Binondo

Through the eyes of my father.

If you are a Filipino, born and raised in Manila, Binondo may not be in your top three list of possible day tour adventures. Having walked around its vicinity during your elementary years as part of a field trip itinerary, you have probably heard its history and maybe even the cliches that complement the tour guide spiels.

Now, Manila has become a personal favorite destination of my dad. It has been a usual occurrence that he would write on his travel notebook snippets of the capital’s good old days. I would peep through his door as an antique green lamp would be a customary accessory to a night infused with antiquated trivia of Escolta’s golden age.

Today, I was a proud recipient of that knowledge, and I must say it was nothing I have heard of before.

In line with the mastery of the subject, my dad carried with him over-sized photos of the years that have gone by. It gave his audience a vivid image of how things were just to give them a tinge of what they have missed, and probably will never see.

The story began at 9 am on the marble floors of Binondo Church.

We braved the heat, and trailed behind the storyteller as he best recounted the tale of Manila under the Spanish rule, to its destruction during World War 2.

In between walks, he introduced us to local flair – Chinese food. It is Chinatown after all. Our first bite was at Quik Snack and it was a short stop indeed – famous tofu bolted down in minutes.To get to the restaurant was a delight in itself – we passed through a small alleyway that was a market selling a plethora of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and desserts. Passers by will not fail to notice this passage to Ongpin street that is Carvajal.

As we made our way out of Carvajal, we searched for Art Deco buildings. We were acquainted with rundown establishments like the Capitol and an empty lot that was brought to life by my dad’s narrative of a certain alta sociedad meeting place called the Crystal Arcade.

Seeing the distressed remnants of what was then beautiful made me wish I could see it in all its glory. The repressed regret I felt made me question whether I was born in the wrong decade, but then again there were no accidents, only purposed beginnings.

Still, I wanted to see it! I did not want to imagine what was already gone. I was 80 years too late.

Binondo is and can be infinitely interesting if you only knew the stories behind it – the juicy details and the rumors, myths and speculations that built it from the ground up.

We rode the Otis at the Calvo building like it was 1933; sauntered out while donning fedoras and crisp suits to honor Manila’s most celebrated years.

I am kidding, it’s 2019 and the sun is immensely hot, the pollution is terrible and the country is facing one of its toughest stretches to date.

But, with people like my dad to remind us of the bygone days, there is hope for us who are young to change the course of history.

Today, it was all about the rich in experience and knowledge schooling the absolute innocent to reinforce them now in order to further shape their tomorrow. Do I make sense? haha.

So for this, thank you dad. It was nothing like I have heard of before because this time, you were my teacher. 🙂

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