This Museum in a Mall Gives You a Closer Look at Binondo, Manila

It opens on June 8.

(SPOT.ph) Territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea aside, the Philippines and China actually have a beautiful relationship that traces its roots all the way to the 10th century. Chinese merchants would come to Manila because of the ease of transportation through the Pasig River. They eventually settled near the riverbanks, including Binondo, and gave birth to a community of Chinese-Filipinos. And now, a microcosm of the world's oldest Chinatown is featured in Chinatown Museum, which opens on June 8 at Lucky Chinatown in Binondo, Manila. Not only is it the first cultural museum that's dedicated to one district, but it’s also Manila's first museum housed in a mall.

PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
CONTINUE READING BELOW
Recommended Videos
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Dr. Fernando Zialcita, one of the consultants for Chinatown Museum, thinks of Binondo as a "little island." 
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

This may seem a bit unusual knowing that Chinatown, after all, has a number of ancestral houses and old sites that can very well serve as a window to the past. But Tefel Pesigan-Valentino, VP and Head of Marketing and Business Development at Megaworld Corporation, sees this as an opportunity to bring more people into the cultural hub. "Museums are actually venues for conversation, for exchanges of story and culture. We want to bring this closer to the community, to the people. Incidentally, a lot of Filipinos are mallgoers—so that’s the best way to communicate to them,” she told the press in a sneak peek of the museum on June 7.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

“It’s a new notion of going to the mall. Also, Lucky Chinatown [stands on where part of Meisic Street used to be]. If you know what Meisic is, it’s a play on the words 'may Instik.' So [it's] very fitting actually why Chinatown Museum is here,” added Janine Cabato, the museum’s curator.

Binondo Church was founded by Dominican priests in 1596.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

In the same way the Spaniards colonized the rest of the Philippines, converting the Chinese settlers to Christianity was also part of their mission.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

Ferdinand VII, in 1825, sent a life-sized portrait of himself to the Philippines. To follow his order that colonies must demonstrate their loyalty to the Spanish crown, the Chinese set up a welcome arch where his portrait was placed.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Chinatown Museum features 18 galleries that highlight the social, cultural, economic, political, and religious landscape of Binondo. A small replica of Binondo Church greets visitors while a series of photographs show how this Catholic structure changed through the years since its consecration in 1596. The space eventually leads you to traditional shophouses, from stores that sell textiles and housewares to a panaderia; the cottage industries that boosted Binondo’s economy; and a life-sized model of a tranvia that once plied the roads of the old town.

Shophouses were common in Binondo.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

This included a hardware and arts store called El 82, which was owned by Ramon Ongpin. Its name is in reference to 1882, which was the year of the country's rebirth after the cholera epidemic.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

Local industries also included carpentry and woodwork.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Tipos del Pais are watercolor paintings that depict vignettes of everyday life. At the museum, these are rendered in 3D.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

An Instagram-worthy wall at Chinatown Museum shows the publications that became critical of colonial abuses.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Finally, museumgoers are led into four galleries—Rosario, Escolta, Meisic, and Unionpay—that houses rotating exhibitions. For now, it features St. Stephen's Highschool Centennial Exhibit, drawings of Escolta's Art Deco Buildings, a postcard exhibition, and artworks by Bernadette Solina-Wolf. "It really is more about making sure that the community is part of Chinatown Museum," Cabato added.

Binondo, then and now, is a hotspot when it comes to food.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

The tranvia or tramvia, an electric tram, used to ply the streets of Manila during the American era.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

Escolta Street in Binondo is known for its Art Deco buildings.
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

To guide visitors, Chinatown Museum has its own mobile app which anyone can download through Google Play or the App Store. Docents, who are from the University of Santo Tomas’ History Society, are also there to provide information about the exhibitions.

“It reinforced something that I’ve always believed in since childhood—that Binondo’s really unique. It’s such a small place, just an island. But it’s really diverse because here you have furniture-makers, restaurants, pharmaceuticals, wonderful shops—everything’s here [on] this little island,” Dr. Fernando Zialcita, professor from the Ateneo de Manila University’s Institute of Philippine Culture and one of the consultants, said about the opening of Chinatown Museum.

Chinatown Museum is at 4/F Building A, Lucky Chinatown, Reina Regente Street, Binondo, Manila City. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are at P150 (with 30-peso discount for senior citizens and 50-peso discount for students). For more information, visit Chinatown Museum's website.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

More from spot

Are you sure you want to delete this list?
Cancel
Delete
ADD YOUR OWN FAVE
Share your favorite if we missed it! Type your pick here and tell us why you love it.
You can add any number of items, whether it's just one or a list of 10. This is a required field.
Sample Error message
Add a short description
Sample Error message
0/150
+ Add to list
Delete
Submit
Looks like you're not Logged In or Registered yet
Get Started
to save your list.
Thank you for submitting your own list
Check out another top 10 article we hope you'd like:

Top 10 Lists

Most Liked
Most Recent
Share
Tweet
Posted by:

Tell us your #feels!

7
2
9
Total votes
View more stories tagged

Read more stories about

Latest Stories

Load More Stories