Chinatown Museum in Binondo: The Tale of the World’s Oldest Chinatown
Known as Manila’s commercial downtown in the Spanish Era, Binondo holds so much history and remains as the melting pot of trade and culture to date. Now, you may experience the beginnings of the ‘World’s Oldest Chinatown’ at the newly opened Chinatown Museum.
Located inside Lucky Chinatown Mall in Manila, the Chinatown Museum is recognized by the National Historical Commission and National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as a heritage project that creates a visual retelling of Binondo’s rich history.
Most of the pieces inside the museum are recreations made by accomplished craftsmen from the National Museum. This makes Chinatown Museum unique because the pieces are interactive. They even encourage taking photos!
The tour starts with a 5-minute video on how Binondo has changed since the colonization, the wars, and through time. Then it moves on to introduce the first Chinese Christians who integrated into Philippine society—who we now know as Tsinoys (Chinese-Pinoy).
Binondo flourished as a trading site, being the in-between of the pier and its neighboring cities. The city also served as a holding area of the galleon trade, where shipments from other Asian countries were sent to Spain and back.
Gold, ceramics, textiles, tobacco, and lumber are only some of the things that came and went through the country via Binondo—aside from the ever-famous Chinese cuisine. Even now, there are local tours that feature Binondo’s restaurants.
As the center of trade, it also follows that Binondo was the first home of Philippine Stock Exchange, which was located inside Crystal Arcade, and the first three banks in the country: Bank of the Philippine Islands, Standard Chartered, and HSBC.
Besides having museum items that guests can touch and take pictures with, Chinatown Museum features interactive and changing exhibitions.
Examples of this would be the current exhibit on the iconic buildings of Binondo, featuring a Buddha Board—a water-based painting board that dries the painting clear in a minute or so—and the small exhibit of the Philippine Post Office.
The Chinatown Museum is the second of its kind from Megaworld Corporation, who also opened the Iloilo Museum for Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA) at its Iloilo Business Park in Mandurriao. It is also set to launch other museum projects in its Cebu, Pampanga, and Pasig township developments.
Said museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance is at Php 150 for regular visitors, Php 120 for senior citizens, and Php 100 for students. Kids below 4 ft can enter free of charge.
How to get here
- Lucky Chinatown Mall is along Reina Regente St. between Claro M. Recto Ave. and Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz, the park across Binondo Church.
- By public transport: Take the LRT-1 to United Nations Station and ride the jeepney to “Divisoria”. Alight at the Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz and walk along Reina Regente St. until you see Lucky Chinatown Mall on your left. Chinatown Museum is on the 4th floor of the mall.
- By car: Take Taft Ave. to Quintin Paredes Rd., to Reina Regente St. where you can park at Megaworld Manila. There is a bridge to the 4th floor of the mall.