BRIDGING THE GAP
Business establishments in the town of Iloilo, 1880s
In the second half of the 19th century, Iloilo became the undisputed leader of the provinces of the Western Visayas. It was not only the most populous, but also the most important for agricultural production, the most active in the manufacturing sector and one of the best educated among the provinces, according to John Bowring, governor of Hong Kong, who visited Iloilo in 1858. (Bowring, 1963).
Due to the expansion of trade and the rapid growth of commercial and economic activities in Panay and Negros due mainly to the boom in the sugar industry resulting from the opening of the port of Iloilo to world trade in 1855, indigenous and foreign companies have established themselves in the city of Iloilo. These companies built permanent offices and outlets along the Iloilo wharf and in the streets leading from the seafront. Banks, machine shops, printing presses, educational establishments, medical establishments and social clubs have sprung up. Apartment buildings are on the increase and give the city of Iloilo a highly urbanized character. The town of Iloilo then became one of the most important shopping centers in the Philippines outside of Manila. On October 5, 1889, the Queen Regent of Spain elevated the city to the rank of city.
The Iloilo waterfront (now Muelle Loney), considered the hub of Iloilo’s trade, was a warehouse for British and Chinese merchants in the 1880s, not to mention American, Basque, Catalan, Danish entrepreneurs. , Portuguese, Swiss and Filipino. Calle Real (now JM Basa Street), located in the heart of downtown Iloilo, served as the city’s main shopping center. By the 1880s, even before it was established as a city, this was already where most of the city’s commercial establishments and large residential houses were located. Filipino, American, European and Chinese retail stores lined up along its length.
An essential component of the sugar trade at the port of Iloilo was the availability of bodegas or warehouses to store the sugar. At the heart of the seafront stood a long line of offices and bodegas belonging to the main commercial houses operating on Calle Real and elsewhere in the city. Some of them included those of Miguel Medina, Julian Hernaez, Vicente Gay, the Scotsman Macleod, Ernest Oppen, Ynchausti y ca., and the Swiss Frederick Luchsinger (Contribuciones industriales, Iloilo).
In 1877, the Englishman Henry Hoskyn, nephew of Nicholas Loney, the British first vice-consul in Iloilo, paid 17,000 P for the house and the land in the middle of Calle Real which became the site of the famous department store of The city’s luxury Hoskyn, reputed to be the Philippines’ first true department store. It was also claimed to be the first to introduce the “fixed price” policy into merchandising in the country and was known to be “the store that sold everything from needle to anchor”. It offered groceries, hardware, stationery, toys, watches, jewelry, machinery, buttons, thread, etc. (Articulos que ordinariamente reciben y venden Hoskyn y ca. del comercio de Iloilo, 1895).
In the 1880s, among the companies doing business on Real Street, other than Hoskyn Street, were Streif & Co. (Switzerland), Ynchausti y cia. (Spanish), El Louvre (French), Lizarraga Hermanos (Spanish) and Levy Hermanos & Co. (French). These establishments were renowned merchants, capitalists and major commodity brokers. There were also other European and American companies specializing in marine and fire insurance. In addition, a number of European specialty shops and retail stores sold hats, watches, naval supplies, etc. A piano studio, sewing and machine shops were also available. In addition, there were Spanish and indigenous establishments here such as Bazar Cosmopolitan, Cafe Colon, La Puerta del Sol, La Espega de Oro, La Zaragoza and Tordecillas y ca. There was also a German-owned pharmacy called Botica Antigua (Protocols 1601, Yloilo, March 31, 1887; Contribuciones industriales, Iloilo).
Banks quickly opened their branches in the town of Iloilo around this time and they were moved to Calle Real near Plaza Alfonso XII (now Plaza Libertad). These banks were the Chartered Bank and the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank. Hotels have also been found on Calle Real, such as Casa de Hespedes and Fonda la Espanola, located just at the end of the Plaza.