Binondo, Manila – The Oldest Chinatown in the World

Bridge of Binondoc in Manila, early 1800s

History in My Midst

I was born and raised in Manila. And when I was little, I remember we lived in Binondo. But then as I entered elementary school we moved to a farther place where I grew up for most of my life. However, we have since gone back to living in Binondo for almost twenty years now. My daughter is born here and has been raised here as well. She is what I will truly call a Binondo girl.

We actually know it’s one of the oldest places, but I never really paid much attention to its historical extent until I did this post. Read on and discover Binondo, Manila — the oldest chinatown in the world. You might get that chance to travel to Manila. If so, I hope that you don’t pass up the chance of visiting Binondo.

The b & w photo above is the original Jones Bridge. It had the caption that read “Bridge of Binondoc in Manila, early 19th century. Original caption: Pont de Binondoc √† Manille. From Aventures d’un Gentilhomme Breton aux iles Philippines by Paul de la Gironi√®re, published in 1855.”

Jones Bridge

Seen here is the Jones Bridge. You can reach Binondo via this historical bridge.


Once hailed as Manila’s queen of the bridges, Jones Bridge has since been reconstructed at least twice, once in 1916 by the American Colonial Government and again in 1945, when it was destroyed by the bombs of World War II.

This bridge connects the district of Binondo on Quintin Paredes Street (formerly called Calle Rosario) with the center of Manila. It also connects Intramuros, another historical place, to Binondo. Today, it is one of the busiest streets leading to the district.

Jones Bridge was named after William Atkinson Jones, the principal author of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916.

If you have seen the movie, The Bourne Legacy, some motorcycle chase scenes were shot at the Jones Bridge. Too bad I didn’t get a chance to watch the filming.

The Arch


As you enter Binondo from Jones Bridge, you will come upon this arch, called the Filipino – Chinese Friendship Arch. It is a recognition of the long-term relations between the early Filipinos and the early Chinese migrants who settled here to do business in the early days.

According to history, Binondo was created as a permanent settlement for Chinese immigrants who converted to Catholicism by the then Spanish Governor Luis Perez Dasmarinas in 1594. There is a Dasmarinas Street a block from the featured arch. (Now I know where the name came from.)

Binondo is just across the river from the famous walled city of Intramuros, the seat of the old Spanish government. Spanish Dominican priests made Binondo their parish, converting many of the residents to Catholicism. Binondo Church, also known as the Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz — the first Filipino saint, was founded by the Dominican priests in 1596. The church in itself has its fair share of history. (See photo below)

Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz

Today, the Filipino – Chinese community has grown tremendously from the old days. Plus, Filipino – Chinese businessmen are considered to be quite prominent and influential in the country’s overall business climate. The Chinese New Year is now also considered as one of the special holiday celebrations in the country.

Plus, Binondo is more bustling as ever with the addition of Ramada Manila Central and the Lucky Chinatown Mall.

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