Did you know that Binondo is the world’s oldest Chinatown? I used to frequent Binondo back when I was still staying in Manila, and it was only two weeks ago that I realized I know very little about its origin! Two weeks ago, I went on a walking tour with other blogger friends and friends from the media to explore Binondo with no other than Filipino tour guide and performing artist, Carlos Celdran. I’ve been to one of his tours around four years ago, and it was amazing, so I made it a point to not miss this tour, even if I had to cancel all my plans for that weekend!
We gathered at Sofitel Philippine Plaza and road an airconditioned, refurbished jeepney to Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, which is the major pubic square in Binondo, and just across the Binondo Church (officially called the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz). I learned so many things during the tour, but if I were to enumerate the ones that made the most impact to me, it would have to be these eight:
1. The floor of the entrance of the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz or the Binondo Church is made up of tombstones. Apparently, these tombstones were brought to the Philippines by the enterprising Chinese.
2. We know how inefficient our train systems are now, but did you know that in the 1920s, the Philippines had the one of the best tram systems in Asia? Unfortunately, it got totally destroyed during the Battle of Manila in 1945. To address this, the US sold us their military jeeps leftover from the war. You know now who to thank for the jeeps that rule our streets (or not).
3. The Santo Cristo de Longos Shrine located at the corner of Ongpin and San Nicolas Street is proof of the marriage of two religions: Buddhism and Catholicism.
4. Carvajal Street is one of the go-to places when visiting Binondo. It’s a tiny alley about three meters wide, lined with vendors selling a wide range of products, including fruits, seafood, and wet-market-like stalls.
5. Lido Cocina Tsina actually started out as Panciteria Lido, and was first located along T. Alonzo Street in Binondo in 1936. That’s exactly 80 years ago! It was named after then chef and owner, Mr. Lido. While the said branch is not anymore in operation, we were still able to visit the site where it stood, a reminder of the legacy it started over 8 decades ago, and is still continuing to this day.
I also learned that the Toasted Siopao in Binondo tastes like nothing I’ve had before. It’s so good, I wish we had some here on this side of the metro!
So many learnings and takeaways from the walking tour. We walked for almost two hours (and that’s a feat, considering me and my sedentary lifestyle!), but it felt like 30 minutes at most. Thank you, Lido Cocina Tsina for putting together an amazing tour of Binondo! I had developed a better appreciation of Chinatown. Cheers to 80 years of Lido, and looking forward to more!-HANA
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