MANILA, Philippines - Chinese New Year is on February 10, and business is booming in Manila's Chinatown.
Aya Lowe looks at Binondo's evolution from a small neighborhood to a commercial district.
Johnson Chua is the second-generation owner of three Feng Shui stores in Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown.
Business is doing well in the run up to Chinese New Year.
But Chua, like other business owners in Chinatown, face huge challenges.
JOHNSON CHUA, OWNER, SUNRISE STORE: There are different kinds of factories making similar items. Sometimes clients cannot understand so they just go with the lower price and forget the quality.
Eng Bee Tin was the first company to introduce ube flavored hopia, combining Filipino flavors with Chinese tradition.
The business was set up in 1912 as a small hopia stall in Binondo.
Four generations on and the shop has expanded to all corners of the Philippines and sends its products across the world.
But business wasn’t always this good.
Only 30 years ago, the company was facing bankruptcy.
What brought it through the hard times was a refocus on product and packaging and change in leadership.
GERIC CHUA, MANAGING DIRECTOR: We innovated the regular hopia into something the people would really like. Hopia before was more of a crust than the filling but here we started to turn it around. It was more of the filling than the crust. Here people really like the taste. We actually found people from the US coming here to bring back some of the hopia fresh.
Eng Bee Tin, like many Chinese Filipino businesses, started here.
Chinatown began as a neighborhood for the Chinese Catholic community in 1594 and soon developed into a booming commercial district.
They were Chinese immigrants escaping hardship in mainland China.
IVAN MAN DY, DIRECTOR, OLD MANILA WALKS: The thing was the majority of Chinese who came here at the time were not really skilled except for certain things so when they came here they didn’t have much of a professional choice, they couldn’t be a doctor or a teacher so most of them ended up doing two things, service industry and trading.
Many of the Philippines biggest entrepreneurs had their humble beginnings in Chinatown.
The Philippines’ richest man, Henry Sy began with a small shoe store in Quiapo called Shoe Mart.
This grew into what we now know as SM, the largest chain of malls.
Tony Caktiong started with a basic ice cream franchise nearby.
This evolved into the fastfood giant Jollibee.
IVAN MAN DY, DIRECTOR, OLD MANILA WALKS: There are old businesses, which have updated themselves. They stick to their core product, but they modernize in terms of production, advertising, production etc. You have that very interesting adaptation of the old and new.
The 2013 is the year of the water snake.
Snake years are marked by major transformation and change, and sometimes great upheaval.
Binondo businessmen say, it’s a constant game of evolution as each new generation adapts to the changing times.
Aya Lowe, Rappler, Binondo Manila.