On Labor Day, while dusting bookshelves, I came across a 1957 yearbook of the Philippine Chamber of Industries. I had forgotten about it, so I could not resist flipping a few pages. There were several pie charts one of which was titled, “Capital Investment of Producers by Nationality,” in Philippine pesos. What incredible data: Filipinos, 474,608,861.23; Americans, 273,874.582.88; Chinese, 96,249,469.33. Imagine, Filipinos were top investors in their own country and we used to make so many things for the domestic market. There was an abundance of products made by Filipinos for Filipinos.
There were steel companies like Marcelo and Ysmael, to name only two, that manufactured kegs of nails, interlinked galvanized wire fencing, steel rods, and a variety of metal products. Paper clips, hair clips, bobbie pins, office equipment, beverage coolers, freezers, refrigerators, air-conditioners, almost everything was made locally.
We used to make ink; local companies like the Philippine Ink Corporation braved competition from famous foreign brands and filled the growing demands of local printers and packers. Strategic industries like pharmaceuticals had many proponents. For instance, Lexal Laboratories formulated a whole range of medicines to combat diseases from child diarrhea to cardiovascular and intestinal disorders, tuberculosis, etc. Another company, the Modern Research Laboratories, invested in research and development of medicines for human and veterinary applications, widely distributed all over the country.
Once upon a time, Filipinos knew how to generate jobs. Hermoso Hermanos, Inc., set up a tannery in Marilao, Bulacan, while Carmelcrisp Manufacturing made machines for popcorn, candies, and snacks. Wonder Mechanical Manufacturing, founded by a Filipino inventor, made machines to produce aluminum wash basins nails, cans, abaca braiders, hooks, buttons,buckles, coconut fiber seats, and thread twiners. Gonzalez Toys, I remember, dominated the children’s market with cute animal -shaped rockers, dresser sets, pop guns, pull toys, wheeled vehicles, play pens, wall decors, and furniture rental for children’s parties. Ledda Manufacturing Co., Inc., made athletic goods and equipment, basket, volley, base, and soft balls as well a sports shoes, mitts, nets, javelins, discs, and nets for ball games.
Another pie chart in the 1957 yearbook showed that agriculture was still the largest contributor to the national income and there were a number of Filipino industrialists who had links with that sector. Bouffard Hermanos, for example, made farming, fishing, and mining equipment. Moll Enterprises was involved in producing abaca, copra, and palay even as it mined manganese, chromite, copper and base metals. Leyte Twine and Net Manufacturing Co. made twine and fishing nets of high-grade cotton comparable to imported ones.
The Philippine Chamber of Industries proudly affirmed: “Sprawling over the whole length of the archipelago, these firms (companies) are varied in their interests and activities. But, they all are powered by a common faith — that the country’s survival rests on full-scale industrialization.” Where have all those intrepid Filipino industrialists gone? More than ever, we desperately need jobs today.