On February 18, we shall all say goodbye to the Year of the Horse and hello to the Year of the Sheep.
By then the streets of Binondo will be filled not only with people but also the sound of fireworks to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.
To avoid the crowd and the noise that usually accompanies this festival, I decided to take a trip to Binondo three days ahead of the Chinese holiday. After all, I have not been to Chinatown for quite a while (the last time was almost ten years ago) and I am curious to find out how much has changed since then.
First stop was Lucky Chinatown Plaza.
It was not my first time to the visit this mall, but it was my first time to go there during the Chinese New Year season. Aside from the mall events that are lined up for the holiday, I wanted to see how colorful the mall decorations will be for this year. And I was not disappointed! There were big red lanterns hanging above the open area which is being slightly spruced up in preparation for the event. A big money tree was also set up in the center and under it was a wishing pond with a Chinese turtle pulling a golden cart. Gold ingots (yuanbao) and lotus flowers, symbols of prosperity and luck complete the ensemble.
Preparing for the Chinese Lunar New Year 2015: Food stalls, Fortune Telling, Lucky Charm shops and cultural shows are set for tomorrow’s event at Lucky Chinatown Plaza open grounds.
In the atrium’s ceiling, there were more white and red lanterns that seem to float steadily in the air. Below is a small stage where more elaborate decorations were assembled for the Chinese New Year Countdown shows and activities.
On the eve of the Chinese New Year, Lucky Chinatown Plaza is going to host a cultural show that will feature celebrities including James Reid, Nadine Lustre, and Anne Curtis. The 70’s hit band Hotdog will also perform during the countdown.
From the mall, I took a quick stroll past San Lorenzo de Ruiz Plaza to Binondo Church.
They have renovated and improved the plaza several times but the street dwellers, beggars, “hamog boys” and pick-pockets still infest the area – such an eyesore especially for the foreign tourists. You have to be very mindful of your valuables especially when they try to get near you.
Though I have spent practically my entire life in Tondo area, which is just nearby Binondo, I have never been inside Binondo Church. Thus I decided to have a quick tour inside this centuries-old church. I was awed by its beautiful interior. I regretted not visiting this church before which I realized, after all, was worth the time and effort. After a short prayer and a few clicks of my phone camera, I proceeded to Benavidez Street to find a place to eat.
As I passed by Ongpin, around the corner next to Shoppers’ Mart, I saw some people lining up to light incense in front of a Cross that stood inside a shallow niche on the wall.
There was a quaint feel to the manner by which people there venerate this Catholic symbol- yes, the Cross represents Christianity but the use of incense is very much part of the Chinese Buddhist tradition. Perhaps it is only here in Binondo where this kind of religious syncretism is possible.
(To be continued…)