New Museum focuses on the history of Binondo

By Michelle Anne P. Soliman  Phublished on June 12, 2019 | 12:06 am 

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A PRESENTATION of cigar and tobacco covers at the Chinatown Museum.

MANY OF the first pharmacies, theaters, and department stores in the City of Manila were found in the district of Binondo. Founded in 1594, the city had a pivotal role in international trade and the place of the world’s first Chinatown in this role is the focus of a new museum.

Megaworld Corp. has opened the country’s first cultural museum dedicated to Binondo, the Chinatown Museum, located in its Lucky Chinatown mall.

The museum has 18 galleries — four of which are dedicated to changing exhibitions — focusing on events that shaped the cultural, social, and economic life of Binondo, from its establishment as a settlement of Christianized Chinese, to the development of the area as a bustling commercial downtown of colonial Manila.

“Part of our company’s tourism initiatives is to integrate museum projects in its township development across the country,” said Tefel Pasigan-Valentino, vice-president and head for marketing and business development of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, during the museum’s launch on June 7.

Chinatown Museum is the second museum venture of Megaworld Corp. following the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art which opened last year. Future district museums are to follow in Mactan, Cebu, and Pampanga.

“As we build communities in different parts of the country, we want the future generations to understand and appreciate the culture and heritage of those places, thus we’re putting [museums in them] so that it will be a venue for people to interact,” Ms. Pasigan-Valentino added.

District museums are unique since they are site specific. “I think we need district museums because people have to know how the district began. What were the different achievements of the district? Who were the people who lived in the area before? That gives a better sense of urban pride,” Fernando Zialcita, professor of anthropology at Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and chief consultant for the Chinatown Museum, said.

The museum is recognized by the National Historical Commission and National Commission of Culture in the Arts as “a community space and heritage project that lends a visual retelling of the rich history of Binondo.”


From the 1600s to the 1800s, the city of Manila was known as the country’s commercial hub and the world’s crossroad. Binondo — located across city’s center, Intramuros, on the other side of the Pasig River — was home to many Chinese laborers and artisans which earned it the nickname “Chinatown.” According to the museum brochure, Binondo got its name from the word “binundok” due to its low hills.

“People think that Binondo is all commerce. May kwento rin ’yan. May kasaysayan (It has a story. It has history),” Mr. Zialcita said.