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The brick obelisk in Aurora Park in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte province commemorates the abolition of the tobacco monopoly during the Spanish-Colonial era, which had forced farmers into abusive labor. An inscription on the obelisk reads “erected by the people as an expression of joy” over the termination of the monopoly.
History of the Tobacco Monopoly
The colonizing Spaniards found that the land and climate of Ilocos is most suitable for growing tobacco. And so by royal decree of King Carlos III in February 1780, the Spanish government led by Governor Jose Basco y Vargas established monopoly of the tobacco industry in Ilocos and the northern region. It was to position the Philippines as a leading tobacco producer in the world.
This stimulated great revenue but fueled avarice and corruption by the authorities against the Filipino farmers. They forced the townsfolk to plant no other crop but tobacco and sell only to the Spanish government. All the products are strictly controlled in warehouses like the Tabacalera building in Laoag, still standing to this day as the Museo Ilocos Norte.
Back then, the Spanish authorities also took over the production and distribution of basi (the local wine), which by itself sparked uprising and revolt.
The monopoly was abolished a hundred years later by King Alfonso XII, who was eventually bestowed the name the Peacemaker. In gratitude, the people of Ilocos led by alcalde-mayor Don Jose Moreno Lacalle constructed the monument in November 1882.
Getting to Laoag
Although Laoag demands a 10- to 12-hour travel time by land from Manila, it rewards tourists with several well-preserved historic sites from the 16th to 19th centuries. Further, both Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur provinces boast many unique natural attractions worth visiting, ranging from beaches flocked by giant white rocks to expansive sand dunes.
However, you can take a direct flight from Manila to Laoag. The city, in fact, is one of the only three hubs in northernmost Philippines that are serviced by an airport.