Away for the Weekend: Exploring the streets of Binondo

The sweltering heat, the halo-halo stalls and the dry, monsoon winds – summer season is officially here! I actually have mixed feelings about summer. I love the fact that it’s not wet but i also hate it because you sweat a lot. However, what I think is truly charming about summer is the fact that it warrants you the opportunity to go on limitless adventures.

This year, I began my summer adventure with a trip to Binondo, the old business district of Manila. I have long wanted to go to Binondo to take a photo of the church and, of course, sample authentic Chinese cooking.

I excitedly took out my camera as we went down in front of Binondo Church. However, my excitement was quickly replaced with disappointment because my SLR was acting up. The LCD kept on displaying an error message. I attempted to remedy the problem – I turned it off, then on again, I took out the battery, I removed the lens, cleaned the contact points then put the lens back again – to no avail. After a few attempts, I was finally able to take one photo of Binondo Church. After that, I couldn’t take shots again so I just gave up.

Binondo Church

From Binondo Church, we decided to walk all the way to Sta. Cruz Church and pass through Ongpin St. As we began traversing Ongpin St., we were immediately tempted to try the first restaurant we saw – Tasty Dumplings. As mentioned earlier, I have long wanted to try Chinese food in Binondo because of all the delicious stories I hear about these.

We ordered steamed meat dumplings and one big bowl of mushroom ball noodles. The noodles were served but we were disappointed to find out that it was soup-based. We thought that we ordered pancit. Apparently, you had to explicitly say to the waiter that you are ordering pancit, else, they’ll immediately assume that it’s noodle soup (or mami style). We took a sip of the soup and it was good – tasty and meaty.

Mushroom ball soup
Steamed dumplings

Then came the six-piece steamed dumplings. These looked absolutely like gyoza. I prepared the dipping sauce – soy sauce, chili-garlic (the restaurant uses green chili) and…no calamansi? I asked for calamansi but the waiter informed me that what they had was only vinegar. Vinegar-soy-chili sauce for dumplings? That didn’t sound too appetizing so we just settled for soy sauce-chili combination.

I couldn’t wait for my first bite so I dipped my first dumpling in the sauce and put it in my mouth. It didn’t taste anything like the Chinese dumplings I was expecting. It tasted like gyoza. Again, utterly disappointing. The wrapper was thick and was starchy…too starchy. As for the noodles, we were met with more disappointment as the noodles were also very starchy. The mushroom balls, on the other hand, tasted more like squid balls. After a few more bites and some experimentation with the sauce, we decided to just have the remaining food wrapped and gave it to a lady beggar outside the store. 

Feeling frustrated, we went to Eng Bee Tin to buy hopia. I bought two combinations: one of ube and pastillas and another of ube and cheese.We ate the hopia monggo as we walked along Ongpin St.

A few moments later, we arrived at Sta. Cruz Church. We were hesitant to take photos of the Church because of some “suspicious-looking” people outside the church so we decided not to.

From Sta. Cruz Church, we took a jeep to Intramuros. We immediately headed to the Manila Cathedral and took photos. I tried my camera again and, luckily, I was able to capture a few pictures of Manila Cathedral.

Manila Cathedral

Of course, our outing will not be complete without a visit to Luneta. A few walks around Luneta and a stroll around the spruced up relief map of the Philippines, then we decided to head back to La Loma for dinner. We originally planned to eat at Eat Fresh but, unfortunately, it was already closed when we got there. So off we went to Chic Boy where we had grilled liempo, chicken inasal, grilled eggplants and green mango salad.

It was already very late when we finished dinner so we said our goodbyes soon after.