Monday, June 30, 2014

Chio Sai Siong Hong Kong Temple 石狮城皇公廟 in Manila Chinatown

Chinese New Year celebrations in Manila Chinatown have become extremely crowded, commercial, and in a way, adulterated – with the unwelcome aswangs, drag queens and ati-atihan groups going around and asking for money (they are obviously out of place); sometimes, I lose motivation to experience the festivities. But I was pleasantly surprised that outside Chinese New Year, there are other colorful celebrations in Binondo, Manila, such as temple feasts, if you know when and where to look for them (dates change with the lunar calendar too).

One of them is at the Chio Sai Siong Hong Kong Temple 石狮城皇公廟 where they celebrate annually the "birthday" of the Taoist deity Siong Hong Kong 城皇公, whose devotion originates from Chio Sai or Shishi City in Fujian, China. I realized San Fernando, Pampanga also has its own Jeosay Shinhongkong Temple meaning the forebearers who brought the images to the Philippines may have come from the same hometown.

So on Araw ng Maynila (good thing it was a holiday, no traffic), we were in Binondo first thing in the morning to watch a colorful procession leave the temple, go through the streets of Binondo and Santa Cruz, and return to the temple on Tomas Pinpin Street. It had all the makings of a community celebration without any trace of commercial advertising. Rather than brave the crowds on Chinese New Year, fight for space to watch the lion and dragon dances, or jostle for limited seats in our favorite restaurants, this was perfect! No tourists taking selfies here!

Fireworks announced the start of the procession. It was led by the temple banners, followed by the first carroza (yes, a Catholic carroza borrowed from the Binondo Church) with several Taoist deities with sampaguita leis. The drum and lyre band of Philippine Sun Yat Sen High School came after. It was quite amusing hearing the band play "Happy Birthday" every now and then for Siong Hong Kong.

Performing in the middle of the procession were lion and dragon dances.

Devotees bearing on their shoulders the century-old image of Santo Siong Hong Kong 城皇公 on a small wooden platform then followed. Everyone was in red!

At the end of the procession was yet another Catholic carroza with two Taoist deities, one of them Hu Din Ma. You could definitely see the fusion between different cultures here in the Philippines.

Back at the temple, the images were brought inside one by one beginning with Siong Hong Kong. They seemed to follow a particular order of entrance into the temple. Candies and coins were thrown for good luck. And the community partook of cha mi sua or misua guisado once the ceremonies were over.

Thank you to Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks for letting me know about this! Since the celebration follows the lunar calendar, dates vary every year.
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