The Spanish Monopoly of Ilocano Tobacco
A five-layer red brick obelisk stands proud and mighty inside the Aurora Park in Laoag City, greeting travelers and passersby day and night, rain or shine. But this monument is not ordinary. It holds a significant meaning in the history of the province of Ilocos Norte.
The Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument is literally a commemoration for the lifting up of the said exclusive privilege. Avarice is one of the characteristics the Spanish authorities displayed during their 333-year reign in the Philippine islands.
By virtue of the Royal Decree of 9 February 1780 of King Carlos III, the Spanish government established monopoly in the tobacco industry which Governor General José Basco y Vargas formally implemented in March 1782. Although it increased the government revenue and stimulated the tobacco industry, nevertheless, this monopoly created abuses on the part of the officials and injustices to the native farmers.
In another instance, the Spanish authorities also took over the production and distribution of the Ilocanos’ favorite wine, basi, a move that sparked an uprising called the Piddig Basi Revolt.
A century later, the monopoly was abolished by Governor General Fernando Primo de Rivera pursuant to the Royal Decree of 25 June 1881 by King Alfonso XII the Peacemaker. In grateful recognition, the monument was erected upon the initiative of alcalde mayor Don Jose Moreno Lacalle on November 28, 1882.
To this day, tobacco is one of the main agricultural products of Ilocos Norte and other Northern Luzon provinces.