Quezon City

Banawe’s best! Touring Chinatown QC’s temples and restaurants

Steph Arnaldo

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Banawe’s best! Touring Chinatown QC’s temples and restaurants

CHINESE CULTURE. The rich Chinese culture in the Philippines is also present in Banawe in Quezon City.

Steph Arnaldo/ Rappler

The Quezon City government takes us on a tour of nine landmarks around the district – five restaurants, two temples, a toy museum, and a symbolic landmark!

MANILA, Philippines – Did you know that there’s also a Chinatown district in Banawe, Quezon City? Only aware of Binondo’s, I was pleasantly surprised to discover what QC’s Filipino-Chinese cultural hotspot was proud to offer tourists and QCitizens during the QC Chinatown Heritage Tour on Friday, February 9.

Banawe’s best! Touring Chinatown QC’s temples and restaurants

A local tourism initiative organized by the Quezon City local government just in time for Lunar New Year, the QC Chinatown Heritage Tour took us on a one-day itinerary of nine “hidden gem” tourist spots – five restaurants, two temples, a museum, and a landmark – all within one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, spread out across 591.8 hectares!

Mandarin Sky Banawe
FIRST STOP. Mandarin Sky Seafood Restaurant in Banawe, Quezon City, serves authentic Chinese cuisine. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

The day started off with a relatively “light” but satisfying Chinese brunch at Mandarin Sky – a staple, traditional Chinese restaurant in the area that served us noodles, different kinds of dim sum (siomai, beancurd roll, chicken feet), garlic beef tenderloin, and fried but tender squid in a light, sweet-savory sauce with red onions.

ASSORTMENT. Chicken feet, siomai, squid, noodles, tofu, and beancurd rolls are served, among other Chinese staples. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

The cuisine is as traditional as you could expect from an institutional dining spot – lazy susan tables and festive red decor included.

Tzu Chi Temple
BUDDHIST TEMPLE. The Tzu Chi Temple means to provide ‘compassion and relief.’ Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Our first cultural stop was the beautiful temple of the Tzu Chi Foundation, a humanitarian, volunteer-driven nonprofit organization founded in Taiwan 58 years ago and established in the Philippines in November 1994 – almost 30 years ago. The name “tzu chi” translates to “compassion and relief,” which is what the foundation provides people in need through various charity, medicine, education, and environmental protection programs.

DHARMA MASTER. Buddhist nun Cheng Yen is the founder of the Tzu Chi Foundation. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

We took off our shoes before entering the spacious foyer, where a floor-to-ceiling portrait of Dharma master and Buddhist nun Cheng Yen greets guests.

SOUVENIRS. All proceeds from Tzu Chi’s retail store go to the funding of Tzu Chi’s humanitarian programs. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

On the right side is Tzu Chi’s bookstore, where cookbooks, educational books, snacks, tea, ceramics, and sustainable shirts, shoes, and bags made from recycled PET bottles are sold. All proceeds go directly to the funding of Tzu Chi’s programs.

BASEMENT. The Tzu Chi’s large basement is the venue for the foundation’s mass events, programs, and initiatives. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

We also visited the temple’s huge basement, where all of their masses and events are held. Aside from the circular sky roof and ceiling, we were given a demonstration of how Tzu Chi’s sustainable pews – made from recycled plastic in Taiwan – are modified for different uses. Anyone is welcome to visit!

Sheng Lian Temple
SHENG LIAN TEMPLE. It is the oldest temple in the district, founded in the 1960s. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Next, we dropped by the oldest temple in the district, the Sheng Lian Temple, which was built in the 1960s. It’s headed by feng shui expert, Father Wongsengtian, who was there for a while to say hello and give his blessings.

FATHER WONGSENGTIAN. He can also provide one-on-one feng shui advice to visitors of the temple. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

It’s a small and colorful temple, where offerings of fruits and produce are given at the altar, and prayers and intentions are offered via incense.

OFFERINGS. Offerings are made at the temple altar, where prayers can also be offered. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler
Paifang Arches

The Paifang Arches are the concrete symbol of the Filipino-Chinese friendship that was officiated in 2005. The city council approved the development of Banawe Street as a special economic growth area due to many Filipino-Chinese establishments growing around the area then.

ARCHES OF FRIENDSHIP. This symbolizes the solidifying of Philippine-Chinese relations in Quezon City. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

These two landmark arches located at the north-south intersection of Banawe Avenue and Quezon Avenue were constructed to mark the establishment of the street as a new Chinatown and was donated by the QC Association of Filipino-Chinese Businessmen Inc.

Wow Toy Museum
TOYS ON DISPLAY. Almost all pop culture cartoons and references are represented at Wow Toy Museum. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

We also paid a visit to the Wow Toy Museum, a literal hidden gem of Quezon City – I had no idea such a tourist spot existed. It’s a small but packed home that has six small rooms, each one filled with glass displays of over 10,000 toys and collectibles since the 1950s.

COLLECTION. Owner Jimmy Madarang has accumulated over 10,000 collectibles since 1950. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Owner and collector Jimmy Madarang takes pride in his family-owned collection of toy cars, pop culture collector’s items, trinkets, dioramas, dolls, and thousands more blasts from the pasts. Since there were so many shelves on display, we unfortunately didn’t have enough time to check everything out. It is an entertaining stop for kids and the kids-at-heart, though!

Causeway Restaurant
CAUSEWAY. The well-known seafood restaurant serves Cantonese cuisine classics. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Hailed by Causeway’s owner as “the spot for all Tsinoy gatherings,” Causeway Restaurant is also considered a staple Cantonese restaurant for families in (and outside) the area craving for authentic Chinese comfort food.

CHINESE FEAST. The crispy tofu is the star of the show – perfectly crispy, light, but tasty. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Shoutout to the dim sum, shrimp sesame rolls, asado siopao, and crispy tofu, which was a crowd favorite! It may look unassumingly simple, but this vegetarian dish packs a lot of salty, umami flavor in its delicately crisp and light breading, which encases a block of soft tofu that just melts in your mouth.

SOUVENIR. I also got to take home a cool souvenir: my whole name written in Chinese calligraphy letters! Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler
Cai Hok
FAMILY-STYLE. Cai Hok is also a favorite of families in the area for authentic cuisine. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Located on the second floor of Z Square, Cai Hok Seafood Restaurant is known for its fresh seafood selection (there are aquariums of live fish by the entrance) and dim sum selection.

MA LAI GO. This soft steamed cake is sweet, custardy, and light. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

There was pork asado, dim sum (again, but who’s complaining), siopao, and a favorite of the day: Ma Lai Go! It was my first time to see and try this yellow, fluffy sponge cake pastry, which is a staple street cart treat in Southern China and Hong Kong. It’s a steamed soft cake that tastes almost like sweet pancakes, with thin layers of sweet custard in the middle.

David’s Tea House
FAMOUS CHAIN. One of the brand’s oldest branches is located in Banawe, Quezon City. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Well-known Chinese restaurant chain David’s Tea House was one of our last stops, and the affordable siomai didn’t disappoint as usual, paired with its signature chili garlic sauce and toyomansi combo.

DIM SUM. You can’t go wrong with freshly steamed siomai! Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

They also have frozen dim sum and siopao you can bring home!

Maki Haus
INSTITUTIONAL FAVORITE. Maki Haus serves the classic Maki noodle soup, which is also famous in Binondo, Manila. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Did we save the best for last? Perhaps, because the last stop on our food itinerary was Maki Haus, a small, family-owned outlet that prides itself on being “D’ Original Maki Haus Noodles.”

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS. It’s a simple and unassuming branch with good food that needs no frills. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Known for its traditional Hokkien cuisine, Maki Haus’ specialty is the maki mi, a hearty and savory Chinese soup dish with chewy noodles, a rich gelatinous broth, and soft chunks of pork tenderloin, garnished with spring onions. The restaurant has been around for almost 70 years, still serving the same family recipes since the 1950s throughout four generations already.

MAKI MI. The rich noodle soup has an almost slime-like consistency that packs on a lot of meaty flavor. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

It was my first time to try maki mi, and it didn’t disappoint – it tasted even better mixed with a splash of black vinegar for some acidity.

FRIED GOODIES. Kikiam and lumpiang shanghai are served fresh and crispy, with sweet chili. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler
UBE BUCHI. Maki Haus’ buchi was one of the best I’ve had – soft, chewy, warm, and just the right amount of sweet. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

We were also served freshly fried kikiam and shanghai rolls with sweet chili sauce, plus freshly cooked, soft, and perfectly chewy buchi in various flavors – ube, peanut, lotus, and sesame. It was a very filling merienda that was the best cap off to a day of cultural sights and lots of food! – Rappler.com

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Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.