Diana A. Galang
Librarian, Serafin D. Quiason Resource Center
National Historical Commission of the Philippines

The Philippines witnessed significant economic changes in the 19th-century. Among these was the end of the famed Galleon Trade in 1815 after almost two centuries of pioneering globalization and exposing the Philippines to the world. It opened new opportunities to both the Filipinos and foreigners residing and based in the archipelago as the Philippines opened to world trade. Among the foreign companies to invest in the Philippines was Robert Wise and Co., a British trading company based in Liverpool, England which opened a Manila branch in 1845.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) is fortunate to own a 741-page compilation of correspondences of the company. It was bequeathed to the National Historical Institute, the predecessor of the NHCP, in 1996 by John W. Hakwins, a descendant of the company’s Manila manager, Holiday Wise, who settled permanently in the capital city in 1832. A Spanish Royal decree issued on 27 May 1841 authorized Robert Wise & Co. to operate in Binondo, Manila. Due to various partnerships and changes of management among family members, the company was known by different names like Robert Wise and Co., Holliday, Wise and Company, and Farbridge, Holliday and Company. They later opened a branch in Iloilo. It is now known as the Wise Holdings Inc.

The letters are basically exchanges between Wise and his business partner, Norbridge Holiday, who was residing in Manchester, England. Topics are usually about the company’s sales, remittances, shipments, imports, and credits. They also contain valuable information such as the cholera epidemic in Manila in 1882.

Except, perhaps, for the National Archives of the Philippines, the Robert Wise & Co. Manuscript is one of the rare materials found domestically beneficial in understanding the economic history of the country in the 19th century, which was the same period when the Filipino nation was born. To help advance the historical research and knowledge, the NHCP is presenting the manuscript to the public in digital form soon in the National Memory Project as a brand-new feature of the NHCP website. The said project aims to democratize the historical wealth of the country found in the collection of the NHCP.

For queries, you may contact the NHCP Serafin D. Quiason Resource Center at library@nhcp.gov.ph. Read about the National Memory Project here: https://nqc.gov.ph/en/memory-project/

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