Street Snapping in the World’s Oldest and Largest Chinatown


If you’re a film photographer who gets thrilled with the chaos of Manila’s streets, Binondo is most likely on your list of places to shoot, if not already one of your favorites. Bustling with activity and bursting with colorful corners, it’s a spot that has earned the distinction of being a street photographers’ haven.

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The fact that you’ll be snapping away in the world’s oldest and largest Chinatown makes it an easy choice for a day-long photo walk. The mishmash of scenes may be a lot to take in at first, but take everything in stride, be on the look-out for interesting elements, and keep your eyes peeled for the so-called “decisive moment” and you’ll nail some shots in no time.

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Begin your stroll at the Arch of Goodwill in Ongpin St. where you’ll get a preview of the hustle Chinatowns around the world are known for: shopping for Chinese goods, gold jewelry, trinkets, and cheap finds. The streets and alleys from here on are also dotted by Asian mini marts and fruit and vegetable stands, which add some variety to the shopping scenes you can photograph.

One more thing that Binondo is never short of is great food. Restaurants and deli shops are scattered around the district, some of which make for interesting settings and back drops for your street snaps. You can watch chefs making hand-pulled noodles by the kitchen window, people queuing outside a famous fried siopao stand, and the quintessential roast ducks and seafood aquariums on display, to name a few.

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With our very own Chinatown being a sprawl instead of a mere street, there’s a lot of ground to cover, which means plenty of opportunities to get those winning snaps. Best time to go? Chinese New Year, of course, if you can brave the crowd and fireworks setting off every few meters. Whatever time of the year you’re going, bring enough films, plenty of patience, a budget for stuffing yourself full of tasty Chinese treats, sharp observation skills, and perhaps a refresher of your favorite street photography books, and you’re all set.

Joy Celine Asto

A budding writer, aspiring photographer, and part-time traveler from Manila. Finds bliss in exploring the world around her and documenting them in photos and stories. Runs on caffeine, lives on books, savors good music, and thrives in everything creative. Also a full-time cat-mom.