Cement History


1914 to 1954: The Early Years

The advent of the cement industry in the Philippines could not have come at a more opportune time. At the turn of the 20th century, the Philippines was a country standing on shaky ground but eager to start anew after nearly 400 years of Spanish colonial rule.

It was during this time that the Americans bought from the religious orders their land, paving the way for new business undertakings that would serve as building blocks for a fledgling republic eager to spread its wings.

While most edifices during the Spanish era were made of natural stone, the Philippines undoubtedly teemed with limestone and shale – the essential raw materials in cement manufacture. Early historical recollections point to rich limestone deposits in Montalban and Binangonan (both in Rizal province, a few kilometers from Manila).

Small wonder, then, that an enterprising group of Augustinian Recollects would take interest in this rich mineral resource. In 1914, the first cement factory was put up by the Recollect fathers in Binangonan with a group of Manila businessmen, bringing in German technicians, and importing machinery from Germany’s Krupp Group – an industrial giant whose history spans nearly two centuries.

Thus was born the Philippine cement industry.

The country’s first cement plant, which was capable of producing 600,000 bags a year, was instrumental in building the first concrete structures in Manila. But its operations were cut short when the plant was shut down and confiscated by the Americans in 1919 at the height of the First World War.

Through a public bidding, the plant was sold to Ynchausti y Cia in 1925 but was subsequently acquired by Don Vicente Madrigal in 1928, who repaired and eventually renamed it Rizal Cement. At that time, Rizal Cement was the sole supplier of cement in the country, apart from sources of imported cement from Japan.

Four years earlier, in 1924, the Philippine government along with C.F. Marley put up the country’s second plant – the Cebu Portland Cement Corp. (CEPOC). It subsequently increased its capacity from three million bags per year in 1938 to six million bags.

During the American period, many beautiful and imposing buildings were built using cement, in what is now called the “art deco” style (although that was not a contemporary term; it was coined only in the 1960s). These were beautiful edifices, mostly erected during, or just before, the Commonwealth period. The most well-known of them are the Jai Alai Building, the Metropolitan Theater, and the Rizal Stadium.

Then the Second World War broke out and left in its wake a swath of devastated buildings, roads and bridges.

Cashing in on the high demand for cement for post-war reconstruction, the Philippine Portland Cement Co. (later renamed to Panay Cement) was established in Guimaras, Iloilo. It was the country’s third cement plant and operated on a starting capacity of 8.7 million bags per year.

In 1954, CEPOC established a second plant in Bacnotan, La Union with a capacity of 2.4 million bags per year. It was about this time that the Japanese government was preparing to issue war reparations – a development that would bode well for the infant cement industry.  <back to top of first page>

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