Binondo: China of the Philippine Islands


The City of Manila, Philippines has a local version of Chinatown. This is historically referred to as Binondo. It has become the melting pot of almost all the commercial endeavors of both Chinese and Filipino merchants, alike especially during the American Occupation in the country. However, due to the numerous atrocities of the Second World War a lot of the flourishing business establishments in this place had been unfortunately wrecked. Therefore, some of the most notable business firms in Binondo had to be transferred to a much more peaceful and progressive hub for business, which was no other than but Makati, the second to none financial capital of the Philippine Republic.

Though many entrepreneurs of today are not so familiar with Binondo, Manila, they are positively asserting the undeniable reality that this particular part of Manila is a self–made center point of financial prosperity and mixed cultural heritage of the Pinoys and the Tsinoys. The succeeding sections of this article will beautifully chronicle and trace back the humble beginnings of Binondo, until she had blossomed into a new breed of business climate and an enlightening avenue of struggling but economically sound business people, like the Chinese.

Binondo Manila - Chinatown (photo courtesy: Krista Monica Garcia, @kristamgarcia on Instagram)


Binondo’s Colorful and Timeless History Relived

The architectural creation of Binondo was brilliantly conceived by a debonair and dynamic Spanish governor general, who was christened with the name Luis Dasmarinas. This tremendous and culturally lasting idea of his had started in the year 1584. At first, this historical nook was only constructed for the main purpose of having a simple settlement for Chinese immigrants in the Philippines, who were commonly alluded to as Sangleys. As for the latter, they had been lovingly wooed with an invigorating domicile by the enticing head of Binondo; for them to be permanently converted to Catholicism through the forceful initiative of the Spanish Dominican Fathers. Unfortunately, the tyrannical hand of the Spanish authorities was again in full force. It was due to the fact that the Chinese immigrants were deliberately coerced to be converted into full-fledged Catholics.

Due to this very complex issue of religion, Dasmarinas was alleged to be the mastermind of the mass execution of 24,000 Chinese people in 1603, after these innocent persons had launched their own revolution against the rule of the Spaniards. Moreover, the ultimate reason for the said inhumane act was to rebel against the death of his father under the powerful influence of the Sangley’s. Despite of all these conflicts between China and Spain, Binondo has never lost “Mida’s touch” to the genres of Chinese Mestizos. To date,  these bio-cultural conglomerations were the unique genial creations of intermarriages between Catholic Chinese and Filipinos. From then on, the ancient and elegant district of Binondo is widely-recognized as the birth place of the Chinese Mestizos. 

Interesting Facts about Binondo

A travel experience need not be expensive. For those of you out there, who do not have the financial capacity to circumnavigate an Asian destination like China, all you have to do is to prepare your rugged get up and hop around a jeep; which will journey towards the magnificence and glamour of Binondo. Once you are there, you are definitely sure that is truly going to be a one-stop shop and a haven ultimate pleasure for everyone. To begin our travelogue, let us discover some of the most enlightening and intellect-enriching trivia about the sister country of Chinatown. Some of them are randomly enumerated as follows:

  • Binondo is the oldest Chinatown
  • It is the native home of the first Filipino  painter Tomas Pinpin
  • Binondo was the place,  where a Good Samaritan like Roman Ongpin had lived and generously helped the revolutionaries during the chaotic years of Philippine Revolution in 1896
  • Binondo in Escolta Street, was the premiere business and commercial districts before Makati
  • Binondo, Manila was the birthplace of the first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz

What Can You Find in Binondo?

People from all walks of life, can always find a second home in Binondo.  From the pages of its inspiring ancestry, it can be clearly perceived that her inherent beauty and charm lies in between her unquestionable historical role and integrity in fashioning the Philippines’ commercial principles and economic awakening. Also, the so-called ancient Chinatown in the Philippines is very much notable when one speaks of a formidable religious foundation. Descriptively, she is a genuine replica of untainted purity and chastity. Since, this was the holy place where the first Filipino saint was born; it had proven one certain and irreversible fact. Genuine religion is not a precursor of who you are; but what you are inside.  Therefore, in Binondo you can gratifyingly find the peacefulness of a soul without being compelled of doing any religious obligation. Just by merely looking at her ancient churches which serenely encompass the fullness and spiritual vibrancy of Binondo, you will definitely find Rome in the Philippines.

Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, Binondo Manila (Photo Courtesy: Carlo Lim @carlothekingslayer on Instagram)


More so, it offers a wide array of famous landmarks and historical tourist attractions which will make a Filipino realize that a country like the Philippines is a haven, no matter what tides might bring forth, before her majestic cultural endowments. Fascinatingly, Binondo has these man-made jewels to distinctively signify the blessedness and prosperity of this Chinese- Filipino rendezvous; which will remain to be forever unchangeable till the end of time. Hence, these are the precious gems of hers which are really challenging to visit, explore and be integral parts of.

The Arch of Goodwill- This is an exemplary work of art that symbolizes the essence of goodwill among Filipino and Chinese. For those who are interested to see this towering brilliance of man, just proceed to Ongpin and Plaza Sta. Cruz.

 The Calle Escolta- This is historically known as the “Old Central Business District”. Among the marvelous architectural structures that one can find in this nostalgic and awesome place, are old buildings, like, the Regina, Burke and the Samarillo  buildings

Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz- It was the former Plaza Calderon del Barca. Currently, it was named  after the first Filipino saint of the Philippines

Roman Ongpin Monument- In honor of a wealthy,  Chinese merchant and philanthropist,  the Roman Ongpin monument which is  an astonishing Binondo landmark  was built for him, to lovingly  remember his noble deeds in helping the Filipino revolutionaries to financially support their nationalistic advocacies and ideals;  through a well-orchestrated  Philippine Revolution Strategically, his legendary and famous monument stands at the end of Ongpin Street

Binondo beams with pride and confidence, upon the mutual syncretism or the reconciliation of religion-related diversities between Catholicism and Buddhism.  This was evidently exhibited by a shrine which is located at the corner of Ongpin and San Nicolas Streets. Specifically, it goes by the name of Santo Cristo de Longos. Inside, worshippers and believers alike can beautifully find a Holy Cross which is gracefully ornamented with sampaguita garlands; and a jar that is especially designed for the sacred burning of incense sticks to  immediate grant  your  fervent prayers and special petitions.

According to the anecdotes which had surrounded the portals of this shrine, the place on which it now stands was a former artesian well. Also, there had been a documented miracle which had happened to a Chinese businessman, who had received total and complete healing, when he had a rare chance to have a glimpse of the Holy Cross of Santo Cristo de Longos.

Banking System in Binondo

The banking system of Binondo had proven much in the world of Philippine economy. With such an unprecedented distinction in the complex world of banking, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation had gladly opened their first –ever branch in the bustling district of Binondo, in 1876.  In this way, Chinese and Filipino bankers had taken advantage of a strong and progressive Philippine economy; as the sugar industry bolters in its own special way towards limitless growth and productivity. Hence, the Chinatown of the Philippines was really gunning for a stable economy after the closing years of foreign and external invasions.

Marcos Years: The Economic Turmoil Hits Binondo

It was too unfortunate that during the heydays of the Marcos dictatorship; Binondo had devastatingly suffered a major and troublesome drawback in its supposedly surging economy. This had bitterly transpired during the early circa of 1980’s. Allegedly, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas got bankrupt and the national treasury of the Filipino nation; had been consciously plundered in the real sense of the word.

As a consequence, Binondo had surprisingly assumed the moniker of being the surrogate Bangko Sentral. In effect, businessmen in the varying districts of the “second Chinatown of the Philippines’, had unwittingly engaged themselves into the dirty tricks of US dollar black marketing scheme. This debilitating economic strategy had maliciously dictated the unscrupulous movement of the Philippine Peso against the American green bucks. At that time, Marcos wants to control everything. To finally resolve the issue of an impending economic instability, the Chinese entrepreneurs had given into the request of the fallen Ilocano Martial Law executioner. They had heartbreakingly infused fresh and active funds to the drying coffers of the Republic. Miraculously, Binondo was able to bounce back after the EDSA Revolution of 1986. Today, it remains to be the undisputed commerce hub of the Philippines.

Truly, Binondo has incredibly survived the odds before her. In religion, the unpredictable façades of the Philippine economy and a lot more. With all these victories, the sweetest taste of genuine fulfillment had become its steering wheel towards a more colorful, inspiring and prosperous Binondo which has  remained to be steadfast, in the face of resolvable socio-cultural conflicts. Thus, it makes her like a glowing sun which is engulfed with HOPE and OPTIMISM all- year round.

Published on : 21/03/2018 by Puerto Parrot

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