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Chinatown Museum: A Closer Look at the Old Binondo

Chinatown Museum

Located inside the Lucky Chinatown Mall along Binondo, Manila, the Chinatown Museum is a must-visit museum in the Philippines. The museum holds the histories of Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown, with stories to tell from the 1500s up to the present time.

Chinatown museum features 18 galleries that focuses on various influences and historical events that shaped Binondo’s social, cultural, economic, political, and religious thread. The museum’s visual narrative brings alive the rich and colorful history of Binondo.

Address: 4th floor, Lucky Chinatown Building A, Reina Regente St. Binondo Manila

Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10 AM – 6 PM

Ticket price: Regular visitor P 150.00, Students, P 100.00 and Senior Citizens, P 120.00

The museum has its very own mobile app to make the tour educational, and at the same time entertaining especially to this generation’s visitors. For the not so techie visitors, there are museum guides to assist you in downloading and operation of the mobile app.

Museum app guide:

  • Connect: Make sure to connect to the museum wifi to unlock app features
  • Explore: Walk around the museum and use the app as your tour guide
  • Interact: Make sure to turn on your bluetooth, your device will trigger a notification when a gallery is nearby
  • Scan: You may scan QR code in each gallery around the museum for further information.
  • Discover: View more information about galleries, topic, photos and videos on the app.

The museum app is available on Google Play for Android users and the Apple store of iOS users. The customized app will provide easy access to the museum’s gallery information for a fun and interactive museum tour. It uses Bluetooth technology and a QR code that allows real-time delivery of information.

Chinatown museum app

Here are some of the highlights of the museum:

Figures of Faith

Binondo Church played an important part of the Chinatown history. The church was originally built in 1594 when Binondo was the center of spiritual ministry for the Christianize Chinese in Manila. Binondo Church was founded by the Dominican, with the mission to convert Chinese to Catholism.

Shop houses

The museum tell stories about the birth of trade and industry in the Philippines. The Alcaiceria de San Fernando gallery, a market area where merchants used to trade products, like textiles, housewares, and other commodities.

As a historical business district, Binondo is a place where major industries can be found like tobacco, distillery and banking.

Displays of dried Tobacco will bring you a whiff of the past, while wine barrels and other products can be touched for an up close and personal encounter of our ancestor’s past time.

Since Binondo was known to be the first central business hub, the museum exhibited preserved banknotes from the first three banks that were established in the country between the 1850s to 1880s. The country’s first three banks are, El Banco Espanol-Filipino de Isabel II (BPI today), Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (Chartered Bank today), and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC).

I was able to take a glimpse of the past by reading pages and news headlines of the preserved newspaper collection of the museum.

When I think of Binondo, the first thing that comes to my mind is the food. Yes, famous restaurants here served gastronomic delights, that will satisfy one’s Chinese food cravings. I was able to visit the early panaderia that sells authentic Chinese delicacies like hopia, siopao, mooncake, and a lot more.

Flavors of Binondo- known to be the food hub that blends Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish culinary influences.

The district of Binondo housed a number of local boticas (pharmacy) from Traditional Chinese Medicine to Western Medicine. These pharmacies sold powdered and herbal concoctions for medicinal cures.

Visitors are allowed to touch, sniff, and hold some items in the gallery for a fully immersive experience.

Common herbs include goji berries, peony, saffron and oregano, with emphasis on herbal medicine from traditional Chinese medicine. To prevent diseases, practitioners balance forces through herbal dietary prescriptions in the form of broth, powders and pills.

Another impressive display was the replica of the Tranvia. I never thought that we used to have this kind of public transportation in Manila. It is a streetcar provided for Manila residents during the late 19th century in Binondo. The first five lines interchanged at Binondo Plaza. It used to travel around Intramuros, Sampaloc, Malate and Tondo.

Now, this is the cool part, visitors can sit and take photos while inside the Tranvia. This space is Instagram worthy for this generation’s visitors.

A scale model of a horse drawn Tranvia

Overall, it was fun and educational on my part, since I am not so much informed about Binondo History. It is not just what they call Instagrammable place but also a good learning reference of Filipino-Chinese culture.

Thank you for reading!

God bless always!

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