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Five Ways to Celebrate the Chinese New Year In Manila

Fil-Chi Friendship Arch


I don’t normally celebrate the second new year in the Philippines, otherwise known as the celebration of the Chinese New Year. But this year, the celebration happens to fall on the birthday of one of my nieces. I was a kid once, and realizing that your birthday is also a holiday means you get to stay home from school, and celebrate without having to offset to the closest available weekend.

So I guess I’ll be celebrating CNY this year by seeing family! But for those of you who aren’t members of my clan, I’m sure you’re thinking of what you can work on next Monday. Perhaps some are going out of town, or staying in one of the nicer hotels in Manila for a staycation. There’s also the possibility that some of you work in a BPO and will have to work (and earn double!) on this day.

Those are all good plans, but in case you live, work, or are staying in Manila on February 8, 2016, then here are five nice things you can do to celebrate the coming year.

Go to Binondo. This is something of a no-brainer, really. Binondo is Manila’s Chinatown, and the oldest Chinatown in the world, so you know that this place is steeped in Fil-Chi culture. And while I haven’t been there to witness it myself—because I avoid places that attract throngs like the plague—I have heard that the celebrations of CNY here are pretty cool. You can hear mass at the local church, or go for a kalesa ride around the town. There’s plenty of things to do in Binondo!

Mehan garden lagoon
The Chinese Garden Lagoon

Visit the Chinese Garden. The Chinese Garden in Rizal Park is a pay-per-entry portion of the park. I am not sure if there are any celebrations planned during Chinese New Year here—you can probably expect a parade with a lion dance, if at all. But the real reason for visiting this place is that this place is a great spot for getting away from the rest of Manila. There’s a meditation area, complete with a statue of a Chinese philosopher (not sure if it’s Lao Tzu or Confucius), for those who want to take the opportunity to do some soul searching. And if this isn’t your cup of tea, you can just take a stroll around the park and enjoy the cultural representation of China in Manila. After all, that’s why these gardens were built. Check out some of these nice pictures of the gardens from Angelcent.

Go to Divisoria. Now Divi might not exactly be the best place to visit during CNY, especially since the place is already filled with people on a normal day. But if you’re not exactly looking for something, and you’re just trying to window shop, then there’s always something for everybody at Divisoria. The town holds some of the newer tiangge malls in Manila, such as 168 Mall, 999 Mall, and Lucky Chinatown, which can also serve as a respite from the bustle along the streets of the town proper. And there might even be a celebration or two in the streets, so you never know what you might encounter!

mami siopao ma mon luk
Ma Mon Luk's bestsellers.

Eat Chinese. This is probably a no-brainer for most of you. Chinese cuisine is virtually represented in all the cooking styles throughout the Philippines. In fact, some of the most common street foods—fish and squid balls, siomai, kikiam, and taho—are Chinese in origin, one way or the other. But while there are plenty of good Chinese places throughout the country, Manila is home to some of the oldest and the best Chinese restaurants in the Philippines. At the cheap end of the spectrum, we have restaurants like Ma Mon Luk and Ambos Mundos in Quiapo. Further down Recto, near the Arranque market you have the hole in the wall Wai Ying. And don’t even get me started on what you can find in Binondo proper! Here are ten of the best Chinese restaurants in Manila according to Yelp, if you can’t figure out where you’d like to eat.

Stay home and watch TV. This is a valid option. Seriously. Anybody who tells you otherwise can go to hell.

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