Rappler: The New Chinatown Museum in Binondo

THE STORY OF CHINATOWN. Binondo's history comes alive in the Chinatown Museum. Photo by Amanda Lago/Rappler
THE STORY OF CHINATOWN. Binondo's history comes alive in the Chinatown Museum. Photo by Amanda Lago/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Said to be one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world, Binondo in Manila has a long, fascinating history – though one that often takes a backseat to the district's other attractions: the food and the Instagram-worthy colors.

But Binondo's rich history now gets its fair share of the spotlight at a newly-opened museum, located inside a place many Filipinos will be familiar with: a mall. In this case, it's Lucky Chinatown Mall on Binondo's Reina Regente Street.

Lucky Chinatown is in many ways your standard Filipino shopping mall, with its coffee shops and restaurants, foreign clothing stores, and throngs of mallgoers enjoying the bright lights and air conditioning. But on the 4th floor of one of its buildings, you can find the Chinatown Museum, which houses 18 galleries that tell the history of Binondo – from its founding in 1594 to its glory days as the country's central business district.

The museum makes use of multimedia displays to tell the story of Binondo's earliest settlers, and to illustrate its development through the years. It also has several interactive tableaus where visitors can take photos and tinker with some of the items on display.

According to museum manager Janine Cabato, they made sure that the galleries were worthy of photo-ops, keeping in mind Instagram-connected museum-goers.

"It's more of edutainment because we understand that museums' growth now, it's not only about knowledge and about education, but it's really more about what is Instagrammable," she said at a press conference. "So if you see the galleries, we made sure that you can easily sit down, take a few photos, and interact with the gallery itself."

The Botica de San Fernando gallery, for instance, has pharmacy drawer filled with various medicinal herbs that visitors can sniff as they read about what the herbs are good for. The Panaderia section of the Shophouses gallery has various kitchen tools that one can take a closer look at.