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Monday, January 23, 2012

Experiencing Chinese New Year in Binondo (for the 1st time!)


Some say that my small eyes make me look Chinese.  In fact, when I was sent to China for work, some of the locals have always mistaken me to be just like them.  They kept on talking to me in Mandarin :).  However, although my mom's ancestors have a little Spanish lineage as well, I still consider myself  more than100% Filipino.  That doesn't mean though that I don't value the Chinese influence in the Filipino culture.  Of course I do, especially when I took Mandarin classes (although Fookien is the one most spoken in the Philippines) a few years back when I finally appreciated the value of their traditions, which I never paid attention before.

And with my interest and curiosity for the Chinese custom, I actually have planned at the start of the year (during my personal goal setting session) that I'll celebrate Chinese New Year this time around!

A few weeks back, I was asking around who were interested to join me or who among our Chinoy (Filipino Chinese) friends celebrate new year in Binondo (Philippines' China Town).  And again, there was no one as excited as me.  I guess I just have to face it that my kind, the culture junkie, is really rare haha :D.  'But heaven and earth reconciled and made something even more special for me.  I was tasked to be part of the grand new year celebration of the country's largest and leading insurance company Philam Life!  My wish was simple, just to witness a Chinese New Year in Binondo but what was given to me was even something bigger, something more spectacular, something more captivating!

Philam Life traditionally celebrates Chinese New Year as a gesture of solidarity and respect to one of the Filipino-Chinese community’s most important traditions. And aside from that, the event also signifies Philam Life’s Chinese heritage as AIA, its mother company,which  traces its roots back to China.

So as we did an ocular check, I finally witnessed the preparations being made before the start of the new year.

People look for charms for themselves or as gifts.

This is my first time to see gabi and luya in red ribbon!  :)

It's Tuneknek's first time in Binondo so please permit us to share this pic.  :)

We got hungry while doing our Chinese New Year preps.  So to let these two folks experience authentic Binondo cuisine, we had lunch at the volunteer firemen's dining place - Cafe Mezzanine!

By the way, we also got from Chinese that we should have round fruits during New Year to attract prosperity.  And here in Binondo, it's just like a fruit festival before the Chinese New Year!

And as event time comes nearer, streets became more crowded and lines at stores became longer, but I still enjoyed that experience.  For the first time, I felt the excitement of how Chinoys celebrate the Chinese New Year!

Mother Hen holding the giant siopao in Ho-Land shop.

Tikoy is the icon of the Chinese New Year celebration!

And come event time, there's the much awaited dragon dance parade!

Bikers joined the parade!

Miss Chinatown or Chinese Philippines graced the celebration.

This time around, the lion and the dragon became the Jollibee mascot!  :D

The beat of the band's music was festive, it made everyone excited.

Dancer getting ready for the Lion Dance.

Enter the Dragon!

This year is among Philam Life’s grandest celebrations as it unveiled one of the biggest dragons --- 350-feet long with a 3-foot diameter --- that welcomed the Year of the Water Dragon in the Philippines. The giant dragon led guests to a parade from the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch at the foot of Jones Bridge to the main roads of Binondo including Quintin Paredes, Ongpin, Alonzo, Soler, Padilla and Dasmariñas before going back to the arch.

And the dragon eye dotting ceremony...

The parade culminated with a special program that was held along Quintin Paredes Street facing the Philam Life office. This began with Philam Life President Mr. Rex Mendoza performing the ‘eye-dotting’ ceremony for the dragon and lion dance heads that symbolizes the animal’s “awakening” or “coming alive” before being used for performances to bring good luck and prosperity to all that it encounters. “We see prosperity in the year of the Dragon. The Dragon has always been perceived as the most preferred sign in the Chinese Zodiac. It is associated with power, excellence and nobility, attributes that Philam Life also represents with its six decades of market leadership, financial stability and solid track record of delivering its promises and long heritage of nation-building pushing forward the country’s development,” says Mendoza.

The event was also a perfect opportunity to feature Philam Life’s new corporate colors and office signage. Previously blue and green, it now uses a dynamic and vibrant red shade as a reference to its affiliation with the AIA Group.

And the release of the 500 balloons!

Five hundred wishes written on paper and tied to 500 red balloons which were released to the sky by Philam Life to welcome the Year of the Water Dragon. Originally, the plan was to release lanterns but due to safety concerns, balloons were used instead.  The releasing of the balloons symbolizes how Philam Life is committed to being an instrument in empowering the Filipino to achieve their “sanas,” dreams, and aspirations. The wishes, dreams or “sana” stories were submitted through the company’s microsite anongplanomo.com.ph. “At Philam Life, we don’t just wish for prosperity --- we empower Filipinos to achieve it,” shares President and CEO Rex A. Mendoza.
And then right after the release of the balloons, there's the dragon dance again and fireworks!
And of course, the night was capped with Chinese cuisine for dinner...

And thematic giveaways!

Our heritage has been enriched with our interaction from different cultures, and one of which is from our Chinese brothers and sisters.   'But with or without linkage, I appreciate the cultural contributions of China not only to the Philippines but to the world.  For sure you'll agree with me that our world would never be the same without pancit, dimsum, yangchow, porcelain wares, fireworks, the panda bear, Yao Ming and Zhang Ziyi, among many others!  :)

Here are some more of our pics during the celebration!  :)

And with that, I greet all of you Xinnian Kuaile!  Kung Hei Fat Choi!  Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!  Here's to a prosperous 2012!  :)

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