Preferred Citation: Larkin, John A. Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1993.

Two Foundations, 1565-1835

Foundations, 1565-1835

A riddle in the village goes like this: The head is downwards while the tail is upwards. The answer is sugar cane.
Historical Data Papers, Barrio San Pedro, San Simon, Pampanga(1953)

Although the sugar industry achieved a foothold in the Philippines between 1565 and 1835, it had little impact on native society and commerce. Sugar became a part of Filipino diet and a minor component of local and overseas trade; however, Spanish disinterest in cash crop farming and modest world demand hindered growth. Despite slow development, at the end of this era the industry was preparing for more rapid expansion. Knowledge of basic techniques of sugar production improved, new plantation areas began to open, and export houses appeared in Manila. By the early nineteenth century, Philippine sugarmen were poised to take advantage of improved international market conditions occasioned by the onset of the Industrial Revolution and revised colonial economic policies.

From Sugar Cane to Sugar

Prehistoric immigrants to the archipelago brought with them techniques for growing cane, but only in colonial times did sugar production and commercial uses for sugar develop under foreign tutelage. Saccharaum officinarum , true sugar cane, has many relatives of the botanical family of tall, internoded grasses called graminaceae —cogon, talahib, and tigbao, for example—that grow wild all over Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. It appears that at some indistinguishable time in the past sugar cane was domesticated somewhere in Southeast Asia and taken by Austronesian-speaking migrants to the southern Philippine Islands. From there its cultivation and use gradually extended northward.[1] Precolonial inhabitants of the islands chewed it as a treat or as a means of assuaging hunger. Mothers employed it as a pacifier for babies, and children ate it mixed with rice. When the fourteenth-century traveler Wang Tayuan visited the archipelago, he observed that natives in different places had acquired the skill


of turning cane juice into wine. Perhaps this was the same process, described by Jesuit missionary Francisco Alzina in the seventeenth-century Visayas, of fermenting in Chinese jars cane juice mixed with a special tree bark to make an alcoholic beverage called intus . This traditional method of fermentation was preserved into the twentieth century by aboriginal Bacobos of Mindanao, who used a wooden press to express juice. Such a press, or one like it, may have originated in prehispanic times, but natives in the islands also extracted juice from some varieties of cane simply by beating two stalks together.[2]

What the early indios (native inhabitants) did not do was make sugar. When Magellan arrived in 1521, natives in the Mindanao area offered cane to his crew as a refreshment, while Spanish explorers of the Cagayan Valley in northern Luzon received similar gifts in 1591. But not sugar. Sugar was among the items of resupply requested from Mexico by members of the first permanent expedition to the archipelago in 1565. From 1571, when Manila became the established place of Spanish settlement, until the first decades of the next century, Chinese traders regularly imported sugar to the colony. The idea of manufacturing sugar and its byproducts came to the Philippines along the route of colonial conquest: across the Atlantic, via the Azores and Canaries; to the Caribbean; on to Mexico and South America; and finally, across the Pacific.[3]

Little information exists on how sugar technology initially entered the Philippines. Presumably Spaniards, who had a great taste for the sweetener, encouraged its domestic manufacture to save the considerable import cost from China. Methods of expressing juice from cane between two horizontal wooden rollers, boiling it down in earthen vessels, and crystallizing it were widely known in China and around the Mediterranean Sea, so that either Chinese or Spaniards, or possibly both, could have brought these techniques to the Philippines. Spanish friars played a considerable role in setting up sugar plantations in the first decades of the seventeenth century, and gradually, sugar making spread throughout the archipelago, first to Luzon and then to the Visayas. Local sugar slowly replaced the Chinese imported product, and as the Philippines became self-sufficient, the price dropped appreciably during the seventeenth century.[4] A kind of brown sugar, called panocha , crystallized in coconut shells with the aid of lime water, is still made today in the countryside and may date back to these early times. With increasingly widespread knowledge of how to derive sugar came a corresponding rise in its consumption by the indigenous population, especially the ruling class. Even before midcentury one Spaniard, Juan Diez de la Calle, noted that sugar abounded in the islands and served as evidence of native wealth; meanwhile, Moro (Muslim Filipino)


sultans served cakes and preserves sweetened with cane syrup as a treat to special guests. Natives learned also to concoct a kind of sugar brandy, probably basi , and by the early eighteenth century, so widespread had its use become that the Spanish government felt obliged to forbid production of this beverage.[5]

While making ordinary sugar for home use spread generally throughout the archipelago from the mid-seventeenth century on, fabrication of more highly refined grades was restricted to the religious estates near Manila and to Pampanga Province. By 1708, estates like San Pedro Tunason and Makati produced pilon sugar, that is, sugar crystallized in day molds, freer of the molasses found in more common grades of the muscovado type. Augustinians in Pasay and Jesuits in Nasugbu were making higher grade sugar by at least the 1740s, and the latter maintained warehouses on their property so that they could hold their product back until prices reached a high in Manila.[6] Processing of commercial grades of sugar may have gone back to the late seventeenth century in Pampanga, although specific references to that industry do not appear before the eighteenth. There native farmers grew cane and may even have undertaken the first stage of producing sugar, but Chinese merchants dominated the marketing end of the business, and in 1729 a Spanish governor of the province complained that the Chinese bought all the produce of the area so that they could resell it in Manila.[7]

Once sugar reached the capital city, no matter from where, the Chinese monopolized its processing and sale. They turned sugar into candy and syrup for drinks (e.g., azucar rosado , a beverage made with caramelized sugar and citrus juice) and packaged it for the slowly growing export trade in native products. A census of Manila Chinese establishments in 1745 noted that the sugar dealers' guild consisted of sixty stores, and the sweetmakers' guild contained twelve.[8] At its inception, then, the commercial end of the Philippine sugar business came under the control of foreign hands with native participation only at the level of primary production.

The Philippine sugar industry has always depended on external market conditions for its progress and profit, and during the first two centuries of colonial domination Spaniards focused their attention on the renowned trans-Pacific galleons, ignoring the development of indigenously based economic endeavors. The galleon trade, sanctioned as a compromise between mercantile interests in Spain and the Philippines, turned Manila into an entrepôt, a place to exchange highly valued Chinese textiles and wares for Mexican silver, with profits in the archipelago going chiefly to the


resident foreign community of Spaniards and Chinese. The Spanish crown remained amenable to maintaining the Philippines as a religious responsibility supported by its more profitable colonies in Latin America. Native produce had little role in this officially sanctioned commerce, although some sugar made its way onto junks returning to China.[9]

But Philippine international commerce did not consist only of what the Spanish government officially allowed; a substantial amount of semilegal and illegal trade also occurred, and Philippine goods found a minor outlet through these clandestine channels. Distance from the mother country made official supervision weak, and colonial servants learned ways to profit from overlooking the strict rules of colonial commerce. By the mid-seventeenth century, European vessels, including Dutch and British, visited Manila, and the British East India Company (BEIC) sent its first ship, Seahorse , in 1644, inaugurating trade on a more or less regular basis beginning in the 1670s. Seahorse , on its return to India, carried samples of Philippine sugar, and small quantities of it went into cargos of later BEIC voyages. By the 1750s, Nicholas Norton Nicols, a naturalized Spanish subject living in Manila, pointed out that substantial quantities of Philippine sugar reached both the Coromandel and Malabar coasts of India, Bengal, Persia, and China.[10] The early pilon sugar industry in the archipelago met those needs.

Still, the sugar industry could not grow beyond certain limits because Mexican silver, the currency of Asian trade, remained the chief object for ships coming to Manila. As late as 1789, export of Philippine sugar did not exceed 30,000 piculs, or 1,898 metric tons, per year, and even in 1819 birds' nests still outranked sugar in value as an export item.[11] Not until the Spaniards altered their economic policy and international demand for sugar picked up could sugar production really expand. These changes began to take place only toward the end of the eighteenth century. By midcentury falling demand for oriental textiles in Mexico and Spain started the Manila galleon traffic on its long decline toward cessation in 1815, a victim of its own anachronistic nature and the Latin American wars of independence.

To compensate for this decline and to put the Philippines at last on an economically independent basis, the government initiated several reforms following the British occupation of Manila (1762-64). Under a series of progressive governors, Spain sought to break the galleon near monopoly of Philippine international commerce, to encourage the growing of local agricultural produce for export, and to keep profits from this new trade in government coffers. In 1785 Governor José Basco y Vargas created la Real Compañía de Filipinas, designed to link private and government capital


to foster a trade within the empire that trespassed even on the hitherto sacrosanct trans-Pacific route. But this endeavor ultimately failed because of a lack of interest and sound management. For example, while foreign merchants were exporting 14,892 tons of sugar between 1786 and 1802, the company shipped only 509 tons. Basco also established in 1781 la Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais de Manila to foster a new interest in, and publications about, agricultural crops, but again, lack of sustained concern defeated this project. One of the few tangible results of the society's efforts toward promoting sugar was an 1878 manual by Francisco Gutierrez Creps on the art of growing and producing the sweetener.[12]

The increased international demand for sugar that followed upon the Industrial Revolution stimulated the rise in production. As a result of a petition of la Real Cornpañía de Filipinas, ships of foreign registry began legally to trade in Asian goods at Manila in 1790, thus inaugurating a process of fully opening the port to international commerce by 1834, when the company's charter ended. Initially, the chief beneficiaries of this new policy, as far as the sugar trade was concerned, were Americans who sought new sources of sugar and molasses for their tables and rum distilleries because the British West Indian market had been closed to them following their war of independence. By the mid-1790s, ships from the Atlantic ports, particularly Salem, Massachusetts, frequented Manila; and throughout much of this decade a resident American merchant, John Stuart Ker, acted as broker for U.S. vessels, procuring the cargos of sugar they carried home. As a result of greater sugar consumption among their workers, the English, too, increased their trade and established their first commercial house in Manila in 1809. By the 1820s, England had seven firms at the port, and America one; meanwhile, Americans began consular service in 1817, and the British followed in 1844. These two nations became the chief trading partners of the Philippines and remained so throughout the rest of the nineteenth century.

While figures on sugar export for the first quarter of the nineteenth century remain fragmentary, it appears that sometime in the second half of the 1820s sugar began a climb in output that continued more or less unabated until the end of the nineteenth century (see table 1). The official opening of Manila to world commerce in 1834 did not stimulate this rise; rather, the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars and the subsequent freeing up of shipping, as well as a growing demand for sugar in the United States and England, seem to have been the main causes. In 1836 sugar surpassed rice, abaca, and indigo as chief Philippine export and became one of the mainstays of the economy, a condition that has persisted until recent times.[13]


Table 1.
Philippine Sugar Exports through 1835


Export (metric tons )

Before 1780

less than 1,898 in any year


ca. 2,846


ca. 4,744


avg. 1,058













Sources: Manuel Buzeta, O.S.A., and Felipe Bravo, O.S.A., Diccionario geográfico, estadístico, histórico de las Islas Filipinas , 2 vols. (Madrid: José de la Peña, 1851), 1:222; Manuel Azcarraga y Palermo, La libertad de comercio en las Islas Filipinas (Madrid: José Noguera, 1871), p. 135; Tomás de Comyn, Estado de las Islas Filipinas en 1810: brevemente descrito (Madrid: Imp. de Repullés, 1820), p. 10; Marîa Lourdes Díaz-Trechuelo Spinola, La Real Compañía de Filipinas (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos de Sevilla, 1965), p. 269; [Henry Piddington], Remarks on the Philippine Islands and Their Capital, Manila, 1819 to 1822: By an Englishman (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1828), p. 76; Yslas Filipinas, Estado que manifestan la importación y exportación de esta ciudad en todo el presente año . . . (Manila: n.p., 1818), p. 4; Angel Martinez Cuesta, O.A.R., History of Negros , trans. Alfonso Felix, Jr. (Manila: Historical Conservation Society, 1980), p. 365; Ramon Gonzáles Fernandez and Federico Moreno y Jeréz, Manual del viajero en Filipinas (Manila: Est. tip. de Santo Tomás, 1875), p. 185.

Up to 1836, even as foreign trade developed, the manner of making and delivering export-quality sugar changed little from what it had been in the preceding century. Innovation came from China around 1800 with the introduction of stone vertical rollers in place of wooden ones and iron cauldrons (cauas ) in place of earthenware ones; otherwise, the sugar business remained as American supercargo Nathaniel Bowditch described it in 1796 when he purchased a cargo of sugar in Manila for his ship Astrea .[14]

In most Philippine provinces output was small. The sugar was of poor texture and was mainly for local use; nevertheless, a few areas, particularly the Luzon provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Pangasinan, and Tondo, earned a good reputation for their product. The former was the most highly regarded for the quality and quantity of its pilon sugar, made from a high


yield, deep red local cane. The success of these regions came in large measure as a result of their proximity to Manila, the center for sugar refining and the only sizable market for consumption of high-grade sugar.

In these provinces, cane, squeezed between stone rollers turned by carabao (water buffalo), released a juice that, when boiled sufficiently in a series of cauldrons, turned into a thick syrup that was poured into conical clay pilones. There, with the aid of stirring and some lime water, the mixture crystallized into a hard substance, a brownish yellow blend of molasses and sugar. Between November and June, traveling agents of refiners purchased pilones, each weighing about 63.5 kilos, from farmer producers and transported them in cascos down the main rivers and streams of Luzon, into Manila Bay, and on to the port area. At small refineries, called farderias , usually operated by Chinese but occasionally by a Spaniard, claying took place. Pilones were broken and sugar separated, the best grade being repacked in new molds. The sugar was then tamped, covered with a thin layer of special clay, and treated with water. As fluid seeped downward, the molasses dripped from a hole in the bottom of the mold into a container below, leaving a purer product, slightly gray on top with a yellow layer underneath. Once the sugar achieved its best color, the pilon was broken and the finest grades separated and dried in the sun; later the finished product was poured into sacks which, when filled, weighed one picul of 63.25 kilos, standard measure of the sugar trade. Merchant refiners stored these bags in warehouses (camarines ) where they awaited sale to foreigners, usually from European and American houses supplying ocean-going vessels. Darker grades could either be reboiled, reclayed, or sold at home, since inhabitants of the Philippines made ample use of various kinds of sugar in their diet.

Another kind of Philippine muscovado, called "mat" sugar, achieved only minor importance in external trade before the 1840s, but found some outlet, mainly to China, Singapore, and Macao. Produced all over the archipelago, but especially in the Visayas, it sold for two-thirds or less the price of pilon sugar, because it was more heavily laden with molasses. In processing mat sugar, cane was passed between wooden rollers and boiled in cauas. Once lime was added to the thickened syrup, final crystallization took place on wooden tables. After drying, the sugar, dark brown in color and resembling a doughy substance, was placed in bayones (buri palm leaf bags of exceptional water resistance) weighing from eighteen to thirty-two kilos each, which were transported to Manila for repackaging and reshipment. Later on, an improved mat sugar garnered a much larger market share as worldwide sugar refining patterns changed, but in the 1830s pilon sugar dominated the trade; moreover, the government took special effort


Table 2.
Sample Sugar Prices for First and Second Grade Export Sugar from Manila, 1796-1836 (pesos per picul)




First Grade

Second Grade













7. 50







Sources: Thomas R. McHale and Mary C. McHale, eds., Early American-Philippine Trade: The Journal of Nathaniel Bowditch in Manila , 1796, Monograph Series, no. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1962), pp. 29-47; Andrew Stuart to Secretary of State James Monroe, May 30, 1817, U.S. Consular Reports, Manila, U.S. National Archives; [Henry Piddington], Remarks on the Philippine Islands and Their Capital, Manila, 1819 to 1822: By an Englishman (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1828), p. 76; Andrew Stuart to Secretary of State John Q. Adams, April 20, 1820, U.S. Consular Reports, Manila, U.S. National Archives; Ramon González Fernández and Federico Moreno y Jeréz, Manual del viajero en Filipinas (Manila: Est. tip. de Santo Tomás, 1875), p. 238; Centenary of Wise and Company in the Philippines, 1826-1926 (n.p.: n.p., n.d.), p. 101.

to preserve the quality of the product. In 1818, an ordinance passed in Pampanga prohibited adulteration of pilon sugar with darker grades.[15]

Because of market conditions, Philippine export sugar fell in price between 1796 and 1836, as indicated by figures in table 2. Some rise seems to have occurred about the end of the Napoleonic wars, before peacetime shipping fully returned, but, after that, prices did not revert to earlier levels because of changed circumstances in the sugar industry.


One of the first places the Philippine sugar industry took hold was Pampanga. Leaders of Pampangan society early on agreed to participate in the colonial order and duly benefited from that collaboration. The prehispanic social system was restructured and the population mobilized in the service of the native elite and the Spanish establishment. The contractual labor arrangement that resulted proved adaptable to the needs of the sugar industry as it began to exert an impact on the province.

Archaeological evidence indicates the existence of long prehispanic settlement in Pampanga, and when the Spaniards reached Pampanga, they



Map 6.
Settlement in Early Pampanga

found at least eleven communities along the banks of the Pampanga River system (map 6). The name of the area, indeed, derived from the Capampangan word pangpang meaning "riverbank," and people of the region largely earned their livelihood from that body of water. The river nourished their crops, especially their rice; provided them with fish; and offered them access to interior jungles as well as to Manila Bay and beyond. In the course of their habitation of some of the best grain-producing land in the Philippines, Capampangan developed advanced agricultural techniques, knowledge in the working of brass, and navigational skills that took them to trading emporia of the Malay archipelago. Their use of imported ceramic wares indicated fairly constant commercial intercourse with merchants


originating from the ports of southern China. In addition, Pampanga maintained contact with other parts of the islands through exchange of its excess rice for cotton needed in weaving local cloth. By the late sixteenth century, the delta had become sufficiently populous that Capampangan had moved up feeder streams to Masicu (later called Mexico) and Porac, thus extending their sway onto more elevated, drier portions of the great plain.[16]

Europeans encountered this aggressive and skilled people who dominated a fertile edge of the great forest covering the Central Luzon Plain and began reshaping their social structure and refocusing their economic activities. In 1574 Pampangan warriors were enlisted to defend Manila against depredations of the Chinese pirate Limahong (Lin Feng), thus initiating a tradition of more than three hundred years of military service to the Spanish regime. Subsequently, Spaniards employed their most trusted mercenaries to suppress rebellious natives and riotous Chinese residents, to guard the citadel of Manila, and to make war against the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. In addition, Pampangan regiments fought overseas, in the Moluccas and Marianas in the seventeenth century and in Vietnam in the nineteenth. Such service brought substantial rewards to their leaders in terms of officers' commissions, even the exalted rank of maestre de campo , and, for a rare few, assignment of an encomienda , a tax-collecting sinecure almost never granted to indios. The most renowned Pampangan soldier of the seventeenth century, Maestre de Campo Don Juan Macapagal, received such an encomienda of three hundred tributes in 1665.[17] Military use of Capampangan provided an early occasion for collaboration between the native elite and the colonial regime, and other opportunities followed.

The Spanish government initially divided wealthy, strategic Pampanga into encomiendas; however, the malfeasance and ineptitude of early Spanish encomenderos made the system unworkable, so the crown moved to institute civil government. Small private encomiendas, like the one to Macapagal, continued to be bestowed until the mid-eighteenth century, but only for recognition of extraordinary service or for maintenance of charitable causes. After the early years of conquest, governance and major tax gathering in the province became the duty of an alcalde mayor (governor), a Spanish appointee of the governor-general, who served in both an executive and a judicial capacity.

Within the province indigenous personnel assumed substantial administrative responsibility because few Spaniards served there. With the disappearance of most encomenderos in the seventeenth century, only an alcalde, parish priests of the Augustinian order, and a handful of soldiers constituted the Spanish government community—in effect the whole of European society—for a law, on the books from the sixteenth century to


1786, prohibited Spaniards from living outside Manila, unless in an official or religious capacity. Spaniards in Pampanga never numbered more than fifty before the second half of the nineteenth century, and control of municipal government passed largely into the hands of gobernadorcillos and cabezas. Under the colonial system, parish priests exercised civil as well as religious authority; nevertheless, priests had to serve in very extensive parishes spread out over many square kilometers containing settlements often difficult to reach. Moreover, between 1773 and 1854 Augustinians did not even hold the Pampangan parishes, because of a clerical dispute with the bishop in Manila. During this time native secular priests represented the clergy, and by 1848 the total number of Iberians in this province of some 140,000 people had sunk to nineteen.[18] A native leadership thus possessed ample opportunity to maintain jurisdiction over the population, collecting taxes, assigning corvee duties, administering justice, and, in general, serving as buffer between the ruling Spaniards and the bulk of the Capampangan.

Mutual self-interest fostered the close collaboration between native leaders and Spaniards during this long era. Spain needed the military and logistical support of the Capampangan, and the local elite took up colonial service in order to continue their prehispanic leadership. In the old Pampangan barangay, authority had resided with the datu, a person exhibiting military, judicial, and administrative ability. The datu presided over a community of lesser datus, freemen (timaua ), and debt slaves in which agricultural land was communally owned and distributed on the basis of need. Members of the community owed labor obligations to the datu in exchange for his leadership, provided he could sustain his authority by virtue of his strength and ability; he could be replaced by another datu if he lost his power.[19]

Sudden intrusion by Spain altered the old basis of authority, and the more ambitious among the datus readily adapted to the new order. Under the colonial regime, loyalty to the government became the main criterion for tenure, and chiefs could perpetuate themselves and their heirs in office merely by delivering goods and services and by not giving offense. In exchange for meeting their quotas, for facilitating native conversion to Catholicism, and for promoting peace and order, Pampangan leaders earned colonial recognition: the inheritable title of cabeza de barangay , head of a group of tribute-paying families. The new position offered its holders numerous advantages, most crucial of which was assurance of continuity. In addition, the cabeza received for his efforts, along with a title, exemption from certain taxes, corvee obligations, and legal liabilities. As a result of administrative reorganization near the beginning of the seventeenth cen-


tury, the new position of gobernadorcillo came into existence, the highest office a native Filipino could aspire to under Spanish colonialism. This official, selected from among and elected by cabezas of a given pueblo (municipality), was ultimately responsible for delivery of the town's tribute. Gobernadorcillos and cabezas in each town of Pampanga became the dominant class in native society, and they and their families became collectively known as the principalia . Principales were addressed as "Don" and "Doña." Although the principalia became a ubiquitous institution in the archipelago, those in Pampanga were especially noted for their reliability and devotion to Spain.[20]

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the principalia converted their political authority into social and economic dominance of Pampanga as well. They used their tax-gathering power and their control of the Spanish system of labor obligation, repartimiento , to reduce the population to share tenants working on lands controlled by the elite. A two-class society, made up of those in charge who monopolized positions and wealth and those who furnished labor for principalia and colonial needs, gradually replaced the more complicated prehispanic society with its various gradations of class, rank, and labor obligations. In each town of the province, a group of families, perhaps a dozen or so, achieved this higher status and perpetuated it with Spanish acquiescence. In exchange for a guaranteed source of goods and services, Spaniards allowed native leaders to control the means of supply, and the population as a whole remained relatively free from colonial interference.

In 1784, perhaps the most astute observer of the techniques by which the elite perpetuated their position, the great reformist governor-general José Basco y Vargas, toured the province and recorded his findings in a decree issued on March 3 at Arayat.[21] In it he noted that farmers could have their implements and draft animals seized as payment for civil debts and that they could be imprisoned for debt during planting, plowing, and harvesting time, even if such incarceration meant loss of their crop. He saw cabezas and former gobernadorcillos avoiding all work on their farms, making others do the labor for no wages, even though legally only those who possessed eight cabalitas (2.24 hectares) of land were exempted from manual work. Principales also rented out land, an illegal practice. Basco observed widespread use of the samacan contract as well. Under this arrangement, a landowner and a laborer (casamac or aparcero ) agreed to farm land on shares, the owner lending seed, food, and money to carry the worker through the season, with repayment coming at harvest time. Basco understood that great abuses occurred under this system because owners charged high interest on loans, forcing their tenants into chronic debt. Moreover,


they loaned tenants rice when the price was cheap and demanded repayment in cash when the rice was dear. By these various methods the elite kept the lower class as the permanent underpaid labor force of the province.

Basco also described the process by which principales acquired control of most land in the province, the pacto de retrovendendo (pacto de retro, or pacto, for short). Through this contract, land was sold for less than its true value, but with the proviso that the seller had the right to repurchase within a specified time limit, with the addition of an interest charge. In essence this arrangement amounted to a way of pawning land to raise cash; however, the system was subject to much abuse, including excessive interest charges. Moneylenders employed the pacto de retro as a means of taking land from poor farmers.

But the pacto de retro was only the latest method for obtaining farmland; other practices had been going on for two centuries. When Spaniards first arrived, they claimed all land in Pampanga for the crown, but because of early datu support, they received large tracts as a reward. The government ceased bestowing such favors after 1626, and all other territory in the province remained royal lands or communal lands to be held by natives in usufruct, rather than in fee simple.[22] In other words, farmers and householders could take up agricultural and residential plots that, theoretically, when vacated became available for reassignment. Such lands could not be bought, sold, or otherwise alienated without court permission. In practice, however, the Pampangan elite acquired real property, purchasing, selling, and renting it out on shares to casamac without ever obtaining a formal right to do so; and they also gained the legal skills to defend their claims in court. Furthermore, they added to their landholdings by picking up, again without official permission, household lots in payment for debts. The principalia thus institutionalized a system of private ownership of land, even though based on faulty legal titles, despite Spanish attempts to maintain a communal system of property control.[23]

Finally, Pampangan officials enriched themselves by abusing the repartimiento system. They inflated the Spanish labor requirements, exempted their friends and kin from service, and charged others, mainly poor farmers, fees to avoid such obligations, which interfered with the latter's own vital agricultural activities.

Basco, ever anxious to increase output of Philippine produce to cut the dependence on imported silver, decreed that the above inhibitions to good farm practice should cease. He was especially concerned about the abuses in Pampanga, for it remained the most productive agricultural region in the Philippines. Despite his decree, however, the practices continued unabated, for they had become part of the provincial way of life, and the Spanish


government had neither the will nor the personnel to alter the situation. By this time, samacan had become the main labor system of the province as well as an enduring form of social organization. Basco failed to realize the paternalistic characteristics of the system: tenants looked to their landlords for various kinds of assistance, social and economic, as well as for protection from the abuses of colonial authority.

The elite of Pampanga derived originally from prehispanic datus, particularly those who most cooperated with the new regime. From the few extant lists of town officials, there appears a marked continuity in the families that composed the earliest principalia down to about the middle of the eighteenth century, when a new group began to infiltrate elite ranks. Mestizos descended from early Chinese migrants to the province began to assert themselves, first as an economic factor, then as a political and social force when they intermarried with the indio governing class.[24]

A Chinese community throve in Pampanga after 1603, when merchants fled there following a massacre of their compatriots in Manila. The refugees established themselves in Guagua, chief outlet for the province to Manila Bay, and entered into commerce in produce that flowed to the Spanish capital from central Luzon. Being mostly single males, the Chinese took native wives, and in time, a mestizo society developed, first in Guagua, then in its economic satellite and capital of the province, Bacolor. By the mid-eighteenth century, Chinese mestizos formed a distinct community in those two towns where they organized their own gremio , a separate legal category under Spanish law, with their own chosen leaders (capitanes de mestizos Sanglayes ). In a setting remote from the sources of Chinese culture, mestizos began increasingly to assume the culture of their native mothers, while remaining, initially at least, in business rather than farming. First they acted as collecting agents for established merchants of Guagua, buying, for example, the sugar that ended up in the farderias of Manila. Eventually, mestizos took commercial leadership when Chinese were excluded by law from the province between 1766 and 1849. Mestizos moved more and more into agriculture, too, as they made loans to farmers directly and through the pacto de retro, finally ending up as landowners themselves. They entered the ranks of the elite, partially as a result of their acquiring land and partly through intermarriage with the traditional indio ruling class, and from the late eighteenth century on, the principalia of Pampanga became increasingly Chinese mestizo.

The early emergence of commercial agriculture and cottage industry in Pampanga facilitated this rise to power and position. In the period from the Spanish conquest to the 1830s, rice persisted as the chief export of the province, providing the population with their main source of wealth; how-


ever, other products—sugar in particular, but also anil, cotton, oil of ajonjoli, fish from the Candaba Swamp, woods, palms, fruits, and vegetables—offered additional income. Descriptions in 1819, 1833, and 1860 stress the variety of crops shipped from Pampanga, as well as the wide range of local manufacturing pursued there, much of it for the interprovincial market. Among other activities, Capampangan made pottery, including water and sugar jars; built boats and other items out of wood and rattan; wove and embroidered fabrics; operated distilleries and limekilns; and did primary processing of the province's agricultural produce. Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century Pampanga's considerable wealth derived from this broad range of industry, with sugar only gradually assuming a primary role.[25]

As noted earlier, Pampangan sugar probably began to enter the export trade in the seventeenth century and became an important part of that commerce by the mid-eighteenth. Before 1786 Pampanga was already the largest sugar-making area in the Philippines, averaging between 1,150 and 1,288 metric tons per year; by 1796, output had climbed to 2,045 tons. In the early nineteenth century, Pampanga and Pangasinan together produced more than 7,000 tons in one year, more than 2,000 of which entered the foreign market, and sometime around 1838, sugar surpassed rice as the province's major cash crop. Farmers grew cane and made muscovado in most of the river towns until the upper region opened up to settlement in the mid-nineteenth century., and the center of the industry slowly migrated north. As sugar farming expanded, mestizos benefited most, first as agents for Chinese merchants, then as separate middlemen buying on their own account, then as credit suppliers to those switching from rice to sugar agriculture, and finally, as owners of sugar lands and makers of sugar. While sugar production in Pampanga showed a pattern of gradual increase, the 1820s and 1830s appear to have been a time, too, of active road and bridge building in Pampanga, due in part to the initiative of mestizo sugar planters eager to improve their access to markets and to interior portions of the province where new plantations sprang up.[26]

Demographic shifts in Pampanga during those two decades reflected the northward advance of population and sugar cultivation. Mabalacat, Magalang, and Porac, still on the frontier edge of settlement, grew very rapidly, as did most other towns that devoted considerable land to cane. Candaba was known for its mixed economy of fish and vegetables that derived from its swampy lowlands and that found their way to Manila's burgeoning markets; however, the town's residents turned its western elevated, drier portions to sugar. The general provincial trend was movement of people and sugar farming away from the river.[27]


Angeles provides a dramatic example of change. The community started to develop in 1796, when Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda directed his servants and tenants to begin clearing land for cultivation in that remote northern place. De Miranda, former gobernadorcillo of San Fernando and a soldier by trade, removed permanently to Barrio Culiat with his wife Doña Rosalia de Jesus in 1811 upon his retirement from the service. Once there, de Miranda and Doña Rosalia supervised the growth of the new settlement, establishing the first church and primary school; at his instigation, Culiat became the municipality of Angeles in 1829. In 1822 he built the first muscovado sugar mill in town, as well as the first alcohol distillery. De Miranda's heirs married local Chinese and Chinese mestizos, and the progeny of these unions became the principalia of the newly founded town, providing the leading officials and landowners in succeeding generations. Angeles remained the fastest-growing community in the province throughout the rest of the nineteenth century.[28]


While Pampanga experienced considerable change socially and economically in the years between the coming of Spain and the 1830s, Negros showed little growth. At the beginning it might have been different. Between 1565 and 1571, the lieutenants of Miguel Lòpez de Legazpi moved about the Visayas in search of a permanent base within the archipelago, first trying Cebu, then Arevalo on the island of Panay. Had either sufficed, Negros, known initially as Buglas, would probably have been transformed into a major supplier of food and a thriving agricultural community. As it was, the lure of gold, access to China, and abundant available food in the surrounding area dictated the choice of Manila, thus determining Pampanga's transformation and Negros's continued somnolence. Lack of good anchorage contributed to the colonial government's paucity of interest in and late development of the latter area. Spanish officials largely ignored Negros from that time on, and its way of life stagnated until demand for sugar radically changed everything more than two and a half centuries later. Isolation marked the intervening years.

Spanish pilot Esteban Rodriguez circumnavigated the island in 1565 and provided the earliest firsthand information on life in western Negros. He confirmed a story circulating among Spaniards that many Negritos inhabited the island, but he learned they resided chiefly in the mountain interiors, while the coastal lowland belonged to people of Malay ethnic background who practiced the common Visayan custom of tattooing their bodies.[29] Negritos so fascinated early Spaniards that they called the island "Negros" after them, allowing the original name to lapse. The new name


exudes a certain irony, for the nonaggressive Negritos, whose sole economic role lay in trading small, amounts of jungle exotica for staples, kept largely to themselves and never constituted more than a minority of the island's population.

Initial Spanish visitors to Negros had to tramp inland some distance to find settlements of Visayans, even though they noticed people along the shore as they sailed by. They came upon only one exception: a single large community situated where the mouth of a river, possibly the Himamailan, opened out on the Guimaras Strait. The position of most settlement inland and the reaction of fear or hostility the Spaniards encountered from inhabitants indicated that the people of Negros had experienced frequent difficulties with outsiders, probably Moro slavers, who raided Visayan shores.

Denizens of western Negros already depended on agriculture in 1565, and Rodriguez came across rice fields, while in a native vessel he found rice, yams, and fish. At this early period communities clustered along banks of rivers emptying out on the western and most populated side of the island toward Panay, and soldier-writer Miguel de Loarca observed in 1582 that these places produced much rice, swine, and fowl. Farmers could well have employed wet rice techniques, for they had the right terrain, ample water and, probably, some knowledge of the methods of paddy farming.

But Negrenses probably practiced dry rice agriculture as well, especially the swidden type, in areas away from rivers and on less even ground. Francisco Alzina, the great Jesuit commentator on seventeenth-century Visayan life, though not specifically mentioning Negros, did point out that slash-and-burn agriculture predominated in his time. Evidence suggests that wandering people of ethnic Malay origin farmed dry rice in the southwestern highlands and in forested interiors behind the sedentary coastal and riparian communities. Here they raised crops on temporary fields and gathered forest produce which they traded in the lowlands for cloth and other necessities. Known by such names as Carolanos, Bukidnons, Monteses, Mangyans, Mondos, and Ambaks, the most mobile bands have survived in less accessible portions of Negros for centuries, continually defying those who would change their way of life.[30]

An apocryphal version of the founding of Hinigaran goes as follows:

As far as could be determined, the earliest people in these localities were the semisavage Mondos and Ambaks. Traders in sailboats from Panay used to land at [Barrio] Talisay to replenish their food and water supply and brought back to their home island (Panay) stories of the potentialities of fishing and farming in the land they had visited. Slowly but steadily Ma-


lay settlers from Panay came and drove the Mondos and Ambaks to the interior. The latter called the intruding settlers "taga Higad," vernacular for "by the side," meaning those who were beside the sea.[31]

Such a story portrays the nature of the original settlement of western Negros, for that side of the island showed cultural, economic, and linguistic affinity with Panay from at least the time of the first Spanish observations of the place. For socioeconomic interactions, western Negros has always looked to Panay, eastern Negros to Cebu, because the waters of the Visayas have served as a link between people, and the mountains have kept them apart.

The pattern of Spanish neglect emerged at the onset of colonial rule, and by the beginning of the seventeenth century, Negros's position within the Empire had solidified; it stayed almost static over the next two hundred fifty years. A corregidor (military-political commander) at Ilog, first appointed sometime between 1608 and 1618, represented colonial authority on the island; tax payments in kind continued going directly to Panay until 1734. In that year, Spain transformed all of Negros into a single administrative and revenue collection district with its capital, or cabecera , at Ilog.

Corregidores seem to have done little to promote better conditions; however, these officials had some excuse for their inactivity, because they faced, without much help from Manila, frequent devastation from Moros who ravaged coastal areas as late as the nineteenth century. Each corregidor after 1734 had a military officer to assist him with defense; still, protection remained inadequate on the west coast, for throughout most of the eighteenth century the government stationed hardly any troops on Negros. At least some corregidores faced the Moro threat by removing to Iloilo, leaving the general population to escape danger by either fleeing temporarily or moving permanently into the interior.[32] The government left Negrenses without any real means of improving their welfare and with imperfect guarantees for their personal safety.

What little support Spain provided came chiefly from the Church. At any given time, from their parishes in the coastal lowlands, a small group of priests, sometimes members of friar orders, at others Spanish or Filipino seculars, offered sacraments, served as missionaries to the wandering peoples, and supplied comfort after Moro raids. From the 1770s until almost the mid-nineteenth century, native priests held responsibility for five very large parishes, including many visitas , that stretched from Cauayan as far north as Silay.

The vast expanse of these parishes meant, necessarily, that pastoral care was attenuated, and one Spanish commentator, Robustiano Echaúz, re-


ported as late as the 1850s the persistence and prevalence, even in the lowlands, of many old Visayan superstitions and religious practices. Religious care on Negros, although more consistent and substantial than government services, proved deficient because of inadequate commitment on the part of the Church. The attitude of both Church and government in western Negros through the 1840s is reflected in that up until then not a single stone church or permanent public building existed in the region, so that Spanish Catholicism and royal authority were represented only by structures of the most perishable materials.[33]

Agricultural conditions on Negros scarcely showed any real change before the 1840s either. A government report of 1739 revealed that the island still met its tax obligations largely with the same produce as that shipped in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: rice; cabo negro, a palm fiber woven into ship's cable; and a variety of forest products. When the Frenchman Jean Mallat wrote about Negros in the early 1840s, he indicated that only a small crop of cacao and some coffee and tobacco were being planted in elevated areas behind the lowlands. On the plains, farmers still harvested mainly rice and some tobacco, cabo negro, and abaca, paying their government tribute in kind in these commodities. In some years harvests were so poor that alcaldes had to plead for understanding in the delayed collection of tribute, as happened during a long spell of bad times from 1832 to 1835. The only commercial activity on Negros involved some cottage industry weaving of such native fabrics as lornpotes and sinamay , commissioned by great mestizo cloth merchants from Molo and Jaro, on Panay.[34]

Life in western Negros remained brutish and insecure up through the 1830s. Pillaging by Muslim marauders, hostilities with the mountain folk, and government neglect made habitation in the area dangerous for the indigenous population and lacking in amenities for foreign colonials. The first Moro raid reported in colonial times came in 1599, although they had probably occurred before the Spaniards arrived as well. Periodically thereafter Moros plundered the coastal settlements in search of goods and slaves, usually destroying what they could not carry away. Attacks appear to have happened most frequently in the second half of the eighteenth century, declining in the nineteenth. As late as 1829, however, Moros captured a hundred or so natives from Bacolod, Talisay, and Silay as slaves. They took Spaniards, too. In 1771 the governor of Negros was held captive, and sometime in the 1840s Don Agustin Montilla, Spanish founder of the settlement at Pulupandan, had to be ransomed from the Muslim south.[35]

A wall of distrust and dislike also separated Christians from pagans on Negros, making forays into the interior hazardous. Those who lived be-


yond the pale of colonial control and the sway of the Catholic Church included nomadic Negritos; other aboriginal groups; former lowlanders called remontados who preferred the isolation of the jungle to the colonial order; and a miscellany of wanderers, bandits, and escaped criminals known collectively as cimarrones . Often Spanish attempts to bring these people "under the bell," that is, within the orbit of civil and religious authority, induced hostile reprisals and armed attacks upon the coastal settlements; and in the 1840s Mallat still advised against overland travel between west and east coasts because of possible hostilities along the way.[36]

The thumbnail sketches of all major communities in both Pampanga and Negros in the mid-1840s that Buzeta and Bravo supplied reveal the sharp contrast between the two regions. The former contained wealthy towns, most with substantial churches, schools, permanent municipios (town halls), and private homes of stone and wood. A network of all-season roads connected these communities, bringing them into regular contact with one another and, via the port of Guagua and the postal road, with Manila; thus, Capampangan, at least those in the central poblaciones, received capital news, market prices, and mail weekly. In contrast, western Negros resembled much more a frontier area than a long settled place. The seven widely scattered main towns boasted few solid buildings, religious, gov-ernmental, or residential; and land transportation consisted of narrow, rough paths crossing rivers often unfordable during the rainy season. Access to the outside world, difficult and infrequent, depended on coasting vessels from Cebu and Iloilo; thus such important items as mail and commercial news were available only infrequently. The low depth of rivers and streams closed off interior communities to all save shallow-draft boats.

In the 1830s, Pampanga already possessed an entrenched native elite, infused with economically aggressive Chinese mestizos who controlled the land, monopolized town political offices, and dominated the local professions of soldier, priest, and lawyer, as well as the lower echelons of the colonial bureaucracy. They had already accumulated knowledge of cane agriculture and the art of sugar manufacture and were, indeed, prepared to take advantage of the expansion of commercial farming when it reached their region. The Negros leadership was not, either by virtue of their agricultural ability or by their absorption of entrepreneurial techniques. Two comments speak to the socioeconomic status and economic preparedness of the pre-1850 Negrense principalia:

All the political power and wealth of the island belonged to one or two caciques in each town who possessed a smaller or larger number of carabao, some gold beads hanging around their necks, a few cavanes of rice, scarcely enough necessities


to maintain their families, and houses enclosed with thin walls of bamboo.[37]

In his memoirs, Nicolas Belleza, an old resident of Bacolod, originally from Molo, Iloilo, presents a very interesting list of gobernadorcillos from the capital of Negros, when that capital was still situated at Himamailan. The list begins in 1770. . . .

Now then, very few of those distinguished family names from that remote time still exist within prominent social and economic circles in the province: such names as De los Santos, De la Cruz, Maguilan, Vivencio, Palandangan, Espino, Gabaton, Andicoy, Guiouin, Varientos, Dopillo, Muncal, Salomon, Laurente, Guiquin. . . . On the other hand, starting in 1840, at the dawn of the sugar era, mixed with some of those old names on the list appear new ones, new immigrants, new gobernadorcillos. . . some of whom were still living a short time ago.[38]

In short, the old elite in Negros was scarcely better off than the poor farmers around them.

However, western Negros began in the 1830s, and especially the 1840s, to receive more attention from the government and to show signs of emerging from its lethargy. Perhaps the most important circumstance that made change possible was the diminution of the Moro threat. Their raid along the coast in 1829 that netted so many prisoners proved to be their last big success, and from that time on, governmental protection and local resistance reached the point that, while occasional attacks took place, they did not have such devastating consequences. Governors Luis Villasis (1833-40) and José Saenz y Vizmanos (1840-48) attempted to shore up coastal defenses, and in 1844, when Don Agustin Montilla petitioned for official recognition of his new agricultural settlement (estancia ) at the visita at Pulupandan, town of Bago, he assured the government that he could adequately protect his laborers from the Moros who stopped at the nearby island of Inampulugan.[39]

Montilla appeared as the first of a wave of new settlers to western Negros, beginning around 1840. Why they chose this area remains unclear, but it may well have had something to do with the extremely low price of land, extolled by Vizmanos and other government officials. Montilla, a Philippine-born Spaniard married to a mestiza from Iloilo, Vicenta Yanzon Locsin, appears to have been something of an adventurer who resigned from a military career before choosing commercial farming. He left the relative comfort of Manila and Iloilo to become a planter on Negros, raising in those early years rice, coconuts, cotton, abaca, maize, and mongo


beans. He succeeded very well, as the estancia at Pulupandan represented an extension of his original settlement along the Bago River and involved the effort of 118 laborers. In 1844 he sought the assignment of a teniente de justicia to look after the welfare of those workers; three years later the community had grown so much that Montilla requested permission to erect a chapel, because it was too far for the more than eight hundred villagers to go to Bago for church on Sundays.[40]

Whatever his original motivation, Montilla did not go to Negros to plant sugar. Although he owned extensive cultivations along the Bago River and an iron cane-grinding machine when the English entrepreneur Nicholas Loney visited his hacienda in 1860, he had showed no interest in that crop in 1844.[41] It would appear that he learned about sugar from the second significant migrant to Negros, the originator of commercial sugar production on the island, Yves Leopold Germain Gaston.

A twentieth-century source asserts that in 1836 Negros milled 280 tons of sugar, and by the mid-1830s ships at Manila accepted for export Visayan type muscovado wrapped in bayones; nevertheless, the commercial sugar industry on the island really began with the arrival of Gaston in 1844. A sugar expert by profession, he came from Mauritius in 1837 to make sugar for Domingo Roxas in Batangas. That project failed, and Gaston transferred seven years later to Negros to enter business for himself. His application for permanent residence on the island had the enthusiastic endorsement of Governor Vizmanos, a booster of Negros agriculture. At Buen Retiro, his estate in Silay, Gaston constructed the first sugar mill (trapiche ), built an horno economico (a more efficient furnace for boiling the syrup), and planted the first large crop of cane. By 1848 his influence had spread, and Negros production reached 3,000 piculs, around 190 tons, manufactured by four planters: 1,000 piculs by Montilla at Bago, 400 by a certain "Tia Sipa" in Minuluan, 900 by Gaston, and 700 by Eusebio Ruiz de Luzuriaga in Bacolod. The latter was one of a group of Spanish political refugees moving into Negros in the 1840s and 1850s to pursue agriculture, business, and the professions just as the tide in favor of commercial sugar was coming in. Spaniards from the Iberian Peninsula along with Philippine-born Spaniards and Spanish mestizos were to form a significant component of the emerging Negrense elite.[42]

The changing situation in western Negros is reflected in the rise in population from some 18,000 in 1818 to about 35,000 in 1845. The annual growth rate was substantial for the whole area—2.5 percent—but was most spectacular in that part north of the oldest settled area around Ilog.[43] Indeed, that the demographic center of gravity was gradually shifting is indicated by the movement of the capital of the province northward. In



Map 7.
Settlement in Early Western Negros

1790 it migrated from Ilog, where it had been since earliest colonial times, to Himamailan; then in 1849 it moved again to its present location at Bacolod (map 7). Population in the region not only increased rapidly, but people settled more permanently along the coast and moved toward new agricultural land where they grew more nonrice crops—all reflections of better security and an improved economy.

Immigration of agriculturalists and burgeoning population did not serve as the only evidence of economic development in western Negros; in 1834


mail service on a fortnightly basis commenced, connecting Himamailan with Manila via eastern Negros, Cebu, Leyte, and Samar.[44] And in 1849 the Recollect Order of friars acquired pastoral supervision of Negros, assuring more extensive religious assistance for the province and indicating that western Negros had reached the point that it merited more attention from the Church establishment.

Sugar and Early Philippine Society

In historical perspective, this first 270 years represents the extended in-fancy of the sugar industry in the Philippines, a time when sugar making reached and scattered throughout the islands, when local use of sugar became widespread, and when the first steps toward establishment of an overseas trade were taken. Despite the slow beginnings, one can see emerging, even at this early period, aspects that characterized the industry in its later, more advanced stages of development: heavy foreign participation, a compartmentalization of economic activity, and use of a plantation system. While this first stage proved a formative one for the industry, the industry itself exerted little influence at this time on the social and economic life of the archipelago.

That it stands as a foreign innovation is perhaps the most noteworthy fact about the origin of the sugar industry. Spaniards initially imported sugar to satisfy their own tastes and were later instrumental, along with Chinese entrepreneurs, in introducing manufacturing techniques through-out the archipelago, thus creating a widespread taste for brown sugar. Moreover, to the end of the Spanish regime the division of labor persisted between native Filipinos who grew cane and did the primary, crude boiling, and Chinese merchants, European or American agents, and Iberian managers of the great friar estates who did the processing, warehousing, and retailing of the higher grades for internal and external markets. Only from the mid-eighteenth century on did Chinese mestizos insert themselves into this hierarchy as provincial middlemen, acquiring in such places as Pampanga quantities of sugar for the big Manila Chinese dealers.

During the first 150 years of Spanish rule this division of labor meant little, for commerce in sugar amounted to only a small portion of the colonial economy. However, the distinction became more significant and began to shape the growth and structure of the industry as it waxed in the eighteenth century in response to early export demand. Gradually, regional concentration became more pronounced, as the areas near Manila started to specialize in the manufacture of pilon sugar, and native farmers there became linked to international commerce through a network of foreign and colonial entrepreneurs. For the locals, however, the only


avenue of growth was through expanding their cane lands, and by the early nineteenth century, the first real plantations in the archipelago began to appear, first in central Luzon and later in Negros and other islands of the central Philippines. At the outset the pioneering projects of de Miranda in Pampanga and, later, of Montilla in Negros did not function as classic monocrop plantations, for although they produced for the market, they initially operated more as subsistence communities with a mixed-crop economy.

The labor pool and class stratification to launch sugar plantings also existed, especially in Pampanga where the samacan system already flourished. In western Negros itself a labor shortage prevailed; however, the nearby province of Iloilo possessed a large rural population upon which to draw for workers. Whether the original laborers came to Negros as tenants or as paid help is not clear, but the presence of so many European planters at the outset meant a much greater distinction between labor and management than in Pampanga where planters and tenants shared the same heritage.

The great inhibition to the expansion of commercial agriculture in the Philippines during this first stage was the lack of markets, partly caused by Spanish colonial policy but mainly a result of limited international demand. In fairness to Spain, if officials did little to stimulate trade, they did less to retard it. Content to make their money initially from the galleons and then through the salaries and peculation of colonial administration, the Iberians left commerce to foreigners. Americans and Englishmen, the chief buyers of Philippine sugar, increased their purchases only gradually, not fast enough to encourage investors to rush to sugar farming. Other crops and other activities—the fabrication of native cloths, for example—absorbed the attention of those seeking good business returns. Cheap land and labor in the archipelago made sugar cultivation a relatively easy field to enter; without the markets, however, there remained little incentive to do so.

As a result of this slow rate of growth, the commercial sugar industry had little impact on the two areas that would later become the archipelago's prime cane-producing regions. By the 1830s Pampanga had a flourishing, mixed economy based on. a variety of jungle and agricultural products derived from its wet southern lowlands and the forested northern uplands. Its wealth was reflected in its prosperous towns, cottage industry, and extensive transportation system. The social order, a bifurcated structure held together by a dose tenant-landlord relationship and headed by a native elite, had evolved over the: preceding centuries of regular interaction with the regime. This infrastructure was ready for transfer to unsettled regions


as soon as the demand for sugar arose. Negros, in contrast, having weathered the storms of Moro raids, governmental neglect, and separation from the main currents of economic life, barely survived into the 1830s. Further economic growth would depend on the infusion of new, outside talent and leadership, but only when enhanced trade conditions made such growth profitable. Subsequent change in both areas awaited new economic circumstances.


Two Foundations, 1565-1835

Preferred Citation: Larkin, John A. Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1993.