After the recipes on soap and room mist making, I will bring you back to history. Binondo as a fertile ground for Christian Catholic conversion was at its peak during the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, the first fruits of sanctity of the town was Lorenzo Ruiz and Madre Ignacia del Espiritu Santo. Lorenzo Ruiz served as sacristan in Binondo Church before he left for Japan with a group of Dominican missionaries. All members of the group were martyred. Ignacia on the other hand was born in the Church of Parian, the Iglesia de los Santos Reyes, which was originally located outside of the Walled City and where the Metropolitan theater would now be located. Mother Ignacia became a cloistered nun of the Beaterio de la Compania, running the convent under the Jesuits.
Speaking of religion in Binondo, the Dominicans also established a hospital for the Chinese which was the Hospital de San Gabriel, also known as the Hospital de Chinos or Hospital de Sangleyes. From outside the walls of Intramuros, it found a permanent site opposite the Pasig River, in the island of Binondo. The site was along the river, on the area now occupied roughly by the old Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building, beside El Hogar building in Binondo. It closed down after the British Occupation upon orders of the Governor General — a result of the Chinese siding with the British during their invasion of the colony in 1762 to 1764. Many Chinese were expelled from the colony, the hospital closed down and only a few Chinese, who were engaged in agriculture in the countryside, were allowed to remain. The Parian was eventually demolished and the dispersion of the non-Catholic Chinese ensued. Many of them sought residence in the nearby arrabales of Manila, the walled city — Pandacan, Quiapo, Santa Cruz, Ermita, Malate, Binondo, Tondo, San Miguel. But realizing the importance of the Chinese as providers of goods and services, they were allowed again to have their own enclave, but this time, within the confines of the Walled City of Manila, where they could be properly monitored. This new enclave would be known as the Alcaiceria (Silk market) de San Jose.
Talking about a silk market, there was an earlier silk market known as the Alcaiceria de San Fernando which was established in Binondo in the 18th century. It was closed down after the British Occupation, destroyed by a fire and was never rebuilt, but whose extant remains were used to be part of the new customhouse in that part of Binondo. Later, during the American colonial regime, the Alcaiceria would be used as site for the quartermaster’s depot and a new school. This school survives to this day as the Pedro Guevara Elementary School.
A visit to the P. Guevara Elementary School reveals a school that prides itself in its heritage. There is a mini museum that presents the history of the site with interesting plans and photographs of the old Alcaiceria and artifacts uncovered from its Spanish colonial past. A visit to the museum is free and the interested visitor is always welcomed by the school administrators who will give him a tour of their museum.