Binondo is and has always been the center of Chinese trading or commerce in the City of Manila. Also known as ‘Chinatown’ it was established in 1594 during the Spanish colonial period by Governor Luis Perez Dasmarinas as a permanent domicile of Chinese immigrants who have converted to Catholicism.
Binondo because of its historical importance, has one of the highest land values in the Philippines today. Tourism-wise it is widely recognized for three existing areas: Escolta (Calle de la Escolta), Binondo Church and Ongpin.
Escolta is one of the oldest streets in Manila and was recognized as the country’s central business district in the late 19th century. Today, Escolta serves as home to the remnants of the earliest skyscrapers in the Philippines like the First United Building (formerly Perez Samanillo Bldg.- 1928/art deco style), Calvo Building (1938/beaux arts style), Regina Building (1934/neo-classical style), Burke Building (home of first elevator in Manila), and Capitol Theater (1930).
Ongpin street was named after Chinese businessman Don Roman Ongpin as tribute for his unselfish support to the Katipuneros during the revolution. When businesses moved from Binondo to Makati in the 1960s, the remaining commercial establishments concentrated at Ongpin and its adjacent streets. Historically, Chinatown was a term coined for the whole Binondo district but because of this concentration, people have come to know Ongpin as ‘Chinatown.’
Ongpin is home to a lot of authentic Chinese restaurants, jewelry stores (Ongpin Commercial Center), Chinese drug stores and other shops. The street’s entrance from Plaza Sta. Cruz is fronted by the recently erected Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch and ends at the Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz going to Divisoria. From the well-known President’s Restaurant, Golden Stone Restaurant and New Eastern Garden Restaurant to the newest Eng Bee Tin owned Chuan Kee Restaurant – Ongpin offers some of the most delicious Chinese dishes in Metro Manila. If you want that most authentic Chinatown dine-in feel, you may also try the ‘creekside’ restaurants at the side of the Ongpin North Bridge.
Binondo Church or the Our Mother of the Most Holy Rosary Church was founded by the Dominicans in 1596. The church has undergone several reconstruction after being damaged by earthquakes and the war. The present church was renovated between 1946 to 1971. The bell tower is the only surviving structure of the original 16th century church.
The church was also named as a Minor Basilica in honor of the first Filipino saint San Lorenzo Ruiz after his canonization in 1987.
Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz is located right in front of the Church and surrounded by restaurants and other establishments like banks and commercial buildings. Within walking distance from the Plaza are Divisoria, 168 Mall and Tutuban Mall (via Juan Luna) and Lucky Chinatown Mall (via Reina Regente).
One area a lot of history and a lot of wonderful things to do – that’s Binondo!
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