Saturday, July 21, 2007

Manila Chinatown - Photos of Ongpin Street and Binondo Church

Located at Plaza Calderon de la Barca, Binondo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo, was founded by the Dominican Friars in 1596. It has sustained considerable damage over the centuries from earthquakes and other natural disasters, as well as from fierce bombings during World War II. It wasn’t until 1972 that it was restored, but the octagonal bell tower and some foundations remain of the original 16th century structure, which is typical of colonial Spanish architecture. Today, its maintenance is largely funded by the members of the Catholic Chinese community; most reside and operate business establishments in the area.

Binondo, an hacienda once like Makati, is an island between two estuaries or esteros — Estero de la Reina and Estero de Binondo. The village of Binondo sprang in the banks of the Pasig River, and was once called Ysla de Binondo. It was already a hub of Chinese commerce even before Martin de Goiti and his men forcibly took over Manila in 1570 from its Muslim kings.

Two years before this church was built, in 1594, the Spaniards gave the land to the Catholic Chinese tax-free and Binondo was established with limited self-governing privileges. This was to encourage their loyalty to Spain while keeping them culturally at a distance. Nonetheless, just across the Pasig River, from the gated walls of Intramuros, the Spaniards aimed the range of their cannons at this Chinese enclave in case of an uprising.

The Galleon Trade ensued thereafter which sailed between Manila and Acapulco and linked the Chinese junk trading system to Mexico and to the rest of Europe. For 250 years, galleons sailed 9000 nautical miles. When the Spaniards settled in the country, more Chinese came.