MANILA, March 28, 2006
 (MANILA TIMES) BIZZFIZZ By Rene Martel - IT’S the sort of news that is sure to get wizened old timers in Binondo noodle shops spluttering into their congee. A new Chinatown is about to rise a good distance away from the district, which has been the traditional home in the Philippines of the Chinese business community since time immemorial (though some Chinoys might argue that it’s even longer!).

Mention the word Chinatown and it immediately conjures thoughts of temples and pagodas, red lanterns, crowded restaurants and bustling market places, not to mention bearded old men in navy shorts seated idly by doorways picking their teeth and nose!

In Manila, hitherto Chinatown was unquestionably Binondo—where many Filipino Chinese live and run their businesses, where horse-drawn carriages still ply the narrow alleys, where people go to savor authentic Chinese cuisine, search for mysterious herbal medicines and shop for cheap mainland China manufactured (or plagiarized?) products.

But the new generation of Filipino-Chinese does not refer to the district as Chinatown. They oftentimes refer to it as Ongpin, perhaps the most popular street in this Chinese macro-community.

A group of second- and third-generation Chinese-Filipino businessmen have now thought of a brilliant idea: create a new Chinatown that will be as authentic as the real thing across the South China Sea, comprising a shopping complex that will combine business and trade with social and leisure activities.

More significantly, the group, chaired by Filipino-Chinese business magnate Guillermo “Gemo” Chutick, hopes to leave a legacy of cultural ownership and pride for the subsequent generations of Filipino Chinese. Not surprisingly, the place will be called Neo Chinatown.

“Everything started with a dynamic concept, and the right people and partners came in one by one until we found ourselves so engrossed with this project,” enthuses Gemo. “The choice of the site—Aseana Business Park along Diosdado Macapagal Avenue—just happened when the right connections came along. It’s a stone’s throw away from the soon-to-open Mall of Asia.”

Six clusters will comprise Neo Chinatown, each distinct in what wares are offered, but all in synch with the “Chinese concept and feel” that the owners envision the new place to be. Negotiations are ongoing with mainland Chinese investors who are eager to set up authentic Chinese restaurants in the complex, with Chinese chefs and food experts from Szechuan, Xiamen and Shanghai to be based here as culinary expatriates.

Most important is the strategic location that boasts of wide-open spaces, the soothing breeze from Manila Bay and, an important consideration for dedicated shoppers, a spacious parking area.

When maverick young architect Mark Steven Ong, a graduate of Pratt Institute in New York with a master’s degree in urban design, thought of the look he will give Neo Chinatown, he considered not only space and design but also the people the place wants to attract.

“Since the Chinese give a lot of importance to balance, I had to take into consideration the symmetry of art and aesthetics, substance and style, function and form,” he explains. Words which would probably elicit inscrutable stares were they to be uttered in Binondo.

This early many in the Filipino Chinese community are awaiting excitedly for the unfolding of Neo Chinatown—and the revival of a culture so rich in heritage and history, and establishing a new legacy that hopefully will endure.

For more information on Neo Chinatown call telephone 243-2669, or mobile 0917 5081128. E-mail: neochinatown@gmail.com


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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