|SPUD MURPHY with interesting Poem|
|Native Women smoking family cigars,|
|Granma enjoying a Cigar|
It was the involvement of two families, however, that nearly suffocated a strong and vibrant tobacco industry in the Philippines. The Hapsburgs and the Bourbons (who are remembered for a sweeping empire and a delightful beverage, respectively), as ruling families of Spain, were the originators of the Spanish government's tobacco monopoly, officially extended to the Philippines in the late 1700s. What had once been a booming business of international trade throughout Asia and Europe became severely restricted by the Spanish Crown. The monopoly generated such animosity among the locals, who almost universally used tobacco in one form or another, that the Catholic church was called upon to exert influence and encourage obeisance to the whims of the monarchy. Tobacco rose to such a prominent position in the mind of the Spanish Crown with respect to the Philippines that it may have encouraged Spain to attempt to hold on to the colony much longer than was financially advisable.
|Germinal Cigar Factory|
|Filipina Cigar Smoker|
What brought about the end of the Spanish tobacco monopoly in the Philippines may have been the demand for the tobacco itself. Smuggling of the high-quality Philippine produce was commonplace, as demand for quality tobacco rose throughout Asia and Europe. State-produced cigars became too expensive for the locals, and tobacco was diverted to illegal production for the local market. In some areas, cigars were so valuable as to be used in place of currency. In the face of a crumbling system of support and enforcement, the tobacco monopoly was officially abolished in 1881. As the ink was drying on the decree, a new Spanish company entered the Philippines, establishing La Compania General de Tobaccos de Filipinas. The first factory opened by this company, La Flor de la Isabela, is still the leader of cigar production on the Philippines.
|ILOCANO WOMAN Smoking Cigar|
|ILOCANO WOMEN Smoking Cigar|
|A Filipina "Granny" (wearing an amulet) enjoying her Cigar, Cavite|
Named for a tobacco growing region in which La Compania had farms, La Flor de la Isabela operated for the next 100 years as part of what was effectively a private monopoly of the tobacco industry in the Philippines. La Flor suffered through the late 1980s and early '90s, mainly from a faltering reputation and narrowing market penetration. In 1995 a drastic change was made, with the goal to resurrect a company with an unbelievably strong tradition.
Two Asian businessmen, local Roberto Ongpin and Hong Kong-based Robert Kuok, purchased 50 percent ownership of La Flor and assumed control of the business. Kuok - recently named by Forbes magazine as the shrewdest businessman in the world - and Ongpin are both prominent players in the Asian business community, and they have no intention of letting the Philippine cigar industry fatter in the face of a global boom.
|Load of tobacco, Manila|
|A room in a Philippine cigar factory|
|Ifugao Belle Smoking Cigar|
|Family Smoking Together|
|Street Scene, Hagan, Oriental Mindoro|
|Employees & Management of LA NOBLEZA Cigar and Cigarette Manufacturing Co.|