Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo: Entrepreneur and Stamp Collector
Leopoldo Aguinaldo was born on November 15, 1885, in Santa Cruz, Manila, Philippines. His parents were Anastacio Aguinaldo and Marcela Ramos and his uncle Emilio Aguinaldo was the first president of the Philippines. After his primary education at a private school in Santa Cruz, he went to the Liceo de Manila in 1904. He then left for Japan, where he started studying civil engineering at Nagoya High School. He later changed his course of study and in 1909 he completed his training as a textile engineer.
Above, a rare L.R. Aguinaldo envelope from the Japanese Occupation era
Back in the Philippines, he worked for the Bureau of Education. He taught the use of modern weaving techniques to members of the aboriginal hill tribes of the northern Philippines in the city of Baguio. Not long after, however, he resigned and started his career as an entrepreneur. He first tried unsuccessfully to set up a textile factory. He then imported textile machinery with a business partner. This venture was also unsuccessful due to a lack of capital. He then founded the company, Aguinaldo, Marcelo & Co. Later in 1913, they incorporated as The Philippine Net and Braid Manufacturing Co. with Aguinaldo as general manager of the company.
In 1921 he and his business partner parted ways and he started his own venture The House of Aguinaldo. He and his wife opened a shop on Juan Luna Street, where they sold a wide variety of items. From 1923 Aquinaldo also sold Aladdin lamps imported by him. Over the years, the range had been greatly expanded and several stores opened in various parts of the archipelago. In 1930 he added popular curling irons to the range. Later on, he also imported and sold shoes, jewelry, and household items, and his company grew into the largest import and export company in the Philippines. Along with Vicente Madrigal, Toribio Teodoro, and Gonzalo Puyat formed Aguinaldo into the “Big Four” of the Philippine business world during that period. In 1931, Aguinaldo founded the Aguinaldo Institute of Hair Science.
Above, the L.R. Aguinaldo & Company, an upscale department store that used to stand on Juan Luna Street in Manila. Founded by Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo in 1921, his grandson Leopoldo “Lee” Aguinaldo, would later become a talented but troubled visual artist.
In addition to his own company activities, Aguinaldo also held top positions in other Philippine companies and institutions during his career. For example, he served as president of the Luzon Surety Co., director of the Manila Railroad Company, director of the Manila Hotel, director of the Philippine Carnival Association, president of Club Filipino, and president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce.
Aguinaldo died in 1958 at the age of 72 in the Japanese capital Tokyo from the consequences of a heart attack. He was married from 1911 until his death to Andrea del Rosario, a sister of Judge Simplicio del Rosario, together with her he had three sons: Daniel, Heriberto, and Francisco.
Above, the L. R. Aguinaldo General Catalogue
Product catalog from 1924, Manila, Philippines.
Before the SM Super Mall era, the Aguinaldo Department Store was the biggest shopping store in Manila in the 1930s.
The Aguinaldo Department Store was located on Juan Luna Street. The building it occupied exists to this day as the Marvel Corporation Building with its distinct Katipunero and Liberty statues. Owned by Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo & Co. Inc., the store was one of the more posh department stores in Manila. The company started on July 4, 1921, and by 1925, it opened a New York buying office. In 1931, the company inaugurated the Aguinaldo Institute of Hair Science, which included make-up and beauty culture curricula. The same year it inaugurated a six-story department store on Juan Luna Street.
The Aguinaldo Department Store sold footwear supplies, women’s accessories, dress trimmings, men’s furnishings, household furnishings, Coleman lamps, toys, novelties, giftware, and hair-waving machines. In 1938, it added branches in Dagupan, Baguio, and Ermita.
The L.R. Aguinaldo Emporium was once one of the biggest shopping stores in pre-war Manila. In the 1930s, it became the talk of the town not just for its products but also for its unique multi-story building. The building had an Art Deco facade featuring two contrasting statues: Andres Bonifacio on the right and the Statue of Liberty on the left.
The store would later become known as Aguinaldo’s Department Store. After the war, Leopoldo’s son Francisco took over the business and the store was moved to Echague.
Aguinaldo’s succumbed to the competition and closed in the 1960s. The original building on Juan Luna Street still stands, along with both the Bonifacio and the Liberty statues.
Daniel R. Aguinaldo
Daniel R. Aguinaldo was born July 21, 1912, in Manila and was the son of Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo. He was the founder of the Aguinaldo Development Corporation (Adecor), a company previously based in Maco, Davao del Norte. DRANHS was named such because it occupies a lot donated by the family which owns vast tracts in what is now the Matina Crossing and Matina Aplaya area under Adecor’s Mindanao Realty Corporation.
But what only the old-timers know, Daniel R. Aguinaldo was also the spirit behind what is now the Pearl Farm Beach Resort on the Island Garden City of Samal. The resort as it is now is located in Barangay Adecor. Before Pearl Farm became a resort, it was a real pearl farm named Aguinaldo Pearl Farm. It was producing pearls using Pictada maxima oysters.
Above, the high school in Davao was named after Daniel R. Aguinaldo.
Like all major logging companies in the region, the denudation of Maco was attributed to Adecor. But it is also credited for the town’s infrastructure development. Adecor was one of the foremost logging firms in the Philippines then according to the Philippine Economic and Industrial Journal published in 1965. Based on the accounts of Leopoldo “Lee” Aguinaldo, an artist and one of the three children of Daniel R. Aguinaldo, it was said that his father’s Daniel R. Aguinaldo Corporation (Dracor) was built to extend services to Adecor. The younger Lee confirmed through his accounts that he had served company operations and logging operations in the area.
Daniel died on January 29, 1985, in Los Angeles, California, USA
Leopoldo “Lee” Aguinaldo (September 5, 1933 – January 2007)
Lee Aguinaldo, considered a pioneer of Philippine modernism, was born in New York City. He came from a prominent family descended from Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (1869-1964) a military leader and politician who is popularly considered to be the first president of the Philippines. From an early age, Lee showed an interest in art and resisted the expectation that he would eventually take over the management of the Aguinaldo family business interests.
His father Daniel (the son of Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo) had supported Ramon Magsaysay’s presidential bid. As a reward, he received logging concessions in Mindanao. He proceeded to make a fortune on other endeavors including a pearl farm in Samal Island, Davao del Norte; a mining company in Pantukan, Davao del Oro; a marble factory in Palawan; real estate developments; and the family’s eponymous department store, Aguinaldo’s.
Lee’s modernistic expression titled Linear Explosion No. 2, 1959
Like most privileged children of his time, Lee was sent to boarding school—in his case, the Culver Military Academy in Indiana—to learn discipline. During his free time, he devoured art literature and taught himself drawing by copying comics and art manuals.
In the conservative art world, Lee is considered the “bad boy” of Philippine art who turned his back on a life of privilege for creativity, hedonism, and redemption and is remembered as much as a pioneer in Philippine modernism rather than some sort of a rascal in high society. Anecdotes of his idiosyncrasies are just as remarkable as his works. During Martial Law, the late Arturo Luz—before he became National Artist for Visual Arts—mounted an exhibit for Lee and invited First Lady Imelda Marcos to cut the ribbon. Not a fan of the Marcos regime and Imelda and Ferdinand in particular, Lee was a no-show. Offended by the snub, Mrs. Marcos bought the entire collection and distributed the paintings to her favored Blue Ladies.
After attending a military academy in the United States, he did briefly work for his father’s company. In the late ‘40s, Abstract Expressionism, essentially post-war innovations in art, was emerging. Influenced by pioneer Jackson Pollock, Lee rejected traditional art tools and took to dripping and splattering paint to create interesting textures. “Young artists go through this imitative space,” says art critic Cid Reyes. “They create in the style of predecessors that they admire, before eventually developing their own.”
Fascinated by developments in American modern art Lee was influenced not only by the works of Jackson Pollock but Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhart, and later, Robert Rauschenberg. His art developed in an eclectic sequence, defying any linear progression.
In the Philippines, Aguinaldo was friendly with Arturo Luz, Roberto Chabet, Eric Torres, and Fernando Zobel who acted as a mentor. Lee’s evolution led to his best-known series the Pollock-inspired “Flick Series”, for which he used the palette knife to strike and graze paint onto the canvas, and through which he achieved more recognition. Among his other series are his pop-influenced Galumph series, and a minimalist, hard-edge series referred to as “Linear.”
Entrepreneur Vince Revilla recalls that he bought ten paintings from Lee’s uncle, Francisco, some 40 years ago. Decades later, he wanted to let go of a few, among them Lee’s self-portrait titled Grotesque, which Revilla said had scared his wife. A prospective buyer wanted it authenticated. When the art brokers brought it to Lee, he demanded a commission from the sale on top of the PhP10,000 authentication.
The brokers argued that the painting was no longer Lee’s property. Miffed, the artist declared the piece fake, although it had his signature on the back.
Linear No. 98 (1969)
Despite personal inconsistencies and growing financial problems, Aguinaldo remained a passionate and dedicated artist into his later years. He is the subject of a biography “The Life and Art of Lee Aguinaldo” published by the Vibal Foundation.
Although this project started out as a tribute to L.R. Aguinaldo, and his and my interest in postage stamp collecting, it progressed into subsequent generations, equality interesting in their own right. This has led to a heretofore unknown relative, Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippines.
Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (March 22, 1869 – February 6, 1964) was the uncle of Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo. He was a Filipino revolutionary, statesman, and military leader who is the youngest president of the Philippines (1899–1901) and became the first president of the Philippines and of an Asian constitutional republic. He led the Philippine forces first against Spain in the Philippine Revolution (1896–1898), then in the Spanish–American War (1898), and finally against the United States during the Philippine–American War (1899–1901).
Above, Emilio and Hilaria del Rosario Aguinaldo. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Aguinaldo remains a controversial figure in Filipino history. Though he has been recommended as a national hero of the Philippines, many have criticized him for the deaths of the revolutionary leader Andrés Bonifacio and general Antonio Luna, as well as his collaboration with the Japanese Empire during their occupation of the Philippines in World War II.
If you enjoy history as much as I do, and if you love the Philippines and its rich history, there is so much more to discover and it will certainly add another drop in the bucket!
All photographs are the copyright of their respective owner and Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me with any questions, or comments, or for authorization to use photos or for signed high-resolution prints.
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