Thursday, September 22, 2011


Turn of the Century postcard of La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory

Postcard  by Lambert
The La Insular Cigar & Cigarette Factory was a famous landmark in Binondo before the war. The factory together with Hotel Oriente and other building in its surrounding was ravaged by fire during the liberation of Manila in 1944.  It is very unfortunate that this important landmark was lost.  Now the Metrobank Binondo building stood on the former site of the factory.

In my collection I have some old postcards, photos and cigarette labels of La Insular which I would like to share. The photos depict the daily life of tobacco workers inside the factory.  Here is a glimpse of the glory days of the La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory.

Sepia toned postcard of the factory

Postcard of the factory with
Binondo Church belfry at the background

History:  La Insular, Plaza Calderon de la Barca Plaza Calderon de la Barca in Binondo retained most of the period houses and buildings built during the 19th century. One of those was the La Insular Building. The company of La Insular was founded by Joaquin Santamarina way back during Spanish colonial times. In 1878, Santamarina decided to go into the tobacco manufacturing business. He stored tobacco leaves in a warehouse for five years before he went into manufacturing. In 1883, he used five-year old tobacco leaves to make his cigars and La Insular was born.

The building of La Insular was built in 1888 at Plaza Calderon de la Barca with Juan Jose Hervas, then Manila's Municipal Architect as designer. Designed along Moorish lines, the building became a notable landmark in Binondo's major plaza, together with the old Hotel de Oriente. As a business, La Insular continued to be an economic presence in the
Philippines until the prewar years.
Turn of the century photo of the La Insular building
beside the Hotel de Oriente on the left.

La Insular exported cigars and tobacco to different countries abroad, with the majority going to the United States and England. Its Tres Coronas were especially favored by the English. One of the best customers of La Insular was King Alfonso XIII of Spain. He gave the company royal authority to name a cigar, "King Alfonso XIII" with his own signature.

The La Insular building retained its old Spanish period building in Binondo. It was later destroyed by fire caused by bombs during the Second World War.

Source: Binondo In The Twentieth Century by Lorelei D.C. de Viana

Photos inside the La Insular Factory
La Insular's tobacco workers

Tobacco being sorted

Packaging of the cigars

La Insular's cigar factory line

La Insular's cigar storage room

Large humidifiers to control the humidity  in the room.
Large stacks of tobacco inside the warehouse
Dried tobacco leaf  being sorted out.
Insular storage room with nice poster of the factory

La Insular's display room for its finest cigars and cigartte
Delivery trucks of La Insular

 La Insular's Cigarette Wrappers


HEBRA 30 Cigarillios, Plaza De Binondo

HEBRA 5 Cigarillios, Plaza De Binondo

HEBRA 30 Cigarillios, Plaza De Binondo, 18 centavos

HEBRA 30 Cigarillios, Plaza De Binondo, 25 centavos

HEBRA 30 Cigarillios, Fuerte, Plaza De Binondo,

MATAMIS 30 Cigarillios,Hebra Especial
REGALIZ 30 Cigarillios,Hebra Especial
LA INSULA MAITIM, MAHABA 30 Cigarillios, Entre Fuerte


  1. You have a wonderful collection of ads, labels and postcards. I very much enjoyed myself and also learned much about the cigarette industry in the Philippine Islands. Thanks for sharing. I have a question, your Fighter label seems to state it was made in P.R. Why not P. I.? I you're willed to share more of your knowledge, please write as I have several beautiful packets from the Philippines too. Thanks, Jim

  2. Hello, my name is hannah cutts. I am having an art exhibition in Brisbane in February. I have just spent 3 weeks in manila and Quezon City and myself and a manila arts collective have had various pieces made by local artisans and industry. We have the opportunity to print a set of silk malongs. Instead of using traditional patterning I was hoping to get a high res image from a vintage cigarette pack. Can you help at all. If so, I would love to pay for a high resolution print and send you some of the prints.

  3. I never see this factory in Binondo. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Hi! Where can i sell authentic old stuff from my great great grand parents?

  5. It was Wellington Building now standing at the place of the factory not Metrobank,Metrobank is standing at the place of Hotel de Oriente...

  6. My Grandfather, Antonio Beltran was Acting General Manager of La Insular during the Japanese occupation years as Mora had been called back to Spain. He had stored a lot of personal possessions there (including my mother's red white and blue dress she had been saving for the Americans). She recalled the phone call he received from Ramon Garcia telling him that the Americans had bombed the place and burned it to the ground. Nevertheless, after their escape from Malate and trek to the North, the whole family met up at La Insular. Some of the out buildings were still extant so some of the family stayed their while the rest wandered over to Tanduay distillery were they stayed for a few months. My mother met many Americans at Tanduay and was engaged to one of them before she met my father.