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Meet the little dragon and lion dancer of Binondo

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2018 07:16 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2018 11:35 AM

MANILA -- For many Chinese-Filipino families, the Chinese New Year is one, if not the most, important of customary traditions for the family. 

For Junlong Cai, performing the lion and dragon dance is his way of participating in this tradition.

Binondo, considered the oldest Chinatown in Asia, is the birthplace of Junlong. Since he was 3, he has had the passion to be part of a lion and dragon dance team. In fact, every year since then, he would don his little costume and join the big boys in the streets, pretending he was one of them. 

Because of this, Junlong has learned to perform the routine by heart.

Now 9, Junlong will be performing as a member of a group for the first time. From their curtain shop in Binondo, he unbundles his costume, wears it and steps out to perform among the cluster of house and shops on this side of Binondo.

For Junlong and his family, this will become part of their yearly tradition come Chinese New year.

Junlong Cai looks outside of their family store in Binondo, watching for the arrival of lion and dragon dancers that will come around his street corner to celebrate Chinese New Year in Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Various lion and dragon dancers perform in different locations in Binondo as they celebrate Chinese New Year. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Various lion and dragon dancers perform at different locations in Binondo as they celebrate Chinese New Year. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Chinese-Filipino children wear costumes near their homes in Binondo. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Chinese-Filipino parents allow their children to participate in the festivities to help them learn about New Year traditions while also having fun. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A lion and dragon dancer enters a store. Chinese-Filipino businessmen believe this will bring good fortune and blessings to the establishment. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Helen, Junlong's sister, stands by waiting for her brother to muster the courage to go out and perform. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Inside their store, the eager Junlong gathers his costume and gets ready to perform. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Junlong today will get to perform the routine he has been learning since three years old. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

He gets ready to go out and perform in public for the first time. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Junlong wears his costume proud as he gets ready to perform. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Junlong gets encouragement from passersby as his sister Helen accompanies him to his performance. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Chinese-Filipino families expose their children to the annual festivities and many children are encouraged to take up the rite as part of their growing up experience. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Junlong performs in front of their shop and the first time that he gets to perform in public as a member of the dance group. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Junlong's performance gets the attention of passersby and he becomes sort of a celebrity. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

This year, the Year of the Earth Dog, is Junlong's first performance but he plans to do this every Chinese New Year from hereon. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News