Tuesday, April 08, 2008


As depicted in the above image showcased by Bahay Tsinoy, during the Spanish and American colonial rule of the Philippines, the retail distribution of rice to the general public in Manila -- both hulled and unhulled -- were mostly done through sari-sari stores and at larger establishments solely devoted to selling rice.

The Chinese traders have been active players in the Philippine rice industry since the 1700s. After 1755, when the Chinese retired from the provinces, the mestizos (Filipino-Chinese) of Malabong and Pasig took over the coastwise rice trade and assumed the onerous job of providing Manila with its rice. It was also at this period when the mestizos were either acquiring or leasing rice lands aggressively in the major regions of Central Luzon.

The Chinese once again became coastwise shippers and wholesalers of rice after they moved back into the provinces by the middle of the 1800s. Also, during this period, groups of Chinese speculators began to emerge. They purchased in bulk from rice producers and collectors (wholesalers), and then stockpiled their inventory in warehouses until the conditions of the retail rice market proved even more profitable.

The Chinese traders' stronghold in the local rice industry was not limited to the greater Manila region. The abaca-producing provinces of the Eastern Visayas and Southeastern Luzon needed to import rice, particularly from Panay Island. In addition, other regions of export crop concentration such as in Cagayan and Isabela also had rice shortages that the rice traders had to supply.

Although the Chinese were significant rice traders, they did not monopolize the local rice industry during this period. Neither was there any record that they were engaged in rice milling activities nor owned any rice mills. However, shortly before World War II, records indicated that the Chinese owned an estimated 75 per cent of all the rice mills in the Philippines.

There were also several references that by 1870, the status of the Philippines from a rice exporter changed to that of a rice importer.

By the 1890s, over 2,000,000 pesos worth of rice was being imported annually by the Filipino-Chinese from China. On Juan Luna Street in Binondo, establishments owned by Chinese rice importers were skillfully mixing poor quality Saigon rice with good grades of native varieties and sold at low prices. This type of merchandising reached its peak -- and the Chinese rice traders their greatest success -- during the Philippine Revolution of 1896-1902.

During the revolution, regular coastwise rice trading was interrupted, causing tremendous shortage and demand in certain regions. The Chinese traders endeavored to deliver the rice but under highly inflationary circumstances; on their return trips, they picked up cargoes of abaca, tobacco, and coconut products.

Henceforth, the Chinese traders began to firmly establish their presence as major economic forces in the highly profitable Philippine rice industry.

* * *

The Chinese in the Philippine Life, 1850-1898
by Edgar Wickberg
Ateneo de Manila Press

Related Links:

Inside the Bahay Tsinoy

Ysla de Binondo and the Chinese Revolt

Banking and the Early Chinese Traders

Government ignored signs of rice crisis - The Manila Times

Rice crisis, no; high prices, yes - Inquirer Opinion

RP rebels burn rice trader's trucks - The China Post


posted by Señor Enrique at 6:13 AM


Blogger Sidney said...

It seems the Chinese still dominate the rice market... but of course not only rice but also (pig) meat.
And probably many other things too.

I think you got confused. You commented on a very old series of mine. The actual series is also about anti-GMA rallies but this time in color.

April 08, 2008 6:37 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Come to think of it, Sidney, it's rather surprising that China is only becoming an economic superpower at this time.

The Chinese have always been intrepid and skillful traders from the pre-Spanish times, and their descendants are now probably continuing on with the tradition.

April 08, 2008 7:04 AM  

Blogger Oman said...

very informative...i like the pic... =)

April 08, 2008 11:17 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

mukhang nakakaloka ang details ng diaoramang ito! I haven't been to the Tsinoy Museum but I had visited the Ayala Museum about a year ago...I found myself staring and staring into these little worlds of history! Mas visual talaga ako :-). I would doze off when reading my history books but would perk up when watching a epic movie or a very engaging history professor or aficionado.

Just recently we had a guest who regaled us with her narrative of Dutch, portuguese, Chinese and Spanish traders. She is quite passionate about tracing unknown historical tomes being an ancestor of Chinese-Indonesian traders herself.

Thanks, Eric, for reminding me of a bit of history I had long forgotten.

April 08, 2008 6:25 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see that the Chinese rice trader is using the state of the art calculator at that time aka abacus.

Those who were born before the era of the battery powered electronic calculators have a great deal of respect for this simple but very powerful and dependable device.

April 08, 2008 9:17 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Technically speaking bertN, the calculus is the very first computer invented by man. I have seen many merchants in Ongpin when I was growing up using it. Nowadays, most have electronic calculators. No more abacus.

April 08, 2008 10:34 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Next time you find yourself with extra time in Intramuros, Bernadette, I highly suggest that you check out Bahay Tsinoy. Their exhibits are among the best I've seen :)

April 08, 2008 10:36 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Lawstude!

April 08, 2008 10:36 PM  

Blogger armovil said...

We have been monitoring to the rice short shortage back home thru TFC/GMA, nalulungkot kaming mga teachers why? dahil ang mga bata dito during lunch time tinatapon lang nila ang ulam at kanin pag hindi nila maubos. Iyong iba ayaw kumain ng kanin, tapon na lang. Marami ang nasasayang. Sa Pilipinas marami ang nagugutom. Marami ang gustong mag-aral. Dito, libre lahat pero tamad mag-aral ang mga bata.

April 08, 2008 10:59 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It really is a shame, Arlan, how human nature works -- blessings of abundance are sometimes taken for granted.

Sayang ang mga biyayang natatapon lamang ng mga kabataang nabanggit mo. Ang problema ay hindi naman kadali ibigay ang mga pagkain na iyan sa mga homeless.

April 09, 2008 7:12 AM  

Blogger reyd said...

Ang alam ko lang, yung mga ninuno ng tatay ko sa Pangasinan ay puro kiskisan ng bigas, tobacco at gulay ang hanapbuhay.
Even during the Spanish period, most Chinese mercants dominate the food supply business in their province since the Spaniards are not too nice in dealing with the local residents when it comes to food commerce. Maraming trade secrets kaming mga Chinese. If you can call that trade secret. LOL>
Mixing good rice with a lower quality, nuon pa yan ginagawa or kulang sa salop or retailing them or repacking items into a smaller bags would yield more profits.
Chinese are just resourceful and good in business with a disciplined attitude. Barya-baryang tubo, ok na. Gone are the days when you see a Fil-Chi yelling bote~diyaryo or Taho! around the neighborhood.
Kaya siguro nagka-ulcer ang tatay ko sa sobrang trabaho, 6am to 10pm, kasama na run yung pang bababae at mahjong session nila. :D

April 25, 2008 11:59 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I had already mentioned, Reyd, that the early Chinese traders were not only hardworking and skilled in their respective industry, they were also "intrepid."

I can't imagine the challenging tasks involved in traveling to those far away provinces with foreign culture, and trying to communicate with the locals. I'm sure there were encounters with bandits and pirates, as well.

But most of all, Reyd, I admire the comraderie and unity that the Chinese community, as opposed to the Pinoys na pagalingan at inggitan ang pinaiiral kung minsan.

My father, having grown up in Manila's Chinatown and graduated from FEU, most probably emulated the Chinese in many respect as he pursued a life of a businessman.

April 26, 2008 8:33 AM  

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