On the 20th of this month, President Benigno Aquino signed into law the so-called sin tax bill, which was previously a subject of heated debate in Congress. While the goal of government is increased revenue, projected at some 20 billion pesos from those who smoke and drink alcoholic beverages, the law, on the other hand, may spell economic doom to tobacco farmers and employees of cigarette manufacturers.
What has this got to do with Rizal Day, this being the centenary of the interment of the remains of the national hero at the Luneta where his iconic monument stands?
|Package label of cigarillos with the portrait of Jose Rizal. Source: Protocolo Manila 878, National Archives of the Philippines.|
It's just that during the early years of the American regime, Rizal became a brand name of tobacco products. In the Navy guide to Cavite and Manila (1908), intended as a 'practical guide and beautiful souvenir' of American service men posted in Cavite,"Jose Rizal" brands were considered one of the few special cigar brands available from the market.
A popular cigar manufacturer at that time was the Germinal where important visitors in Manila were toured around and entertained by the company officials.
Germinal employed 1,300 men, women and girls to produce a daily output of 100,000 cigars. Cigarettes were made by machines; cigars were hand made.
The company paid a daily internal revenue tax of P4,000 on cigarettes and cigars made for home consumption. Import duties on cigars and cigarettes were very high at that time.
The Navy guide had a back-to-back advertisement spread for "Jose Rizal" cigars to welcome navy men arriving at the Cavite port, and a map of Manila rimmed with these slogans: '"Jose Rizal" cigars are liked by eveybody;' 'the best that money can buy "Jose Rizal" cigars;' and '"Jose Rizal" cigars, no other cigar spells like it, smokes like it or is like it."
If Jose Rizal cigarettes/cigars are in the market today, they could be more of 'it's more fun in the Philippines' souvenir items considering that the sin tax bill would make them more expensive. Lighting up Jose Rizal cigars though could very well fit in celebrating the birth of the first baby (a boy especially) in a new family.
No recorded author. (1908). Navy guide to Cavite and Manila. A practical guide and beautiful souvenir. Manila. Retrieved from http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=sea;idno=sea189
MSS. Protocolo Manila 878. National Archives of the Philippines.