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DoT to rehabilitate Chinatown to bring back its good-old-days
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Lynda Valencia
Date: 2003-02-25
BINONDO (PNA) — The Department of Tourism (DoT) will rehabilitate Chinatown with the help of the officials and residents to bring back its good old days.

Tourism Secretary Richard J. Gordon toured the Chinatown particularly Binondo upon the invitation of Ma. Zenaida Angping, the wife of Congressman Harry C. Angping.

Gordon said that during the 1800’s “Ysla de Binondo” or the “Estableccimiento de San Gabriel” (Settlement of San Gabriel) was the largest town outside the Walls of Intramuros.

It was the commercial district of the “Provincia de Manila” and the residence of the Filipino elites and Chinese mestizo. As the center of business, it was the first suburb to have modern streets and house planning.

Gordon first went to Calle Ongping, where the famous President’s Restaurant, was located. Together with Mrs. Angping, Gordon tasted the sumptuous Chinese lunch that was prepared especially for him. The Restaurant was formerly the Confucius Theater where Chinese movies and cultural shows were shown.

Gordon told Angping that in order to bring back the good-old-days of the place, it should build new hotels, should restore/and or build historical landmarks, and should have many Chinese signages.

“Make this like Hong Kong – lively and vibrant. Look at Intramuros now. You should come and see Intramuros. We have transformed it into a place where there is so much things to see and experienced,” Gordon said.

Gordon also suggested to Angping she can formulate guidebooks and brochures indicating for example, the legend of Binondo, make paintings and temples; brochures on how the Chinese move during those years; on what makes RP-China relationship unique; and put markers, for example to Binondo Church.

He also went to the old commercial stores like Eng Bee Tin, noted for the best “hopia” and the La Resurreccion Chocolate, noted for its original chocolates.

Upon seeing the house of Antonio Luna, the Secretary was dismayed. The house, although had a landmark was in the state of disrepair. “This is a historical place and they should have rehabilitate this. Look at the ending, it was like it will fall down to pieces,” he said.

Gordon suggested that the place could be good for a restaurant. “It could be converted to a restaurant. The owner can renovate it or somebody can do the renovation but the owner can manage it.”

Upon entering Binondo, one can see the Arch of Solidarity, which is one of the five arches that surround Chinatown. It symbolizes the continuing friendship and goodwill between China and the Philippines.

One of the historical places inspected by Gordon was the Plaza Calderon de la Barca, a promenade fronting Binondo Church. It was named after the Spanish poet and playwright. The monument at the plaza, erected in 1924 is that of Joaquin Sta. Maria, who founded the La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory in 1863.

It was around the plaza that the international community, at that time maintained their residence. Hotel de Oriente, the hotel frequented by Dr. Jose Rizal, and international tourists also stood within the same area.

The Binondo Church was built in 1954, now known as the Basilica Minor del San Lorenzo Ruiz, in honor of the first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, a Chinese Sacristan, who was executed while doing religious mission in China.

The Church patron saint is the Nuestra Señora de Santisimo Rosario, hence, the street facing it was then known as Rosario, it is now named as Quintin Paredes street, a prominent Chinese businessmen.

Who can forget the Calle San Gabriel, the site of Dominican hospital built in 1587 dedicated to Saint Gabriel the Archangel. The old FNCB building, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and the El Hogar Filipino building, still stands in the site.

In Plaza Cervantes, the site of the century old Philippine Trust Building; the first Manila Stock Exchange building and the Philippine Airlines can be found.

Other historical places and streets are the Escolta, which is for over a hundred years the city’s elite shopping center. It is also the turnaround terminal of the Tramvia during that time.

The Calle Quintin Paredes, which used to house the wholesaler emporiums, banking establishments, first-class hotels and the offices of professionals (lawyers, doctors) whose doorbells are rang to gain attendance. Hence the expression “Abogado de Campanilla”.

Calle Pereira was where Teodora Alonzo lived after the execution of her son, national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal. It was also in that house that she kept the urn containing the remains of her son until 1912, when they were finally placed beneath his monument at the Luneta Park.

Calle Meisic is a Spanish stockade built as a hindrance to Chinese protest during the 1632 hamletting of local Chinese. It is now the current site of PNP’s precinct 11 and the PNP museum.

Also located here are Divisoria, the bargain shoppers paradise; Calle Azcarraga, near Divisoria area where the revolutionary secret society Katipunan, against Spain was founded; Calle Dasmariñas, the Chinatown’s wallstreet; Plaza de Sta. Cruz, fronting the Sta. Cruz Church where the famous Plaza Goite Cerube water fountain now stands; Calle Misericordia, the first red street of Manila, The site of the 185 year old Cross of Misericordia which still stands near the hole in a wall; Calle Florentino Torres, named after the famous Filipino painter. And the home of the Manila Timme Publishing house up to the early 80s.

Binondo is an island between two esteros. Estero de la Reina and Estero de Binondo. The village of Binondo sprang in the banks of the Pasig River, called Ysla de Binondo.

After 1570, Ysla de Binondo became part of the encomienda of Don Antonio Velada, a gift from Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, as a reward for his loyalty, during the forced takeover of Manila in 1570 by Spanish forces. In 1581, Governor General Gonzalo Ronquillo Peñalosa, afraid of the Chinese, rounded up the scattered communities of early Chinese migrants and forced them to settle at the Settlement of San Gabriel. They were forced to help in building the Walls of Intramuros.

To facilitate travel to the island, Spanish authorities built the Duente de Spaña bridge (Jones Bridge) in 1632. By law, all Chinese were compelled to reside in Ysla de Binondo, San Nicolas and Sta. Cruz. (PNA/Lynda Valencia)


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