Friday, February 23, 2007


His bronze statue stands proudly on the street named after him — stretching from Juan Luna Street to Plaza de Sta. Cruz.

It's a busy narrow street that is bounded by a historical church on either end — Binondo Church on the west and Sta. Cruz Church on the east; churches that were initially built to serve Binondo’s growing Chinese converts to Catholicism.

Many local Manilans to this day would even nonchalantly refer to the entire Binondo district or Chinatown as Ongpin.

But who was Roman Ongpin?

The only information I could find about this man is that he founded El 82, an artist supply store in Binondo, which was managed by his son, Alfonso.

The walls of this store were lined with some of the finest collections of Philippine paintings such as those by the nineteenth-century masters, Juan Luna y Novicio and Felix Resurrection Hidalgo. There were also paintings by Fabian de la Rosa and later on, by his nephew, Fernando Amorsolo.

So, essentially, besides being a successful businessman, Roman Ongpin was a patron of the arts. However, according to, there was another side to this man the heroic. He was supposedly an intrepid supporter of the Philippine Revolution of 1898; generously providing the Katipuneros with money, foods and other important necessities from his business establishments.

The Spaniards were completely oblivious to his involvement because Ongpin appeared as a staunch ally of the administration. He was so good at such pretense he was appointed teniente de mestizos of Binondo for two years. Even during the early American colonial rule, Roman Ongpin remained active in the revolution until he was caught and imprisoned from December 6, 1900 to March 23,1901.

A true lover of the arts and freedom, Roman Ongpin risked his life, the welfare of his family, and his personal fortune by having supported the Philippine Revolution.

Additional sources:

Aguinaldo's Breakfast by Ambeth Ocampo
Anvil Publishing 1993

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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:50 PM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very informative. I myself didn't know who or what Ongpin was. Initially I knew it was just a name of a street in Manila.

Nice photo too. What church is that in the background, Eric?

February 23, 2007 11:01 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

"However, according to, there was another side to this man — the heroic. He was supposedly an intrepid supporter of the Philippine Revolution of 1898; generously provided the Katipuneros with money, foods and other important necessities from his business establishments."


February 24, 2007 1:17 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That is Binondo Church, Rhoda.

You and me both -- completely ignorant of the man behind the name of this famous street in Binondo. It wasn't un til I came across this statue that I was inspired to know more about this man. Nonetheless, there isn't much available info about him.

February 24, 2007 7:19 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Noypete's! Are you unsure about this particular information about this Chinese mestizo who discreetly participate in the Philippine Revolution?

Check out this Manila Bulletin article:

which in part reads:

"Aside from the mestizos who were active in the propaganda and later the revolutionary movements, other Chinese mestizos often mentioned in historical sources to be among the financial supporters of the revolution include Roman Ongpin, Luis Yangco, Mariano Limjap, Telesforo Chuidian and Flaviano Yenko. There is even mention in La Guerra de Filipinas by Ricardo Burguete of the Limjap brothers, Mariano and Jacinto, donating a staggering one million pesos for the battalion of Manila volunteers."

February 24, 2007 7:23 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for this interesting trivia, i didn't know that ongpin had a heroic side. he was like rizal in terms of being smart and sly w/ the spaniards.

coincidentally, my mom went to that area yesterday. she brought home hopia, tikoy, and kikiam from eng bee tin hehe! :D

February 24, 2007 10:20 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the bit of information again. Makes me appreciate the place and the person more knowing of what he did.

February 24, 2007 11:19 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Eye. Come to think of it, Rizal was also a Chinese mestizo :)

I was there this afternoon and brought the kids to Tasty Dumpling for pork chop meal combo. And I also stopped by Eng Bee Tin to get my mother some hopia :)

February 24, 2007 6:20 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Your welcome, Ferdz. I, too, am glad that I now have an idea who this man was in which a famous street in Binondo was named after :)

February 24, 2007 6:21 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the info, now, before Ongpin St. is changed to another name (you know how fast names of streets and places change these days), at least i am learning where the name came from.

February 24, 2007 10:26 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

What surprises me is that a lot of streets in Manila are renamed regularly.
Ongpin street was formerly called Calle Sacristia because the sacristy of Binondo Church opened on that street. It was renamed in 1915 to Roman Ongpin.
So Roman Ongpin might loose his place in the future to someone else...

February 24, 2007 10:28 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Thanks for the Manila Times article. I will research more about the names mentioned on that article. BTW, my great grandfather is from mainland China.

February 25, 2007 12:50 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It is a sad phenomemon, indeed, Dine. I say sad because it feels as if a certan part of history is taken away whenever a change of name occurs.

The street where I was born and grew up was chnaged to Tomas Mapua. Although, this man's school I attended as a youngster, I still feel as if an important aspect of my existence was purged when I discovered that the original name of Misericordia for that street no longer existed.

February 25, 2007 5:43 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you for that piece of information, Sidney.

Remember when our friend Ivan Mandy was enraged when Nueva Street was changed to Yuchengco?

BTW, ran into him yesterday in Intramuros with a group of foreign tourists.

February 25, 2007 5:45 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And please do share with us some of your findings, Noypetes. What surprises me is the little information available for Roman Ongpin.

I was planing to go to Bahay Tsinoy yesterday, but when I got there, there was a huge crowd of teenage students so I decided to come back on a regular weekday when least crowded. Hopefully, they sell interesting history books.

February 25, 2007 5:48 AM  

Blogger Wil said...

interesting historical info regarding ongpin. I was actually there in pinas about a month ago and checked out what I thought was chinatown, but all I saw were jewelry/gold dealers. I don't know if I was on the wrong street or what, but it was walking distance from the quiapo church.

February 25, 2007 7:19 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm afraid you had only gone to the beginning of Ongpin Street near Plaza Sta. Cruz, Wil -- the jewelry section.

An ideal way to get to know Binondo (as I had done) is to take Ivan Mandy's Binondo guided walking tour.

February 25, 2007 6:10 PM  

Blogger Wil said...

ahh, I see. Thanks for the tip. I'll check out his blog. :)

February 26, 2007 1:17 AM  

Blogger carlotta1924 said...

chinatown's ongpin is somewhat like manhattan's broadway, i think.

thanks for sharing this info. i never even thought where the street's name came from. roman ongpin certainly lived an exciting life during the spanish period. if i were living during that time, i'd like to do what he did--making the enemy believe he's one of them when he's really on the other side.

February 26, 2007 7:16 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very informative post. Now I know where Ongpin st came from. In the old days this street was famous for the "for the boys" kind of fun :)

February 26, 2007 7:46 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

From what Sidney had told me, Wil, Ivan had just raised his Chinatown tour price, but only because he added more food stops to the itenerary, which only makes it an even more exciting and fun thing walking tour :)

February 26, 2007 7:57 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Or Mott Street, Carla.

I had a feeling there was a man after that street's name, but it was something not much discussed when I was a kid, though I spent most of my Saturdays in that area.

Yes, I'm sure it would have been an exciting yet stressful life for Ongpin as a revolutionary supporter, but I'm too chicken to lead such a life so I'd opt for his being a patron of the arts :)

February 26, 2007 8:00 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It's quite a long stretch, BW, but now you got me thinking where exactly that particular spot would be. I wouldn't be surprised if there were opium dens along this street back then as well.

February 26, 2007 8:02 AM  

Blogger Federico said...

nice one, very informative. I've been living in Ongpin for almost 20 years now and have memorized every single store located within chinatown (in fact I grew up here) but didn't have any idea of who the streetname was named after. Thanks for the information!

November 20, 2007 11:02 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Fred,

Ongpin happens to be one of my usual haunts when gallivanting around Manila's downtown area, Perhaps, like you, I will be a resident of the neighborhood one of these days :)


November 20, 2007 1:21 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

way to go lolo! :)

November 26, 2007 9:27 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Daniel :)

November 27, 2007 5:46 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the foot of Roman Ongpin's statue, a marker was unveiled today by the National Historical Institute.

It contains the following information about him:

June 05, 2008 5:41 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you for sharing with us this wonderful news, Anonymous! Truly appreciate it :)

June 06, 2008 8:12 AM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Hi Eric,

Congrats on your great research about the great Chinoy Roman Ongpin. Very few Chinoys & Pinoys knew who him. All we know that Ongpin is the street where great Chinese restaurants are; Ma Mon Luk at Salazar, Manosa restaurant for you "maki" and "machang", the Chinese food court at "tulay ng Ongpin". "Champoy" & "Dikyam". Chinese gold and for "the boys" the infamous skin show at Dragon & King's Theaters during the late 60s!!!

During the time of Magsaysay, his CIA backup put the blame on the Chinese & Chinoys, to "reposition" the minds & hearts of the Filipinos what Socialist like the HUKs, Claro Recto, Ka Amado Hernandez, ect... claimed that the gringos are actually running our government & country. We were the only country in the world, during Magsaysay era's immigration law, discriminates a single ethnic group, the Chinese. One example: Chinese, were the only alien in the Philippines, when married to a Filipino, can not be a citizen forever, can not put up a business (most of the Chinese business were under their spouses) and will always be under investigation by the Philippine Immigration!!!

A General in the Philippine revolution was Chinese, General Jose Ignacio Paua, the first Filipino printer, Tomas Pinpin, philantropist like; Antonio Tanbonting, Limjap, Tuason, ect...

Anyway Eric, for the Pinoy & Chinoy na mga batang magaaral, additional info about Roman Ongpin...

# Born on Feb. 28, 1847, on Nueva St., Binondo, Manila. Was born to Simon Ongpin & Sinforosa Tanbensiang.
# He had a brief stint at Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
# March 1, 1882 he founded "El 82" an art supply, on Rosario St., Binondo. The first merchant to initiate "Fix Price".
# He furnished Bonifacio's Katipunan with funds, foodstuff & other supplies.
# 90% of the indemnity paid by the insurance firm after his store was burned on Feb. 6, 1898, he donated it to Aquinaldo.
# He opened a new store on Colon St., which became prosperus. 13 years after his 5 storey building was constructed by Architect Arcadio Arellano at Jolo St.(now Juan Luna St.)
# When the gringos discovered his revolutionary activities, he was imprisoned at Fort Bonifacio on Dec. 6, 1900, then released on March 23, 1901.
# He married Pascuala Domingo, the granddaughter of the great painter, Damian Domingo, by her he had 19 children.
# Later he married Luisa de Guzman, with whom he had 3 children.
# On his deathbed, he requested that he be dressed in "Barong Tagalog"
# He died Dec. 10, 1912, in Santa Mesa, Manila.
# A business street in manila, "Calle Sacrista" was re-named Ongpin St. on Sept. 17, 1915.

Once again Eric, Thank you for giving me a great pleasure of being able to write facts about our country that are in my "Baul" waiting to be exposed.

July 02, 2008 4:39 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you, Ka Tony for these additional details on the life of Roman Ongpin. There isn't much information I could find on him, other than what I had discovered from Ambeth Ocampo's book.

And please keep sharing with us what you have in your "baul" ... hehehe.

July 03, 2008 6:10 AM  

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