The local Chinese population helped make Iloilo the textile capital of the Philippines in the 19th century
Research & Innovation | November 10, 2023
Textiles played a significant role in Philippine economic history. In this study, archival materials and records have shown that the provincial Chinese at the port-city of Iloilo located in Central Philippines, has contributed a great deal in the progress of the textile trade during the nineteenth century. The promising textile trade, which started as an
artisanal textile production investment among the local Chinese population resulted in capital and profit accumulation among Iloilo’s bourgeois class as well as providing numerous jobs for the laboring population, especially women weavers and entrepreneurs. More so, this progress in material culture spurred urban development in centers of commerce as the influx of workers from interior towns to the apex of manufacturing contributed to the formation of the first urban concentration in the Visayas.
The British global expansion aimed primarily at developing sugar as a major trade commodity drastically influenced the twist and turn of the textile trade. Nonetheless, the provincial Chinese, who favored manufacturing and retail trade over frontier agriculture, sustained the textile trade despite its declining status. In the long run, they became instrumental in diversifying trade operations through exportation of locally-sourced woven fabrics while at the same time served as importing houses of textiles from abroad. As such, it made Iloilo the “Textile Capital of the Philippines” in the nineteenth century as textile exports and imports accounted to more than a quarter of Iloilo’s economy.
Overall, this study shows that the discussion on the urban of history of Iloilo would not be complete without mentioning the rise and decline of the textile trade, and the significant role played by provincial Chinese in its operation. Though most of them are long gone, their efforts and legacies contributed greatly to the continuance of tradition that gives identity to many Ilonggos today, especially women.
The research significantly contributes to the body of scholarly works on Philippine intra and inter-island trade during the nineteenth century. In the field of urban history, the study provides fresh perspectives by employing methodologies of microhistory in discussing the interplay of material culture with that of the political economy of port-cities in Asia during the nineteenth century. This is significantly valuable at looking into the morphogenetic development of cities from pre-colonial, colonial, and even modern settings.
The richness of data gathered from archival sources are also essential as springboard for further research along this line. The pivotal role played by the Chinese in the provinces in terms of the growth and operation of local economies has to be documented and given a space in writing a truly representative and inclusive Philippine history.
Read the full paper: https://brill.com/view/journals/cahs/4/2/article-p220_003.xml