Exploring the streets of Binondo: Things To Do + Travel Guide in Manila

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Binondo is one of the most interesting places to visit in the heart of old Manila, featuring a mix of Spanish architecture and Chinese landmarks.

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Binondo is one of the most interesting places to visit in the heart of old Manila. Here, you will find a lot of Spanish-era architectures and landmarks interspersed with long-standing Chinese shops and restaurants.

Binondo Church
Binondo Church

Exploring the streets of Binondo: Things To Do + Travel Guide in Manila


    About Binondo


    The seat of trade and finance during the olden times, Binondo is the first home of many of the Philippines' first banks and commercial establishments before they eventually transferred to the business districts of Ortigas Center in Pasig City, Ayala Center in Makati City, and lately, in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City. In fact, Binondo holds the distinction as the oldest Chinatown in the world.

    Today, Binondo is still home to many Chinese-Filipinos whose businesses continue to thrive in this ancient district of Manila. There are several shops and stores here where you can buy items at a much lower price as compared to those sold in bigger malls.

    Binondo is most especially popular among shoppers who are looking at buying products in bulk such as during Christmas or when they have an important family event that is coming up. Because of this, Binondo can get really crowded especially during weekends so better be ready for the huge throngs of people and the heat.

    DIY walking tour of Binondo


    The sweltering heat, the halo-halo stalls and the dry, monsoon winds all signal that the summer (dry) season is officially in the Philippines! I actually have mixed feelings about summer. I love the fact that it's not wet and cold but I also hate it because it's hot and you sweat a lot which can be really uncomfortable and sometimes even draining.

    However, what I think is truly amazing about summer is the fact that it warrants you the opportunity to go on limitless adventures. This year, I began my summer adventure with a trip to Binondo, the old business district of Manila. I have long wanted to go to Binondo to take a photo of the church and, of course, to sample authentic Chinese cooking which I heard is really delicious.

    Binondo Church


    Officially known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, Binondo Church was built by the Dominican priests during the early 1600s to serve the predominantly Chinese population of the area. 

    From Quezon City, a friend and I took a cab to Binondo Church.. When we arrived, I excitedly took out my camera as we went down in front of Binondo Church. However, my excitement was quickly replaced with disappointment because my SLR was acting up. 

    The LCD kept on displaying an error message. I attempted to remedy the problem - I turned it off, then on again, I took out the battery, I removed the lens, cleaned the contact points then put the lens back again - but to no avail. After a few attempts, I was finally able to take one photo of Binondo Church. After that, I couldn't take shots again so I just gave up.

    Eating at Tasty Dumplings


    From Binondo Church, we decided to walk all the way to Sta. Cruz Church and pass through Ongpin St. As we began traversing Ongpin St., we were immediately tempted to try the first restaurant we saw - Tasty Dumplings. 

    As I had mentioned earlier, I have long wanted to try authentic Chinese cuisine in Binondo because of all the delicious stories I hear about these. After all, the Binondo Food Trip (a tour of restaurants around the area) is one of the most popular activities in this side of Manila. 

    Steamed dumplings at Tasty Dumplings in Binondo
    Steamed Dumplings

    We ordered steamed meat dumplings and one big bowl of mushroom ball noodles. The noodles were served but we were disappointed to find out that it was soup-based. We thought that we ordered pancit or sautéed noodles with sauce. 

    Apparently, you had to explicitly say to the waiter that you are ordering pancit, else, they'll immediately assume that it's noodle soup (or mami style) that you want. We took a sip of the soup and our disappointment quickly vanished because it was good - tasty and meaty.

    Then came the six-piece steamed dumplings. These looked absolutely like gyoza. I prepared the dipping sauce by mixing soy sauce, chili-garlic (the restaurant uses green chili which looked bright and fresh) and...no calamansi? I asked for calamansi but the waiter informed me that what they had was only vinegar. Vinegar-soy-chili sauce for dumplings? That didn't sound too appetizing so we just settled for soy sauce-chili combination.

    Mushroom noodle soup at Tasty Dumplings in Binondo
    Mushroom noodle soup

    I couldn't wait for my first bite so I dipped my first dumpling in the sauce and put it in my mouth. It didn't taste anything like the Chinese dumplings I was expecting. It tasted like gyoza. Again, utterly disappointing. The wrapper was thick and was starchy...too starchy. 

    As for the noodles, we were met with more disappointment as the noodles were also very starchy. The mushroom balls, on the other hand, tasted more like squid balls. After a few more bites and some experimentation with the sauce, we decided to just have the remaining food wrapped and gave it to a lady beggar outside the store.

    Anyway, we were later told by friends that we should get pork chops the next time we visit Tasty Dumplings. The pork chops, we were told, were as big as plates.

    Eng Bee Tin Hopia


    Feeling frustrated with our meal at Tasty Dumplings, we went to Eng Bee Tin to buy hopia, a pasty that is somehow similar to moon cake and filled with sweets. If you love hopia, then you should definitely visit Eng Bee Tin because they sell hopia in various flavors. 


    Here, you can buy classic hopia flavors like monggo (beans) and baboy (pork but it is really ground wintermelon mixed with ground pork fat) as well as novelty flavors like ube (taro) and pastillas (sweetened milk candy). I bought two combinations: one of ube and pastillas and another of ube and cheese. We ate the hopia monggo as we walked along Ongpin Street.


    LOCATE BINONDO

    Sta. Cruz Church


    After traversing the length of Ongpin Street on foot, we were finally greeted by the stunning Sta. Cruz Church.

    Sta. Cruz Church, located at Plaza Sta. Cruz in Manila, and built by the Jesuits in the early 17th century, is officially known as the Our Lady if the Pillar Parish Church. The Sta. Cruz Church is also the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. It features a baroque Roman design that is consistent with most of the churches in Manila.

    The church was beautiful but we were hesitant to take photos of the Church because of some "suspicious-looking" individuals outside the church so we decided not to bring out our cameras.

    Intramuros


    Manila Cathedral in Intramuros
    Manila Cathedral

    From Sta. Cruz Church, we took a jeep going to Intramuros, the old walled city of Manila. We immediately headed to the Manila Cathedral and took photos of it. I tried my camera again and, luckily, I was able to capture a few pictures of Manila Cathedral. We walked around the streets circling Manila Cathedral.


    Luneta


    Of course, our adventure will not be complete without a visit to Luneta or Rizal Park. We took a jeep from Intramuros to Luneta, although, in reality, it was really just a quick walk from where we were to Luneta. 

    After a few walks within Luneta and a stroll around the spruced up relief map of the Philippines, we decided to head back to La Loma and have dinner there.

    We originally planned to eat at Eat Fresh for some Hong Kong dumplings but, unfortunately, it was already closed when we got there. So off we went to Chic Boy where we had grilled liempo, chicken inasal, grilled eggplants and green mango salad. It was already very late when we finished dinner so we said our goodbyes soon after.

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    33 comments

    1. Then again you really never found the heart of binondo, if you did, you'll find a store where the food is great, next would be the shop that is cooking fried siopao that really really good and doesn't need a sauce, hope next time you'd find both of them and not be disappointed :)

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    2. Exactly. It was our first time; we never got around much. We vowed to go back and explore Binondo more. Hope you can tell me where it is located. Or what the name of the store is.

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    3. Binondo will always be a familiar place to me. I'm sorry for your experience with that restaurant, in my opinion, you should have eaten in Eng Bee Tin instead! Their food is awesome and really satisfying!

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    4. pinkpepperparadise11 July 2016 at 04:55

      I have never been in Manila, but planning to travel there one day. The mushroom ball soup looks great! I never tryed it and now I can't wait to taste it but need to find a good restaurant!

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    5. I have it when you have disappointing food when you visit somewhere new. Hope the rest of your visit was enjoyable though, it definitely looks like an interesting place.

      Rosie | www.rosieromance.com

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    6. it's great when you go exploring neighborhoods of your own city. Sorry to hear you are having problems with your camera, you should get it cleaned up, sometimes dust may be the problem. Those dumplings look great, they are one of my favorite asian foods.

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    7. Nothing better than steamed dumplings! I'm lucky that my mum is Chinese so I get to enjoy them at home all the time. I'm sure they're much more authentic in Asia though :)

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    8. It sucks that the dumplings was a disappointment but I hope you find your perfect dumpling soon. I love dumplings.

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    9. Manila has still really lots of real food to offer. Just look for the right place to buy. A big chinese influence indeed. The Mushroom ball soup is perfect for the rainy season. :)

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    10. It is indeed really nice to explore Manila every now and then. Manila Cathedral still remains as one of the most beautiful churches I have seen in Manila :)

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    11. Sounds like you had some frustrations with your camera and the food. The Manila Cathedral photo turned out beautifully though.

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    12. Wow, I had never heard of this place though I have heard og Manila many times before. Looks like you had a great time exploring this place. I particularly liked the photograph of the church.

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    13. I hate having bad experiences when I travel especially when it comes to restaurants :) But it seems like you had a good time anyway ! I never heard of that place by the way

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    14. I would love to visit Manila. I heard the food is great there.So sorry you did not have good experience with the food.

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    15. There are always these hidden gems placed in the heart of travelled cities. I've never heard of Binondo but it looks very pretty, hope to check it out on my future trips.

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    16. I've never been to Manila but would love to go someday in my life! Those Mushroom ball soup and Steamed dumplings look delicious!

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    17. Ahhh Binondo seems so great! Heard some great stuff about Luneta. Glad you enjoyed your stay!

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    18. Never heard of this cool loking place, It's awesome to explore new unknow places. This looks promising :)

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    19. I have not ever been in Manila, I’m sure you had great time there, Yeah cameras don’t really want to work when you’re trying to capture really good images, Thank you for sharing this

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    20. Yup, I've heard about them. I should try it there the next time I go to Binondo.

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    21. Yes, please include Philippines in your places-to-visit-soon list. :)

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    22. Sadly, the camera had to retire. Bought a new one already. I love dumplings, too!

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    23. I'm sure the dumplings made by your mom are just as good. :)

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    24. I was just expecting too much maybe. Oh well, I can try other restaurants the next time I go there.

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    25. Oh, yeah. I love Manila Cathedral.

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    26. One of the few good photos that day. Glad I was able to get a good shot of it.

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    27. Thank you for dropping by as well!

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    28. Yup, visit it if you have the chance.

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    29. It was a great place, the heart of old Manila.

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