Manila!

Celebrating the Year of the Water Snake at Manila Chinatown

As the Filipino-Chinese community marked the beginning of the Year of the Water Snake, I dragged the unsuspecting (and long-suffering) Hubby to a visit to Manila Chinatown, said to be the oldest Chinese community in the world today.

I have always been fascinated how our Fil-Chi’s celebrate the beginning of the New Year, awed by the dazzling colors of dragon dance, the amazing display of fireworks and the steep tradition and beliefs that come with it.

In our home, an abode of wide-eyed individuals with nary a drop of Chinese blood, Chinese New Year is always observed. We bought long-life noodles, completed our round fruits, bought sticky sweets and mum hung various lucky charms around the house. When midnight struck, we went out the house and watched our Chinese neighbors lighting up the sky with their colorful fireworks.

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Come Sunday morning, I dragged the Hubby to ChinaTown, known locally as Binondo. As expected, the streets were filled with people–locals and foreigners alike–who was there to catch the dragon dance, buy rice cakes and hopia from well-known Chinese deli shops and eat at the many restaurants dotting the area.

The Binondo Church dedicated to the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, who is of Chinese descent

The Binondo Church dedicated to the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, who is of Chinese descent

this street leads to the thick of the celebrations

this street leads to the thick of the celebrations

Lucky charms sold for PHP20 each

Lucky charms sold for PHP20 each

old school signage

old school signage

And then, I finally saw it – from afar, there was a burst of color, of gold silk swaying up and down to the beat. Meanwhile, a crowd has already gathered around it, touching the long “body” as the dragon moved, chasing the ball in the air.

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Go Xing Fa Cai!

Go Xing Fa Cai!

After extracting myself from the thick crowd, I made a detour to Bindondo Church and uttered my constant prayer. It was simply astounding: the pageantry happening outside the church gates and then the serenity inside the church as the faithful lighted candles, held on to statues and prayed, waiting for mass to begin.

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The “field trip” ended in a dingy restaurant — the curtains faded and the table cloth patterned with round marks where the sauce bottles were once placed. As we sat, the waitress haphazardly plopped down the menu and left without a word. Service was intermittent and don’t expect your orders to arrive in one go, yet we had some of the best Chinese food in the metro.

We left with round tummies, vowing to do another field trip in this part of town.

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