Friday, May 31, 2019

131. BINONDO Cigarette Wrappers at the Turn of the Century

Many of the early cigarette manufacturing firms were pioneered by the Chinese as evidence of the original wrappers of cigarette brands made in Binondo. These wrappers are more then a hundred years old, the cigarette brands have come out at the turn of the century. The street names indicated on the wrappers still exits to this day, but some have already been changed, I.e. Sacrista Street is now Ongpin St., Rosario St. is now Quintin Paredes St. part og Gandara St. in now Sabino St. and Nueva St. is now ET Yuchengco St.    Source: Tsinoy The story of the Chinese in the Philippine Life.  

According to Prof. Ambeth Ocampo:  "Hundreds of small mom-and-pop companies concentrated in Binondo packaged cigarettes with labels that deserve serious study because these are not just works of art but a mirror of the times.

A famous factory in Binondo was the La Insular Cigar & Cigarette factory.
 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.
Before the World War II and the entry of branded foreign cigarettes there were hundreds of factories in Binondo that employed armies of workers, mostly women, who deftly sorted and rolled cured tobacco into cigars and cigarettes in the thousands. These cigarerras were, like domestics and prostitutes, part of the labor force. Over a thousand different cigarette wrappers are preserved in private collections in Manila dated from the late 1800s to the 1930s that have outlived their specific function and have become a record of Philippine graphic or commercial art. These labels were basic marketing tools that not only advertised specific brands, but expressed signs of the times, including nationalism. The lithographic process made it possible to print in the thousands, many of them in full color. Because these were common and were often discarded, it is a miracle that many have been preserved for us to study.

Manuel Luis Quezon and Sergio Osmeña were featured
in this wrapper which commemorates the opening of the
"LA ASABLEA" or Philippine Assembly in 1907
These cigarette labels normally carried a brand or trade name and a colored illustration that was somehow related to the trade name or the sentiments of the factory owner. These labels also carried an address and a taxation number. Historians can date these labels from a simple linguistic shift from “Islas Filipinas” to “P.I.” (Philippine Islands) that reflect the change from the Spanish to the American colonial period. Art nouveau motifs and designs appear in many labels dating them to a period after 1910. Jose Rizal’s face and name appear in many labels and were given stiff competition in the 1930s with the advent of politicians like Manuel Luis Quezon and Sergio Osmeña whose faces also appeared on cigarette labels. Some Filipino ideals like Nationalista or La Libertad were expressed in brand names."

Sacrilegious as it may seem, to use the image of the Binondo Church on a cigarette wrapper, history tells us that there were intimate ties between the tobacco industry in the Philippines and the Dominican Order which erected the said church.

When Spanish Governor General Jose Basco y Vargas created the Tobacco Monopoly on Nov. 3, 1781, the Binondo Church Convert, or Casa de los Dominicos de Binondo was designated as a convenient place for a government storehouse and tobacco factory. It was located beside the church.  The religious order had no objection, leased the place for free in grateful recognition of all the official support they had been enjoying, in accordance with the terms of Patronato Real. 

The Binondo Convert housed the main office of the tobacco monopoly and the factory grew in size, the adjacent lots had to be bought and or expropriated. By 1854, the convent continued to house two departments of the government monopoly which employed 6,630 cigar and cigarette workers in its premises. After the abolition od the tobacco monopoly in 1882, the lot near Binondo Church was purchase by the La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory

The Chinese prospered in the trade of tobacco, not only because they were willing to exchange hard labor for little profit, they also had a very acute and well-tuned business sense. Through purchase or barter, they sought ungraded scrap tobacco, cut from whole leaves and with the help of native workers rolled cigars and cigarette which they sold at knock down prices.  One of the most well – known cigarette manufacturers was Cua Se Tiu who founded the “La Ciudad de Nanking” in Binondo which later become the Pioneer Tobacco Corporation.  He started his business by gathering and recycling the tobacco from discarded cigarettes and repacking the scrap to sell at temptingly affordable price.
Cigarette wrappers of tobacco factories in Binondo.  Lucky Chinatown Mall Museum, Binondo

Source: Vestments of the Golden Leaf