Down in Chinatown on Chinese New Year 2012

Gong Xi Fa Cai, hong bao na lai!
Kiong Hee Huat Tsai! 
Kong Hei Fat Choi! 
Happy Chinese New Year!
Yesterday (January 23rd on the Roman calendar) was the first day of the lunar year of the Water (Black) Dragon.  Chinese people all over world celebrate the Spring Festival with much exuberance.  This most important annual event marks the end of winter, welcoming spring and a new year.

Here in the Philippines, the center of Chinese culture is in bustling Chinatown in downtown Binondo, Manila -- the oldest Chinatown in the world, established in 1594! Expect this side of the city to usher in each lunar new year with a bang, attracting a throng of revelers painting the town red (literally, with folks in red clothes!) and joining in the parade.  For the first time this year, the government has officially declared Chinese New Year as a special holiday.

Chinatown here we come!
"Mommy, is Chinatown out of town?"
"We're going to China?! Yehey!!!"

You can surmise from the comments of the boy and the girl that they've never heard nor have they ever been to Chinatown.  For this new year, my family chose to brave through the human traffic and be where all the action is -- Ongpin Street!

Warning: Picture Overload

Seeing Chinatown like it was our first time:
 Chestnuts and char-grilled corn

Colorful chicks!

Lucky charms, jewelry, and other decorative ornaments for sale line the streets of Chinatown

Character balloons 

Visiting an uncle.... like most retailers in the area, their store on busy T. Alonzo st. was open even on a holiday

Dancing to the beat from the Dragon Dance parade

Goofing around while testing self-portrait function of the iPhone
Sa Lido restaurant's fresh catch
* I was impressed with the image quality of the 8-megapixel iPhone4s, so I''m happy to note that all photos above were taken with J's iPhone4s; while photos below were taken with my Canon500D

A landmark of the city of Manila 
Can't decide what birds to get...

Chicks galore! More of these fur balls on a separate post.
Vivid stripes on baby quail birds
 With her 2 pairs of quail birds and his lone duckling

Enter the Dragon!

Can't leave without buying dried meat delicacies at Shin Ton Yon 

Fire eater from one of numerous street performers

View of centuries-old Binondo Church (Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz)
And here are some of the most recognizable buildings and establishments in the heart of Chinatown, just like I remember them in my younger years...
One of the oldest retail stores -- Anson Emporium
The famous President restaurant 
Well-loved goodies from Salazar Bakery... oh yes, we braved our war through that crowd!
We had lunch at the original LIDO Restaurant... now given a face lift
Our morning to mid-afternoon, trek was a feast to the senses.  It was a pleasure trip down memory lane especially for J and my in-laws as they reminisce while pointing out to the kids where they used to live, where they hang out with relatives, which stores and eateries they frequent, and the busy side streets they used to walk through in their younger years.

The fact that I can't recall the last time I was here only means it's been ages since I last went to Chinatown.  This visit on this most festive day for the Chinese was extra memorable and fun since this was also the first time for the kids to actually go to Chinatown in Manila to experience the culture and be part of the revelry first hand.  

We'll see you again soon, Chinatown!

Happy New Year!!!
Of course, the Chinese New Year celebration will not be complete without the sweet-sticky delicacy we all love -- tikoy! Try my lumpiang tikoy and Cheekoy here!
You might also like to check out our Visita Iglesia (church visits) around old Manila:
Images from our Visita Iglesia

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