Places & Experiences

Binondo Insights at Chinatown Museum

I’ve always been a Binondo girl. Sixty five percent of my lifetime has been spent in this eclectic Chinatown.

I think this is one of the most livable places in the metro, albeit small.

You can find anything you need in here. Schools, worship halls, restaurants, stores of any kind, and now, malls, surround this dynamic urban place.

But, did you know that Binondo’s etymology is “Binundok”? It was referred so because of its low hills.

Want to know more? Why not immerse yourself into a bit of Binondo history lesson inside Chinatown Museum.

Where is Chinatown Museum?

Chinatown Museum is located at the 4th level of Lucky Chinatown Mall’s Annex Building. If you decided to do a little more than shopping in this part of town, this is a very good side trip to venture.

It recently opened last June. So, it’s literally still fresh.

The entire museum itself is not that big, but it’s packed with fascinating stuffs and have interesting information to boast.

The entrance fee is very affordable at 150 pesos for adults, 100 pesos for students and 120 pesos for senior citizens. If you have kids who are 4 feet and below, they can get in without any fee. The museum’s schedule is Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10 am to 6 pm.

What’s Inside Chinatown Museum?

Once you’ve reached the 4th level of the Lucky Chinatown Mall’s annex building, you’d be greeted by a pole with multiple street names on it. It’s nice to strike a pose with it. Likewise, try not to miss the intricate mural above the ceiling along the lobby.

You’d be greeted by an archway in the main entrance after paying for the entrance fee. The arch itself is pretty neat enough to do another bunch of photo ops.

Chinatown Museum is divided into 18 galleries to dwell on. These are:

  • Mission Settlement
  • Figures of Faith
  • Alcaceira
  • Mestizo de Sangley
  • Shophouses
  • Industries
  • El 82
  • Origins of Revolution
  • Turn of the Century
  • Botica de San Fernando
  • Rosario Gallery
  • Flavors of Binondo
  • Tranvia
  • La Estrella del Norte
  • Escolta Gallery
  • Meisic Gallery
  • Unionpay Gallery

Mission Settlement

My favorite part of this gallery is finding out the old names of the current streets. They have an interactive map wherein you’d press a button of the street name, and a portion of the map where the street is located will light up.

Some of the street names still uses the same name ever since. It just occurred to me that the streets were named after priests, saints, and Spanish officers. It has rare Chinese street names.

Figures of Faith

Although majority of Binondo’s population is Chinese-Filipino, they still believe in the Catholic faith. This is evidenced by its very prominent landmark-the Binondo Church. The church was erected four centuries ago and has witnessed a lot in every turn of history. It has maintained its façade design over the years.

Alcaceira

This gallery showcases the earlier version of a Divisoria stall. The Alcaceira was the center of goods trading during the Spanish years.

My favorite was the display of baskets and native goods.

Mestizos De Sangley

This section exhibits “sala” of a middle class Filipino or Chinese. I like the furniture and interior of the sala. It’s kind of reminiscent of what you’d see in Casa Manila.

Shophouses

Here, you would be able to see the different kinds “services” in the olden days, such as the laundromat, bakeshop, carpentry, and even an opium den.

I love the details of the hopia and mooncakes! They look so real you’d almost want to pop one into your mouth.

Industries

Binondo is considered a pioneer in terms of trade and commerce. For a long time, Binondo was well-known for being the country’s commercial hub. Its proximity to estuaries proved to be very advantageous in the transportation of goods.

My AHA moment in this corner was that I didn’t know Binondo produced cigarettes and distilled wines!

El 82

Roman Ongpin built this store in year 1882. It was known for selling art supplies and a bit of miscellaneous merchandise. Well known personalities like Juan Luna usually went to this store to purchase supplies.

I love all the details of this replica.

Origins of Revolution/Turn of Century

This part here is just a simple mural of newspaper headlines from 1898 to 1899. It seemed a bit interesting to read, but sadly, most are written in Spanish.

Botica de San Fernando

Welcome to a typical drugstore of the 19th century. This was the time when herbs and spices were endorsed by pharmacists or physicians to cure coughs, cold and stomach ache.

I actually spent a lot of time here, because I took the time to open, read and sometimes, whiff on the medicine drawers one by one. It was very interesting indeed.

Flavors of Binondo

Ah! Good food is where the heart is! When you say Binondo, what instantly comes to mind is good Chinese food!

From past to present, Binondo offers a good selection of restaurants, serving delicious comfort food like pancit, mami and siopao.

This gallery would definitely make you go hungry. Love the juicy-looking Peking duck, by the way.

Tranvia

I first saw a tranvia replica in Museo Pambata. It was an electric public mass transportation vehicle which could navigate around Manila.

The version of tranvia in this museum is horse-drawn. I think it’s the first version of tranvia before evolving into an electric one powered by Meralco.

Escolta Gallery

Escolta had its glory days way back the late 19th century until 1950s. It was a bustling financial district as well as a booming commercial center, filled with shops selling imported goods and wares.

Some of the buildings with their own unique architecture still stand until now.

I do hope Escolta’s prestige can be revived in the near future. I believe it’s still a promising destination as long as its state would be uplifted.

What I Like About the Chinatown Museum

Museums are a great way to extend your knowledge apart from reading history books. I’m really glad there’s a museum about Binondo in the heart of Binondo! It’s a good way to learn about your hometown. I do hope other districts or cities will have their own respective museums too!

Chinatown Museum is very interactive. You are not limited to looking at things behind encased glasses. Aside from the written posts on the wall, there are supplementary visuals shown on TV screens. Likewise, as mentioned, the Botica was a good example of how interactive it is by smelling the herbs and spices.

We seemed to have spent almost 2 hours in here. I guess I could have spent more if I took the time to read and watch everything.

Few Reminders While Inside Chinatown Museum

  • You may bring a camera inside but you cannot turn on the flash.
  • Food and drinks are not allowed.
  • Some things are not meant to be touched.
  • Make sure your toddler or kid is well rested and fed. Otherwise, you’d end up with a cranky toddler and you won’t be able to tour the museum at your desired pace. (Well, it happened to Olivia. She ended up being cranky and fell asleep. My husband and I both ended up with arm muscle cramps because we alternately carried her in our arms).

5 Out of 5 Stars

This museum is highly recommended! It’s visually enthralling and a good knowledge booster at the same time. If you are a Binondo resident, don’t be a stranger to its rich history.

Forego your milk tea craving for a while, and invest your 150 pesos into something more worthy of your brain’s health. Go and visit Chinatown Museum now!

I am a wife to Francis and a mother to Olivia. I am an avid reader, but a frustrated writer. Maybe considered a millennial, but very much of a "manang".

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