A 19th Century British Company in Manila through an NHCP Rare Manuscript

A 19th Century British Company in Manila through an NHCP Rare Manuscript

By: Diana Galang

Date Published: October 5, 2023

19 th -century Philippines is described to be a time of transition, not only historically but also economically; although rebellions were happening throughout the century, the Philippine economy continued to develop. Part of the reason is the elimination of monopolies through the abolition of the Galleon Trade in 1813 1 and the opening of the Suez Canal 2 which increased the demand for Philippine sugar and abaca in Europe. As it goes, when there’s an opportunity of growth, there will be investors. And so, by 1830’s, the Philippines became open to foreign investors and merchants who enjoyed their stay without restrictions.

As Luisito Abueg stated in his article “a lot of historical accounts about the 19th century Philippines are available, although only some of these discuss (and analyze) the economic underpinnings… One complexity of Spanish era economic data is that the original sources are not retrievable domestically. Usually, they are in the archives of Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and some other trading partners of the Philippines during the period. For this reason, standard historical accounts on economic and institutional evolution during the Spanish era have relied much on initial work that has garnered sparse attention. Work is yet to be done in validating some historical accounts that has some bearing on Philippine economic history. Notwithstanding, access to the original sources is significantly limited.” 3 With this reality, the NHCP is so fortunate that in 1996, Mr. John W. Hakwins, descendant of Holiday and Wise donated letters and reports of his forefathers.

Wise and Co. was established in 1826 by Robert Wise, a British trading company based in Liverpool, England and was able to establish their Manila branch in 1845. This was an outcome of the permission granted to a relative named Thomas Wise to settle permanently in the capital in 1832. Subsequently, a Spanish Royal decree was issued on 27 May 1841 authorizing Holliday, Wise and Co. to not just reside but more so to do business in the Philippines. The company was known in different names like Robert Wise and Co., Holliday, Wise and Company and, Farbridge, Holliday and Company due to various partnerships and changes of management among family members of different generations. Like other trading firms or commercial houses, Holliday, Wise and Co. opened their office in Binondo and later on a branch in Iloilo.

The 741-page letters that were bound into a book were restored and relined to make the papers sturdy and stable for handling and storage. The communications are between Norbridge Holiday who was residing in Manchester and Holiday Wise, the manager of the company here in the country. Most of the letters contain information about their sales, remittances, shipments, imports and credits. Some letters talked about current situations in the Philippines like cholera epidemic in 1882.

This kind of material is beneficial not only in establishing economic history of the country but also other aspects that contributes to its development including government and people’s activities. We hope that these material be used as reference in an in-depth studies.


  1. Onofre D. Corpuz. An Economic History of the Philippines. Quezon City: U.P. Press, 1997. p.41
  2. Ronald E. Dolan, ed. Philippines: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1991.
  3. Luisito Abueg, An Economic History of Philippine Trade: 1810-1899. (DLSU Business & Economics Review) 26 (2) 2017, accessed 22 April 2022
  4. Lorelei D.C. De Viana. Three Centuries of Binondo Architecture, 1594-1898: A Socio- Historical Perspective. Manila : UST Publishing House, 2001.p.47



Abueg, Luisito. An Economic History of Philippine Trade: 1810-1899. (DLSU Business & Economics Review) 26 (2) 2017, accessed 22 April 2022

Corpuz, O.D. An Economic History of the Philippines. (Quezon City : University of the Philippines Press, 1997).

Craig, Austin and Conrado Benitez. Philippine Progress Prior to 1898. (Mandaluyong : Cacho Hermanos, Inc.), 1985).

De Viana, Lorelei D.C. Three Centuries of Binondo Architecture, 1594-1898: A Socio Historical Perspective ( Manila : UST Publishing House, 2001).

Dolan, Ronald E. Philippines: A Country Study. (Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1991).

Fast, Jonathan and Jim Richardson. Roots of Dependency : Political and Economic Revolution in 19 th Century Philippines. (Quezon City : Foundation for Nationalist Studies, 1979).

Legarda, Benito Jr. After the Galleons : Foreign Trade, Economic Change and Entrepreneurship in the Nineteenth-Century Philippines. (Quezon City : Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1999).


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