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  The Tobacco Monopoly

With the opening of the Suez Canal, the Galleon Trade between Acapulco and Manila began to decline, and the country could no longer depend on the silver of Mexico and Peru to take care of salaries and projects. This started the cultivation and monopoly of tobacco which was hoped to be the main source of government revenue. Like all monopolies, however, that of tobacco opened the way to many abuses. Because the government was the sole buyer, it always set a price favorable to it, even if it was unfair for the farmers. The middlemen, like their latter-day counterparts, had their eyes not only on their commission, but on the commission of some hanky-panky. Aand the farmers, to defend their interests, were forced to device ways to countercheat the cheater. In 1786, the monopoly having failed, the government prohibited altogether the cultivation of tobacco. It was then that tobacco began to be grown in forest clearings and distributed as contraband at bandit's price. What we now hear about the 'marijuana' does not seem to be new at all.

Yet Cagayanos keep some sweet memory associated with the tobacco monopoly. At about that time, the government also made it compulsary for the people to grow cacao trees in their backyards. We still remember how sakulati and kamosi (boiled tuber) were served to the neighbors who came to help in care and cure of tobacco, in the spirit of ivve. Even today, cacao is still a favorite tree in many Cagayan backyards and sakulati continues to be a preferred beverage.

The not-so-sweet effect of the monopoly among the farmers of Cagayan was that the young men, finding their work unrewarding, began an exodus in Manila and elsewhere in search of jobs for which they had no preparation, bringing the male population of the province to a one-to-three proportion vis-ā-vis the female. The province was now poorer in money and man-power.


from Vignettes About Cagayan and the Cagayanos
by Msgr. Domingo Mallo-Peņaflor



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