Chinese New Year promise: Binondo will see a makeover
MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of Chinese New Year, the streets of Binondo were in a festive mood not just for the yearly celebration. The city government reiterated its promise to give the world's oldest Chinatown a makeover.
As the Filipino-Chinese community prepared to usher in the Year of the Sheep, cars, motorcycles, and pedicabs jostled for space on the narrow Ongpin Street, already crammed with sidewalk vendors peddling lucky charms and sheep figurines at P100 each.
Long lines snaked around several branches of a popular store selling tikoy – a delicacy made from sticky rice, always a bestseller during the Chinese New Year festivities. Business was steady and brisk; there was rarely a stall with no customers.
Once the drumbeats rang out, the crowds moved as one: the dragon and lion dances were about to begin. The custom was believed to bring good luck – especially for businesses – and the dancers, dressed in colorful red costumes, were amply rewarded by shopkeepers with the ang pao, red envelopes filled with money.
By late afternoon, Binondo was filled with people, but the crowds were expected to swell further in the evening, in time for the countdown to the new year at Plaza Ruiz.
More than the revelry and celebration, Chinese New Year is also an occasion to promote cooperation between the Filipino and Chinese community, said Chinese Consul General Qiu Jian.
"Today's event is a good activity to let the Filipinos and the Chinese promote understanding between the two peoples," he said, during the launch of cultural performances and activities at the Lucky Chinatown Mall.
In future celebrations, the world's oldest Chinatown will see a makeover, according to Manila 3rd district councilor Bernie Ang.
On Monday, the city government announced plans to create a new entrance gate to Manila's Chinatown.
Ang said the new arch is poised to be the biggest in the world at 30 meters long, and is set to be completed in time for Manila Day on June 24.
The new arch is already under construction in China and is set to arrive in the Philippines in March, he added.
Ang also said that the redevelopment of Chinatown is a fulfillment of the city government's promise to the Filipino-Chinese community.
He recalled how previous administrations promised to restore Chinatown to its former glory, but did not follow through.
"So far, I believe Mayor Estrada [will succeed] because the proposed new gate has already been announced and is under development. Next year, you'll see the difference," Ang added. – Rappler.com