Binondo, also known as the Manila Chinatown, is a place to be if you like shopping or just plain strolling. From stalls where you can eat to stores where you can buy pasalubongs as well as different kinds of fruits and all kinds of herbal medicine, the jovial atmosphere will surely lure people to the place, alone or with company.
Known as the oldest Chinatown that ever existed, Binondo has been home to the Filipino-Chinese community since 1594. It was built by the Spaniards for the Chinese immigrants and their families. It is also rich in culture with its many landmarks like the Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz more popularly known as the Binondo Church and the scattered Chinese and Buddhist temples in the area.
Chinatown is also famous for the lucky charm stores spread throughout the place.
There are many kinds of feng shui memorabilia like amulets, bagua, bracelets, piggy bank, crystals, dragons and other animal figurines, incense and other stuff that you can buy to enhance good luck and health.
According to Juliet Cua, a Filipino-Chinese from Bulacan whose a frequent Binondo shopper, these charms serve as a sign of their optimism in life.
“I’m not much of a fan but my mother and father who are pure Chinese believe that disasters and bad luck can be averted with the help of these amulets,” she added.
Indeed, it is also very evident that Filipinos are into the same practice.
Concepcion Perez confessed that their house is plagued with feng shui pieces.
“My mother has been into buying them since her thirties and she also consulted a feng shui master when the house was renovated three years ago,” added Perez.
She speculated that this could be attributed to the media influence and the great exposure these charms get especially during the New Years.
Meanwhile, Dean Lozarie, a college student, said that it looks cool so he wanted a bracelet; in this case, he got black obsidian beads in line with his birth date.
What was also interesting is the ceremony that sellers do before they give the bracelet to the buyer and the reminders that they impart to them. One of those is to not let anyone wear the charm, or else, the luck will be transferred to them. It is also advisable that the bracelet be worn all the time.
According to the store assistant, the ceremony is actually what authenticates the charm. Unlike the ones that you can buy on malls and sidewalk vendors or in the local markets where you pay for it and then wear it.
I was about to buy one myself but was having doubts about it. According to the store assistant, one should not buy if he or she is having doubts.
“Lucky charm yan eh. Dapat sure ka or else malas (It is a lucky charm. You have to be sure or else it will be bad luck),” she added.
Bracelet prices range to as low as Php 150 up to Php 700 a piece depending on the stones.
Among the popular stores are Evergreat Enterprise and RBF Lucky Charm Store in Ongpin and Sunrise General Merchandising in Salazar Street.
Aside from the lucky charms that one can buy, there are also feng shui experts and Chinese astrologers in the area.
Our group tried one local reader in Masangkay Street however she does not speak English and Filipino and there was no translator available at that time.
One well-known feng shui adviser is Johnson Chua, owner of the Sunrise General Merchandising.
Whether it is plain curiosity or really for good fortune, one should not forget that these charms and feng shui advises are only guides but not a Bible that one should strictly follow.