Between the bustling alleys of Quiapo (Manila’s famous downtown) and Ermita (the primary tourist belt) lie the historic charms of Binondo, whose atmospheric shops and restaurants are the main hallmarks of this district famous for its ethnic Chinese community. Founded in 1594 as a permanent settlement for Chinese immigrants and rebuilt after World War II, this small enclave in Manila reached its heyday during the Spanish colonial period, when it was the economic and financial hub in Manila for the ethnic Chinese and the elite.

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Binondo is no less beguiling today. Many of the structures lining the main drag – Ongpin Street – feature vendors plying their wares and throngs of people going about their business through the narrow thoroughfare. This street, which starts at the Arch of Goodwill in front of Quiapo Church and stretches all the way to another church, the Binondo Church, is great for a weekend afternoon stroll, if only to take in the chaotic market vibe.

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Evenings are best spent in the newest landmark in the district, the Lucky Chinatown Mall, which was developed by the same guys responsible for Resorts World in Pasay and Eastwood City in Libis, Quezon City. The mall today provides a sanitized oasis in the midst of all the grit and grime of the area, and with hawker-style food stalls, it’s like going on a mini trip to Singapore’s Chinatown.

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Model: Maebel “Binondo Girl since birth” Chan

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