Binondo, Manila is colorful enough any day, with bright charms, bracelets, and other gaily-colored wares for luck hawked on streets. But on Chinese New Year, though, the place bursts with color, sounds, and life.
It was my first time to go to Binondo on a Chinese New Year this weekend, and I thought: “So this is what I have been missing.”
From the new Lucky Chinatown Mall to the culture-rich street of Ongpin, here is what I saw:
Lanterns and charms at the Chinese New Year tree
Another version of a Chinese lantern and a fortune cookie at the outdoor stalls of Lucky Mall.
Fan painting at the outdoor stalls
This master calligraphist Ruo Fei writes your name for free this Chinese New Year.
Inside Lucky Mall, there are “statues” in Chinese New Year regalia you can take photos with (left) and performances like this dragon dance (right).
Outside, there are rickshaws with drivers who take eager guests around the mall grounds for free.
Of course, the tikoy is ubiquitous at Ongpin.
And of course, since it’s the Year of the Water Snake, there are snake figures like this one for sale.
This is only one of the many dragon dances we saw as we walked through Ongpin.
Fruits, especially round ones for luck, are aplenty.
There are the usual round items like gold coins for luck, too (left), but this is my first time seeing gabi (taro) as a Chinese New Year item. The vendor explained that it’s for keeping the family together, as the nodules here symbolize.
These plant stalks are also for good luck in the home.
Other interesting wares are this prosperity cake (left), which tastes like a sweetened siopao with no filling, and this god of money (right). Remember the lucky cat which waves its paw? This god of money waves his arm.
Another dragon dance in Ongpin – this time, at night
All too often my companions and I found ourselves squeezing through human traffic jams. But it was worth it to see how Chinatown in Manila enthusiastically welcomed the Year of the Water Snake.