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APPHOTOS: Lunar New Year in the Philippines draws crowds to one of the world’s oldest Chinatowns

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MANILA, Philippines (ֱ) — Crowds are flocking to Chinatown in the Philippine capital to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune.

Still recovering from the pandemic years and struggling amid global economic concerns, Chinese restaurants and shops in the area brimmed with festive lights and decor ahead of the Lunar New Year on Saturday, hoping to cash in on an influx of tourists.

Lamp posts in Manila’s riverside Binondo commercial district, said to be one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world, feature dragon decor with tails curled around the poles. In a crowded mall, a huge dragon hangs over selfie-taking shoppers.

A giant wood dragon is displayed at a mall at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A giant wood dragon is displayed at a mall at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna lit a “money tree” and led a ceremony to mark what she and other officials said was the 430th founding anniversary of the Binondo district.

Dragon dancers performed to the beating of drums at the event, which was capped by fireworks.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, business establishments large and small were forced to shut down, and Chinatown resembled a ghost town. But the crowds returned in force this week, with traffic jams and parking lots crammed with SUVs.

Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle. The Year of the Wood Dragon, which local Chinese hope will bring abundance, follows the Year of the Rabbit.

Vietnamese tourists walk at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Vietnamese tourists walk at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Lucky charms are displayed beside an artwork on a wall at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Lucky charms are displayed beside an artwork on a wall at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Aerial view showing William A. Jones Memorial Bridge, front, and Binondo-Intramuros bridge connects Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Manila, Philippines. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Aerial view showing William A. Jones Memorial Bridge, front, and Binondo-Intramuros bridge connects Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A man massages a costumer along a street at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A man massages a costumer along a street at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Lion performers cross a road at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Lion performers cross a road at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Residents play beside the El Hogar building, one of the few remaining old structures at Manila's Chinatown, said to be the oldest in the world, at the capital's Binondo district, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Residents play beside the El Hogar building, one of the few remaining old structures at Manila’s Chinatown, said to be the oldest in the world, at the capital’s Binondo district, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A man arranges dishes at the Toho Panciteria Antigua, one of the few remaining old restaurants in Binondo district, Manila, Philippines, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A man arranges dishes at the Toho Panciteria Antigua, one of the few remaining old restaurants in Binondo district, Manila, Philippines, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A woman offers prayers at a cross along a busy road at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A woman offers prayers at a cross along a busy road at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A lion performer walks at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A lion performer walks at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Seafood vendors stay outside a market at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Seafood vendors stay outside a market at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A visitor poses with a standee inside the Chinese museum at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024 Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A visitor poses with a standee inside the Chinese museum at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A vendor sells fruits with lucky charms for the coming Chinese New Year at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A vendor sells fruits with lucky charms for the coming Chinese New Year at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A man carries her daughter as they watch celebrations for the 430th anniversary of Manila's Chinatown, said to be the oldest in the world, at the capital's Binondo district, Philippines on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A man carries her daughter as they watch celebrations for the 430th anniversary of Manila’s Chinatown, said to be the oldest in the world, at the capital’s Binondo district, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A woman records a video of lanterns on her smartphone as she attends celebrations for the 430th anniversary of Manila's Chinatown, said to be the oldest in the world, at the capital's Binondo district, Philippines on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A woman records a video of lanterns on her smartphone as she attends celebrations for the 430th anniversary of Manila’s Chinatown, said to be the oldest in the world, at the capital’s Binondo district, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A woman buys a plant as she prepares for the coming Chinese New Year at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A woman buys a plant as she prepares for the coming Chinese New Year at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila’s Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

People line up for food at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024 Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

People line up for food at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Performers practice their routine at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday Feb. 6, 2024, Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

Performers practice their routine at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A monk holds a rose during ceremonies as part of their observance of the coming Chinese New Year at the Seng Guan temple at the edge of Manila's Chinatown, Philippines said to be the oldest in the world, on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A monk holds a rose during ceremonies as part of their observance of the coming Chinese New Year at the Seng Guan temple at the edge of Manila’s Chinatown, Philippines said to be the oldest in the world. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A buyer checks lucky charms for the coming Chinese New Year at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Crowds are flocking to Manila's Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Wood Dragon and experience lively traditional dances on lantern-lit streets with food, lucky charms and prayers for good fortune. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

A buyer checks lucky charms for the coming Chinese New Year at Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, in Manila, Philippines. (APPhoto/Aaron Favila)

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Associated Press journalist Joeal Calupitan contributed to this report.