Binondo is said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world.
If you didn’t already know, Filipino culture is heavily influenced by the Chinese. And, being set in Manila, Philippines, Binondo predictably houses historic Catholic churches.
To me, Manila’s Chinatown is, among other wonderful things, an amazing melting pot of Christian beliefs and pagan animism.
So, there are two things that actually set Binondo apart from the many, many such towns found all over the world: its old age, and affinity with Spanish-influenced culture and religion. There’s not too many of that combination that can be found anywhere else in Asia, in which the Philippines is the only predominantly Christian country (Roman Catholics being the overwhelming majority).
It is for those two reasons, in addition to one significant matter, that Manila nails it for us when hubs Bear and I are agonizing over where to go for our late lunch on a school season Sunday. “Late” meaning after market, first batch of homework for our eldest son Bommy, and Lover’s ballet class — the rounds for all of which would take us down to 2 pm as “lunch time.” Then there’s the idea that Sunday lunch must be something with a bit more ceremony and a little less ordinary (meaning one with the whole family around) but at the same time, be do-able considering the demands of schoolwork which somewhat relegate us to either our own kitchen or nearby dining areas.
The most important thing, however, is the fact that my family loves Chinese food. Many Filipinos do. I’m not Chinese at all, but my mother would take me as a very young child to Chinese restaurants more than she would take me to Filipino ones. I guess you could throw in the fact that I married a Chinese Bear and consequently have half-Chinese offspring with him, and you probably have a captive audience for Chinese food. And, in our finicky opinion, Chinese food in Manila Chinatown can’t be easily topped by Chinese food anywhere else in the world (Sorry! 😉 ), except maybe for certain areas of the country where it originally comes from.
One of our favorite restaurants in Binondo is Tasty Dumplings. Despite the name, I think they’re popularly known not by their dumplings but by their tossed noodles and very thinly-sliced and breaded fried pork chops. I don’t really know how long they’ve been around, but more than a decade ago, Bear and I would go to an earlier, slightly dingy version of this same but now much cleaner and modern restaurant. They also sell frozen dumplings (to be cooked by steaming at home) which we never fail to get some of for school lunch. Really convenient and tasty.
I’d been told that the black pigs that at least a couple of restaurants in Chinatown maintain by their doorsteps are there as symbols of good luck. A security guard stationed at one of these restaurants informed me that their pet pig (their totem of wealth and abundance, no less) just lies down there all day long “doing nothing” (walang ginagawa)— like the guard was actually expecting the pig to do some perceivably impressive tricks instead of lying down there like a useless.. well, pig. I take this to mean that these pigs’ lives are not at all half bad, specially when you think of the typical porcine lot of cramped, filthy quarters and the inevitable date with the butcher. Despite their decidedly bored and forlorn appearance, I guess this is as far towards royalty as any pig could get.
I’ve seen these lucky pigs countless of times, and I’ve never witnessed them make a mess of themselves or their immediate environment. People come here to eat, after all.
And if it’s any measure of the pigs’ business acumen, this restaurant called Ambos Mundos (which translates into “both worlds”) has been around since 1888. Hah! 😉
Thanks for stopping by 😉
See you again,