Welcome to Binondo! This is the world’s oldest and the first Chinatown. Still standing after 422 years, Binondo was founded by Spanish Governor Luis Perez Dasmariñas with the intention of providing a permanent community to the Sangleys, the term the Spaniards labeled the Chinese settlers in the area who converted into Catholics. The area was already the center of the Chinese trade, way before the Spanish colonizers arrived in the Philippines. The intermarriage of the Chinese immigrants to the locals resulted in the Chinese mestizo community that populated the place. Binondo was the core of banking and finance before World War II, but after the war, the majority of the businesses transferred to Makati which was then up-and-coming as the business center of the Philippines. Today, Binondo is slowly putting itself once again on the financial map as a lot of establishments, malls and offices are constantly developing.
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Walking on the streets of Binondo will give you the appreciation of the blending of the two cultures. Chinese temples and icons abound, and two beautiful century old churches- the classic Binondo Church, which was built in 1596, and the Sta. Cruz Church, which has been serving the residents since 1608, are still quite preserved. Both distinct traditions thrive within Chinatown, as what the international tourists named this place, and the diversity and cultural richness are what make the place stand out.
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There is also much curiosity about food in Chinatown. The assorted Chinese restaurants that line up the streets of Ongpin and Benavidez, as well as the other busy streets, are a refuge to an ardent eater. “Food trip” is synonymous to the name Binondo.
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Aside from the food, Binondo is also the mecca for the celebrated Chinese New Year that draws a great number of merrymakers from all walks of life, a celebration which is anticipated not only by the Tsinoys (a group of people with mixed Chinese and Filipino lineage) but by the Filipinos as well. And the Chinese, being known for their quirky customs, superstitions and traditions, are really delighted and watch it with revelry. The red envelopes with money or ang pao, the wearing of red clothes, the yummy tikoy, the dragon and lion dances- all these add up to the vitality of the rich and colorful chronicles that make Binondo.
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