ROVING IMP - Kristalle Marie Garcia-Kekert () - July 28, 2010 - 12:00am

Putting this article together was so much more than exciting! I have found that the Chinese evolution in detail has made our country what it is today in terms of business and politics and the success stories of many individuals starting from the early days up until the present.

What are Tsinoys or Chinoys? Tsino (Chinese) and Pinoy (Filipino) are individuals of Chinese decent but born and raised in the Philippines or who have lived in this country for a very long period of time and who feel Filipino inside and out. “Our blood may be Chinese but our roots grow deep in Philippine soil. Our bonds are with the Filipino people,” is one renowned quote.

The journey begun at the Bahay Tsinoy located inside the Kaisa-Angelo King Heritage Center, the Museum of the Chinese in Philippine Life. It is divided into 14 showcases from their early beginnings (Emergence of the Chinese Community in the late 10th century) until the modern day Chinoys (Tsinoys in Nation Building), a diorama including photos/portraits and information on successful businessmen. Among those featured in the museum are Lucio Tan (he created a major investment, our national carrier Philippine Airlines), John Lim Gokongwei Jr. (he started earning a living at the age of 13 using a bike to peddle soap, thread and candles in Cebu; at the age of 19, he put up his own company, Universal Robina Corporation and some others as the years went by), Henry Sy Sr. (he migrated to the Philippines from Fujian, China in the early days and set up a chain of department stores, SM Shoemart), Benson Dakay (he was introduced to seaweed exporting at a very young age and persuaded a French company to import seaweeds from him; this has led him to pursue the successful Shemberg Corporation).

I was intrigued with the background and history of each of these individuals and I very much have to say that their hard work is truly admirable. Their build-up from young fascinating entrepreneurs up until the age of retirement proves that it is never to late to start trying and to never give up!

With displays put together so accordingly, Bahay Tsinoy, located at 32 Anda corner Cabildo Streets inside the Intramuros Walls, is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 1-5PM and takes around 2-3 hours for a tour inside the building. Entrance fee is P100 for adults and P60 for children/students. 

We carried on to the Chinese Cemetery, a resting place for the wealthy Chinese. It is a 54-hectare property complete with street names and lavish mausoleums in forms of houses, some that are of a few stories high that have built-in living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, air-cons, fancy staircases and decorative chandeliers, you name it!

This city of the dead is one of Manila’s biggest highlights, but in the most possible intriguing way to describe it. Entrance fee is P100 (yes, visitors have to pay to get in) and to find your way through, a tour guide is available as well for a separate cost but well worth it! I thought that it was a bit strange for a day-out but it still made a rather unique attraction.

Later in the day, we headed to the last sight that truly resembles Tsinoys. As you walk through the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch, you know that you’ve strolled into another world, the Manila Chinatown. Established in 1594, this makes it the oldest Chinatown in the world and most of us probably never even knew so!

Walking down through to Ongpin Street (the whole of the street is about a 15-minute walk from one end to the other excluding the side-streets), my mind just wandered around with the colors, smells and even the language! To see what I really mean, you will have to be there to see it, feel it and taste it! My written words cannot describe how I enjoyed that one simple moment, I sort of forgot that I was just in Manila and not outside of the country.

Shopping at the well-stocked Chinese grocery called, Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli was such a treat! It is famous for their world-class freshly made hopia (which come in different flavors), tikoy (original, pandan or ube flavor are huge sellers), mooncakes, dimsum, a range of hot and cold food and so much more to choose from! Its food all over the place! Free coffee vouchers are handed out as well to customers from the next-door teahouse. Not to miss is the traditional Hokien style lumpia, absolutely what Chinatown is famous for! Delicious! You may also purchase a Binondo Map to avail of discounts in the area, a helpful guide that caters to other affordable and expensive places to eat.

I caught sight of a holy shrine, (a small temple as I would describe it) and recognized the smell of incense. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do so I just looked on as these local Tsinoys solemnly pursue their faith. Bizarrely, in comparison, one famous sight in Chinatown is the Binondo Catholic Church, but both religions do seem to go together in perfect harmony!

Chinatown never seems to bore me. Just before sundown, most especially on the weekends, this vibrant place is transformed into a lively neighborhood! (Just don’t let the dumped areas put you off.) You’ll find bargains just about anywhere from food to medicine to goldsmiths to decorative icons/ornaments and more! I also had a thought of what this place would be like during Chinese New Year. This I would love to experience!

Manila Chinatown clearly draws both locals and foreigners alike into this part of town. The exotic feel and authenticity of the place makes it exciting and even more so appealing. Just a tip: try not to over dress to attract attention and do hold on to that bag! As the emergence of Tsinoys have such a unique build-up, this interest should carry on for many years to come.

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