Fujian called Seng Guan who was a wise figure in both Manila and his hometown in China.
- Dong Bei dumplings and New Po Heng lumpia
Be prepared to endure long lines of people wanting to eat kuchay dumplings from Dong Bei and fresh lumpia from New Po Heng. These food shops are small and unpretentious, but their signature offerings are absolutely delicious and distinctive. These are definitely among the must-try food stops while in Binondo that will give you an idea of what life must have been decades ago in this Chinatown.
- Eng Bee Tin and Holand hopia
Two of the most recognized and sought-after hopia stores in Binondo are Eng Bee Tin and Holand. Each have their unique take on the popular bean paste pastry brought in by Fujian immigrants that Filipinos already have come to love as almost their own. Each store also has their own signature products, flavors and variations on hopia.
- El Hogar building
This structure is a sight to behold with its intricate Neoclassical and Renaissance architecture, which has somehow survived the ravages of war and time. Completed in 1914 at Juan Luna Street corner Muelle dela Industría in Binondo, it was designed by Ramon Irureta-Goyena and Francisco Perez-Muñoz. It is being used for many socio-cultural events and activities especially among the youth today.
There are many more unique places to explore and flavors to savor in Binondo just walking through its streets and alleyways. The best way to experience it is to spend a leisurely day just being aware of the sights and sounds, and to go where your feet take you. You will surely end up with a memorable adventure with your Chinatown escapade!