Born of a Chinese immigrant from Fujian, Roman Ongpin, like many Filipino-Chinese, grew up being trained for business by his father. He would eventually become a successful businessman in his right when he opened up an arts supplies store named “El 82” on March 1, 1882 (thus the name El 82) along Rosario Street in Binondo. (which is now known today as Quintin Paredes Street) It would become the place to go for arts supplies over the years as prominent artists like Juan Luna, Fabian dela Rosa, and Fernando Amorsolo would frequent the store for their needs.
But apart from his success in business and the support for the arts that came with it, Roman Ongpin was an ardent nationalist and patriot. He was wont to wear the barong tagalog (said to be one of the first prominent individuals to wear it proudly) and through his arts store, he was secretly helping the Filipino revolutionaries during the Philippine Revolution by supplying them with arms and other needs that he smuggled.
He was soon imprisoned by the American authorities on December 6, 1900 and was released on March 23, 1901, the same day President Emilio Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans. Still, his nationalist spirit never wavered as he soon became treasurer of the country’s first labor union, the Union Obrera Democratica founded by his friend Isabelo delos Reyes. Ongpin also devoted his time helping various charities, one of them being the La Proteccion de la Infancia.
Roman Ongpin died on December 10, 1912 and, in accordance to his last wishes, he was buried dressed in a barong, leaving no doubt as to his love for his country. In his honor, the Manila City Council decreed 3 years later to have the street known before as Sacristia be renamed in his honor.
In addition, a statue of him, dressed in barong, was put up near the side of the Binondo Church, at the corner of Quintin Paredes and the street that now bears his name.
Acknowledgements also to WikiFilipinas
© The Urban Roamer