Tondo is a large, culturally diverse district of Manila. Being near to Binondo, many Filipino-Chinese roam around this area, and also have different kinds of businesses situated in this area. Food tripping in this area would be a great idea due to the abundant number of Chinese food stalls and restaurants lying in this area.
The average traveller can be easily taken away by the constant bustle and haggle in Divisoria, Manila's major bargain market. Tondo is more of the shopping center for bargain hunters; a walk or a pedicab ride will allow you to see the true face of the district. Another way of experiencing Tondo is touring slums, rather not for the faint of heart with the district's reputation for gangs and grit, but a local guide will help you get around and meet locals.
Slums, poverty and gangs is the first impression of Tondo by many people, and that's why this part of Manila is perhaps off-the-beaten-path, except for the Divisoria market popular with bargain hunters. The lack of historical sites of tourist importance also adds to the problem, but trying to dig down a bit can lead you to hidden spots.
Tondo has a population of over 630,000 people (as of 2007) in 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi) of land, making this district the densest in Manila; it is also reputed as one of the world's most densely populated neighborhoods. The population density is well reflected by the scarcity of high-density housing for poorer residents. The income gap is also well illustrated: most locals live on simple houses or low-density apartments, while mid-class people inhabit the towering condominiums that represent the district's ongoing gentrification.
Tondo's ethnic composition and culture are diverse, and waves of immigration creates the district's distinctive cultural blend. Southeastern Tondo and Divisoria is a northern extension of Binondo, so find many Filipino Chinese businesses and schools around. Anywhere, you will find Visayans, Ilocanos, Kapampangan, and other native ethnic groups. Muslim Filipinos are rather a tiny minority.
Tondo was the center of the namesake kingdom, the Kingdom of Tondo, one of the pre-Hispanic polities found in historical finds. The old polities fell to the Spanish colonizers, and Tondo became a Spanish overseas province, until its dissolution, where Tondo's northern halves became part of Bulacan and Rizal. Tondo became a center for Filipino revolutionaries, and is home to Andres Bonifacio who led the Philippine Revolution from 1896 and 1897, where he was executed by order of his archrival, Emilio Aguinaldo. American colonization followed the Revolution, but Tondo is almost reduced to ruins during the Japanese occupation.
The beginning of Tondo's reputation as a giant slum and a crime-ridden district of Manila is rooted on postwar rebuilding. As people from the poorer provinces migrated to Manila for better jobs, the district is lacking adequate housing and services for the increasing migrant population, and as a result, many resorted to squatting and crime, and gangs like those led by Asiong Salonga (aka "Hari ng Tondo" or the "Manila Kingpin") are formed. Funds from the World Bank used to improve living conditions has caused skyrocketing land prices, so Manila's government decided to legalize the slums in the 1970s. Since then, while high-rise condominiums and giant multistory shopping malls are leading the district's gentrification, Tondo still has its reputation for poverty and gang activity, and many of the original slums still exist.
The Philippine National Railways' main terminal and headquarters, 1 Tutuban. is at the Tutuban area. Most visitors from southern Metro Manila will come by train, and the station leads into Divisoria. The original train station is found where the Tutuban mall complex stands.
Trains from Bicol arrive at Tutuban, but service is suspended indefinitely as of 2013 and 2017. Metro Commuter Line trains to and from Muntinlupa and Calamba trains begin service at 5AM and ends at 8PM, but trains can get stuffy on morning, noon, and evening rush hours. Pickpockets also lurk on the trains, so wear backpacks at the front and avoid placing valuables on rear pockets.
The nearest LRT stations are LRT Line 2 Recto station, and LRT Line 1 Blumentritt station.
Jeepneys, both classic and modern, connect Tondo with the rest of Manila, as well as other cities in Metro Manila. Routes converge around Divisoria, near Tondo's historic center.
- Divisoria-Quiapo: Connects the commercial center of Quiapo via Recto Avenue. Fare: ₱9 regardless of boarding point. Route used to be served by electric tricycles between 2016 and 2019.
- Gasak-Divisoria: Route starts at Malabon, passing through Navotas and northern parts of Tondo like Balut, Vitas, and Gagalangin. Route operated by modern, air-conditioned jeepneys as of 2020. Fare: ₱28.
- Birthplace of Andres Bonifacio.
- 1 Katipunan founding site, 72 C.M. Recto Avenue.
- Plaza La Liga Filipina, Ilaya Street cor. Raja Matanda Street. A small park at the now-demolished house where the La Liga Filipina, a Filipino revolutionary organization led by Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Apolinario Mabini, were established.
- 2 Plaza Moriones, Moriones Street. A linear park placed on the median of Moriones Street, it is dedicated to the Spanish Governor-General Domingo Moriones y Muralla, who designed Manila's sewerage system. It also has a role in Philippine politics, being the location of the first Philippine Labor Day celebrations, and it is designated a "freedom park" where protesters are free to assemble peacefully. Also in the park is a monument to Honorio Lopez, a revolutionary from Tondo.
- Seng Guan Temple, Padre Algue Street.
- St. Stephen's Parish Church, Masangkay Street.
- San Jose de Trozo Church, Masangkay Street.
- United Evangelical Church of the Philippines, Benavidez Street.
- 3 Tondo Church (Santo Niño de Tondo Church), 600 Lorenzo Chacon Street. One of the most visited churches in the Philippines, it dates back to 1572, and houses an image of the Infant Jesus originally from Acapulco in Mexico.
Tondo is one of the few places to offer tours of its sprawling slums. The Smokey Mountain tenement which was a landfill that now houses apartments serving as residences for some of Manila's urban poor. The slum tourism industry is not formally organized; just ask a local to serve as your guide to get around, meet locals and see the everyday life in houses, schools, shops, and local food stops. Touring alone is inadvisable, as you are just exposed to the constant threat of street thugs finding their next victim.
Santo Niño de Tondo Festival
Tondo holds a feast dedicated to the Santo Niño (Holy Child) every third week of January. Festivities are centered on Tondo Church, which hosts an image of the Santo Niño. The peak of the festivities happen on the Lakbayaw Dance Festival, where local dance schools compete in the rattling sound of drums and brass music. The festivities draws people around Manila, and some non-locals and a few foreigners as well.
- Divisoria Market, the country's premier, if not the biggest combined wholesale and retail center, as well as the largest spillover ambulant and flea market, is here.
- Tutuban Mall, West Loop Road, C. M. Recto Ave. (from Bambang LRT-1 Station, take a tricycle and ask driver to drop you off at Tutuban Mall). This mall has gained reputation for it being a budget-friendly mall. Just across the mall is the Philippines' own Grand Central Station; the Philippine National Railway Main Station which also has the same name that of the mall.
- Tutuban Night Market.
- SuZhou Dimsum, Masangkay St.. Famous for its Xiao Long Bao
- Ha Yuan, Masangkay St.. Famous for its Maki Noodles and fresh Lumpia. ₱100 and above.
- ErSao (二嫂), Abad Santos St.. Serves Taiwanese food. ₱50 and above.
- Sizzling Pares, La Torre St.. Typical place where students eat. Serves sizzling Filipino food. ₱50 and above.
- Eat Fresh, Abad Santos St.. Known to be one of the pioneers of Hongkong Style Fried Noodles in the Philippines. First started as a small restaurant in Masangkay St. now has two branches - one in Manila and the other at Quezon City. Serves Hongkong street foods. ₱50 and above.
There are many non-government organizations working to improve living conditions in the slums, and volunteer work is a viable work option if you plan to stay in Tondo for the long term.
Tondo has a sketchy reputation for violent crime; locals may tell you that Tondo is the gang capital of the Philippines. While the old days of the Hari ng Tondo (King of Tondo) are long gone, criminal rings continue to jostle for dominance in many residential areas with police raids and street brawls (rambol), and local politicians, mostly barangay officials, have fell victim in the crossfire. Never get into a narrow alley without knowing where to go, and watch out for those street vagabonds that may impulsively approach you, and at worse, beat you; that's where kursonada comes to play. It is also easy to get lost into gang turf; find the nearest police or barangay tanod (watcher) outpost to find your way out.
The Divisoria area can be dangerous for the unwary traveller. Women travellers must be more cautious; jewelry like earrings are frequent magnets for thieves, and some homeless children are involved in these crimes. Crowded pasilyos (corridors) inside the malls can be havens for pickpockets and gropers.
Binondo is just next door, if you are tired of wandering and window shopping in Divisoria.
|Routes through Tondo|
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