Having resolved to travel more this year, I joined Kat, along with some new-found friends from CouchSurfing Manila, to walk around Binondo, Chinatown last Monday for the Chinese New Year celebration. Binondo holds a special place in my childhood memories. My folks used to have an office at the BPI building where my siblings and I usually go after school. Binondo has changed in many ways, but there were still some areas that reminded me a lot of my childhood.
|Everyone wanted a piece of the dragon. Even this little tyke.|
Anyway, being that it was Chinese New Year, it wasn't surprising to see people wearing red shirts and converging near Binondo Church. Mind you, they came in droves. The media hogged most of the space with their huge vans and equipment, but it was quite a sight to see a variety of people, not just Pinoys, coming together in just one place. There were several groups who had their own walk tours, one of which was Ivan Dy's. The great thing about people in walk tours is that you don't have to worry about attracting unwanted attention on your belongings, particularly if you're lugging a DSLR on hand.
Our group started off towards Ongpin Street where we merged with the crowd to watch the lion/dragon dance. Being vertically challenged, I didn't get to see much of the dance (nor get any decent photos for that matter), but I did like the fact that there were no random fireworks explosions along the road (I get really jumpy over loud noises). There were fireworks of course, but they were usually lit after the dance in a controlled area. Some random folks also threw candy and other stuff to spectators, which got everyone scrambling to get their share.
|Sinong Papa P?|
When we stepped out of the restaurant, I spotted the TV5 camera crew with no less than Jun Sabayton and Lourd De Veyra tagging along. I didn't think twice to chase after them and get my picture taken with two of the funniest guys in the Internet. Too bad I don't own the camera where we all got a group shot with the two. I only got a nice souvenir photo with Jun, but hey, that wasn't so bad. :)
After that, we headed off to Intramuros to Bahay Tsinoy...on foot!
The Museum of the Chinese in Philippine Life
I've been to Bahay Tsinoy for about three times, thanks to my history classes in college. I'm surprised to see that the place hasn't deteriorated at all over the course of years. Unlike the National Museum which fell into decay in just a few years, Bahay Tsinoy was just the way I remembered it. I guess it goes to show the disparity between public and privately-maintained institutions, but still, I can't help but feel disappointed at the state of the National Museum considering the fact that it's supposed to be the National Museum. Sigh.
|Dioramas and wax figures at Bahay Tsinoy|
We spent quite a lot of time in Bahay Tsinoy with the rest of the group joining the lantern making contest. At that time it was nearing 4pm and we had to get back to Binondo to go to the Seng Guan Temple. Despite the hours of rest, we still didn't want to go back the same route on foot, so we hijacked a jeepney in City Hall for a ride back to Chinatown.
We were soon famished when we got back to the crazy fanfare in downtown Binondo, so Marvin, our trusty guide, led us to Quick Stop where we stuffed ourselves once again with several orders of stir-fried noodles (lomi & misua noodles!) and fresh lumpia. I had iced coffee which was just awesome after being soaked in the afternoon heat. The coffee was slightly bitter, but the vanilla ice cream and sweetened coffee jelly was more than enough to balance the flavor. Not bad at all!
|One of the Buddha images inside Seng Guan Temple|
Our second to the last stop was the Seng Guan along Abad Santos. Marvin gave a crash course on how to pray with the incense and how prayers should be phrased. It was my first time inside a non-Catholic place of worship and I was a bit adamant to pray inside the temple. I have to admit I was more transfixed at the images of Buddha (they had several altars in all different levels) all adorned in light and flowers. The largest altar we saw was the one at the second floor which was just jaw-dropping. It wasn't as huge as the one I saw in Singapore's Chinatown, but it was still massive. You'd literally feel so small standing up front the image. I was in the same state of awe the first time I saw the Spoliarium.
The last stop to the entire tour was supposed to be in Tondo (to pig out yet again), but Kat and I begged off because it was already getting dark.
|The CS Manila peeps|
All in all, the experience was just awe-inspiring, humbling and fattening! My first Chinese New Year experience in no less than Chinatown went down on the book. Thanks to CS Manila for a great tour. Until next time!