The Chinatown in downtown Manila has been dubbed as the oldest Chinatown in the world, due to the long trading history between the pre-colonial Filipinos and the Chinese. During my choral tour in Xiamen two years ago, we were told by the people from the Philippine Embassy that most of the Filipino-Chinese community in the Philippines had Fujian blood since the Fujian province is the nearest area to the Philippines, Northwestern part, to be specific.
Okay, enough of historical talk. Nowadays, the Manila Chinatown is frequently visited not only during the Chinese New Year. Netizens, specifically v-loggers (YouTubers who mostly do videos in reality TV show style), would troop there to do the so-called “Binondo Food Crawl” where they explore and review every restaurant in the area. Some of the frequently visited restaurants are Wai Ying (known for budget-friendly meals), New Toho Food Center (oldest restaurant in the Philippines, since the late 1800s), Sincerity (known for its fried chicken), Ongpin Mañosa, Estero (literally located near the creek), and many more. Hopia from either Eng Bee Tin or Ho-Land is one of the delicacies available in the area. For those wanting to try cooking one of the Chinese dishes at home, Arranque market at the corner of Recto and Teodora Alonzo St. has everything in store, from Sea Cucumbers to Chinese Cabbage to even various types of mushrooms such as Shiitake and Black Mushrooms.
While Japanese restaurants are widely located across the Metro, the most authentic ones are located in Little Tokyo, a small restaurant hub located in Makati. It has likewise became the main setting for the music video of Soapdish band’s 2006 song, “Tensionado”.
While Kikufuji and Seryna remain as the most popular restaurants in the complex, the Yamazaki grocery is known for its budget-friendly meals. Seikyo (formerly Choto Stop) is known for its budget-friendly grocery items with an average price of 88 pesos per item.
In the early to mid-2000s, Tagalog-dubbed Korean dramas such as “Endless Love” (starred by Choi Ji Woo 최지우), “Lovers in Paris” (starred by Kim Jung Eun 김정은 and Lee Dong Gun 이동건), “Save The Last Dance for Me” (starred by Eugene 유진), and “Jewel in the Palace” started to be broadcast on Philippine television which later topped the TV ratings. Former 2NE1 member Sandara Park 박산다라 likewise dominated the Filipino talent search, “Star Circle Quest”. However, it was only in the late 2000s when Filipinos got to have a dose of Korean culture in Koreatowns established around the metro.
I first encountered Korean expatriates back in high school at St. Scholastica’s College. I noticed that they consistently excel in Math and Science. They likewise have stellar skills in piano playing which I have likewise encountered as a student in the UP College of Music.
Going back to Metro Manila’s Koreatowns, the one in Makati, specifically in the Barangay Poblacion area near Rockwell, is the most popular since most of the Korean restaurants are located there, such as Min Sok and Dong Won. Malate, which used to be the hub for Manila’s nightlife scene, has become another microcosm of Korean culture not only because of the existence of numerous restaurants (i.e. Chosun, Korean Village, Korean Palace, Makchang) and grocery stores. Most of the Korean expatriates are also studying in the nearby schools, especially in the De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines Manila. Don Antonio Heights in Quezon City has likewise became a partially Korean community, due to the number of Korean residents. Some of my Korean classmates from the UP College of Music live there.