[15.02.19] Chinese New Year 2015: Sights in Manila

So it’s one week into the “Year of the Ram” (or Goat, or Sheep, whichever you prefer) and I’m just now posting the photos I took of the Chinese new year celebrations here in Manila.  -_-

I’ve actually already wrote a long-winded post but got sidetracked by an overload of work from my job. Real life has to come first, of course. So scrap the War-and-Peace version, here’s the “barebones” version that won’t take until 2016 to finish.

For the 4th year in a row, I trekked to Binondo to watch the festivities and take photos. I started in 2012, the first year the President declared CNY a special non-working holiday, and may I say at the outset that I think the first year was the best one. (Streets were closed off and everything was more organized. Are you reading this, Manila City government?)

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the photos.

Binondo is the oldest existing Chinatown in the world. It’s an old area of the city with a long stretch of road that is bookended by two churches: Binondo Church (proper name is Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz) on one side, and on the other end, Santa Cruz Church (Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church) which is technically located in Santa Cruz district and not Binondo, and therefore is not part of Chinatown. Pedantics aside, these two churches are the main entry and exit points to and from Chinatown. Normally I would start from Binondo Church where the hub of the celebrations are, living in a nearby district my whole life until around 3 months ago. Since moving house, Santa Cruz Church has become my entry point, and this was where I started.

Roasted chestnuts (or castañas, as they are known here) are a sight familiar during Christmas and Chinese new year. In the streets of the Philippines, they are roasted manually in these big woks by tossing them around in uniformly-sized hot volcanic stones.

Roasting chestnuts the traditional way

Stores in Chinatown sell these all year long, but business is particularly good on new year’s day

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Vendor selling lucky charms

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The boy and the lion dance wielder

Sugar cane vendors

I found their peeling long stalks of sugarcane fascinating to watch. There’s a certain zen to how synchronized their movements are, like there’s a tempo only they could hear, oblivious to the bustling sounds around them.

Children gets the most enjoyment.

Internet-ready watermelons. See? They’re already hashtagged! XDD

It had started to rain steadily not long after. I insisted on taking a photo of my friend’s lens dotted with raindrops. She kept telling me to hurry up because her lens is not weather sealed. (Well, buy Pentax, like me!)

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Raindrops on camera lens

We took shelter at the nearby sidewalks. This old hat vendor approached the family standing next to us. I don’t wear hats, so I kept hoping the family standing beside us would buy one. Luckily, because of the rain, he made a sale and sold one to the mother!

Staples during Chinese new year.

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Dragon dance in the distance

Watching people

Food

Enterprising kids imitating a dragon dance by fashioning a DIY dragon out of some baskets and blankets

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Dragons

Super long dragon sponsored by an insurance company

High pole lion dance. In the end, missed footing caused both of them to fall and sustain injuries.

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Captive audience

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A street performer breathing fire

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Doing some last minute shopping

A young apprentice in charge of the drums of the lion dance

Taiwan-style spring onion pancake

Lastly, more lucky charms

2012 CNY : https://theincoherentellipsis.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/19/

2013 CNY : https://theincoherentellipsis.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/2013-year-of-the-snake-chinese-new-year-in-the-philippines/

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2013: Year of the Snake (Chinese New Year in the Philippines)

I remember how we would celebrate the Chinese New Year when I was a kid.

My parents would take me and my sisters, all dressed in red, to the temple early in the morning. We would light an incense, pray for good health for the family and for blessings for the year to come. The temple would be a sea of red-garbed Chinese people engulfed in fragrant smoke from all the incense. My mom couldn’t see her friends through the thick smoke  until they were face to face, then with a start they’d  clasp each other and say their greetings in unison over the din of the crowd: Kiong hee!” (This is Fookien to the Cantonese “Kung hei!” and the Mandarin “Gong xi!”, which is a general congratulations to use for different occasions).

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