Manila joins Lunar New Year celebrations

Reuters

Posted at Feb 10 2013 04:25 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2013 10:13 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- Hundreds of Filipinos trooped to Manila's Chinatown on Sunday to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Firecrackers echoed along the narrow streets as crowds packed in to watch the festivities welcoming the year of the water snake.

Crowds watched street performers do traditional lion and dragon dances in front of business establishments in the belief that it will bring good luck and drive away evil spirits.

Some bought snake figurines and trinkets from street hawkers to bring them luck in the new year.

Fengshui expert Helen Ong, who's based in Singapore, said the Year of the Snake would be a time to focus on continuing issues.

"Like I said, whatever was not finished last year will actually continue this year. Whether it's political issues, legal issues, scandals, problems, you know that was not resolved, they will be brought forward this year. So you'll actually see a kind of similar stuff happening," she said.

Chinese-Filipinos in Manila also went to a nearby Catholic shrine and offered prayers and incense sticks, signifying a blend in Hispanic-Chinese traditions dating back to the 17th Century. Some flocked to a nearby Buddhist temple and offered prayers of thanksgiving.

Chinese-Filipino company employee Patricia Mejia was optimistic that this year will bring more prosperity.

"There's a lot of positivity this year and we in the Chinese-Filipino community know that our relations will grow stronger here in the Philippines," she said.

Teacher Raquel Guerra prayed that the Chinese-Filipino relationships will not be strained further with the ongoing territorial rift in the South China Sea.

"I hope whoever wants to own the disputed islands should give way since I think in the map it is for the Philippines," she said.

Tensions sparked between China and the Philippines last year when Beijing made aggressive claims on a group of Islands in the South China Sea thought to hold untapped oil and gas reserves, which prompted by a series of diplomatic protest by Manila and other claimant countries.

Manila has one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world, dating back to 1594 when the Chinese traveled to the Philippines for trade.

Chinese Filipinos are the largest ethnic group in the Philippines, with over 1.5 million of the 94 million population have Chinese heritage.