By Joseph Almer Pedrajas 

Red lanterns, lucky charms, round fruits, Chinese food, and other lucky holiday decorations filled the streets of Chinatown in Binondo, Manila as members of the Filipino-Chinese community welcome the Lunar New Year.

24012020 chinese new copy 1400x967 - Fil-Chinese community welcomes year of the Metal Rat

Passersby take a selfie along a huge lighting lantern Year of the Rat 2020 in Binondo Plaza Manila as part of the decoration to celebrate the Chinese New Year 2020. (Photo by Manny Llanes / MANILA BULLETIN)

Banners bearing the words “Kiong Hee Huat Tsai,” Fookien for Happy New Year or Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) are hung all over Chinatown.

The Filipino-Chinese communities will be welcoming the year of the Metal Rat, which is seen as a sign of wealth and surplus.

People flocked to various shops for the staples that need to be placed on the dining table — fruits, meats, desserts, and round and sweet treats.

Miller San Jose, 45, was carrying boxes of Chinese food including 10 boxes of “tikoy” (nian gao).

“It is our first time to celebrate Chinese New Year,” he told the Manila Bulletin.

“It is for our new business, to have a good one,” added San Jose, who shopped for “tikoy” with his wife.

Outside the Chinatown Mall on Reina Regente Street, a Buddhist temple was set up for people to pay their respect and make their wishes known to the gods.

“Miao de Chan temple is a Buddhist temple. We [put] the Buddha outside for people to light the incense on Chinese New Year,” Go Suy Leng, Miao de Chan Temple secretary said.

According to Go, worshippers usually light an incense on Chinese New Year’s eve as this is deemed important to bring luck to their lives. Buddhists believe that lighting the first incense of the year can make one’s wish come true.

“The first thought that comes to your mind should be something that is good. To purify your mind,” she said.

“My wish for this year is for everyone to purify their mind, have good thought, good words, and good action,” she added.

Lucky charms also abound to usher in prosperity and happiness – Prosperity Tree and Wealthy Mongoose Rat, which is for wealth and prosperity; Fortune Bamboo, which determines the kinds of energy the plant will attract to your home and life; and various kinds of golden Buddha.

Maxima Tiu, owner of a lucky charms store in Ongpin Street said that most of her customers are looking for lucky charms with a rat design, including coin purses.

On Narra Street, Joan Oracio, 24, is selling bundles of rice stalks.

“They [Chinese] are hanging these rice stalks in their windows and doors. They believe it’s for wealth,” said Oracio, who got the business from his grandfather and mother.

In front of Seng Guan Temple, also on Narra Street, Lily Carreon, 47, sells thousands of small maya birds (sparrow).

She said, she has been in the business for about 32 years and has been able to send all her seven children to school because of this.

“After praying inside the temple, my customers would buy birds from me. They would buy some 20 birds. The least is five,” she said. “They would make a wish first before letting them fly.”

“They believe that their wish would come true as the birds carry their wishes,” added Carreon, who has been able to sell one to two thousands of maya every Chinese New Yeae.

A fireworks display would welcome the year of the Metal Rat at Jones Bridge by 10:30 p.m. on Friday while a Chinese New Year concert at Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, in front of Binondo Church preceded it.

The Lucky Chinatown Mall carries the theme: Fly high to new beginnings.

On Saturday afternoon, a grand parade will be held from the Post Office to Lucky Chinatown Mall, the Manila police bared. Lion and dragon dances are also scheduled.

As thousands of Filipino-Chinese are expected to join, local officials of Binondo advised those who are not feeling well to stay indoors due to threats of the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV).

“As a preventive measure, we advise that if you’re not feeling well, don’t go out. Avoid joining the crowd and wear face masks,” Johnny Sy, chairman of Barangay 297, said on GMA News.

Jeric Tee, chairman of Barangay 298, said that “no constituent had asked about the coronavirus.”

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said on Thursday that the local government would be distributing over 100,000 face masks to its residents as precautionary measure.

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