Binondo is now above all the Chinese quarter of Manila, which moved at the end of the 16th century from the old ghetto of Parian just outside the back side of Intramuros to the less restricted area beyond the river. At that time the Chinese population was already considerable: it has now reached more than 400,000 in Manila and over a million in the country as a whole. As in other parts of South-East Asia, the Chinese are active in trade and business, adapting themselves to every regime and every situation, and they have left an unmistakable mark on the way of life and customs of the Philippines.
In this maze of narrow streets Ongpin Street, Carvajal Street, Teodora Alonzo Street (named after Jose Rizal’s mother), Rosario Street (spanned by an arch symbolising Chinese-Filipino friendship), Arranque Market, etc. the best way to get about is on foot or in a calesa (buggy). Everywhere are grocers’ shops selling Chinese delicacies, jewellers’ shops and Chinese restaurants. Here visitors can sample a typically Chinese rice-cake (tikoy).
Near Ongpin Street, in Plaza de la Basco, is the late 16th century. Binondo Church, built by Dominicans for the Chinese converts who had come to live in these parts. As restored since the war, it is a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture, with its octagonal tower and, in the interior, a beautiful retablo.