Wednesday, January 23, 2013


(1852 – 1897)
One of the Movers of the Reform Movement
Don Gregorio Sancianco was born in Tonsuya, Malabon on March 7, 1852, to Don Eladio
Sancianco and Regina Goson who belonged to a well-to-do family.
After completing the requirements for college, he enrolled at the College of Law of the
University of Santo Tomas. He was a member of the La Juventud Escolar Liberal an organization
designed to obtain rights for the secular clergy.
It was after the Cavite Revolt of 1872 that a trickle of Filipino students reached Spain to
study. They were usually the sons of the wealthier class. It was during these years that Sancianco
went to Spain and enrolled in the Universidad Central de Madrid where he obtained the Doctor of
Civil and Canonical Laws and Licentiate in Administrative Law.
He stayed in Madrid where he worked with La Discusion, an influential Madrid
Newspaper. In 1881, he wrote El Progreso de Filipinas, a technical treatise on economics
recommending measures, which were eventually adopted as government policies to stimulate the
commercial and agricultural progress in the Philippines. Considered as the first serious study on
economics by a Filipino, this subsequently inspired the later Filipino nationalist leaders in carrying
out the needed reforms.
In El Progreso, Sancianco expressed his opposition to the colonial policies of Spain. One of
these policies was based on the idea that political identity between countries that make up one
sovereign was no longer possible when distance, climate, social characteristics, and diversity of
needs and cultural resources marked out the differences. ” This means the Philippines was a
colony of Spain, therefore, it must be governed by special laws.
He pointed out that the tribute was a symbol of the rule or force, a practice that had long
been exercised only by barbarous nations of the past. Surprisingly enough, Spain, a high cultured
nation, adopted this policy.
He propounded assimilation of the Filipino as a Spanish citizen. He believed that because
Filipinos had rendered invaluable services to the crown, they were entitled to the same rights and
privileges as Spaniards in Spain.
He also suggested that schools, which had been for a long time under the supervision of
the church, should be liberalized.
El Progreso de Filipinas as pervaded with a deep-seated concern for the dignity and good
qualities of the Filipinos. For instance, anticipating Rizal, he refuted the accusation that the
Filipino is indolent. He said, “indolence is only on the pretext of Spanish officials to commit
disgraceful abuses which discredit the Spanish name and authority that when a farmer sees
himself exploited by all kinds of people in authority he does not exert effort to cultivate his field,
knowing that others reap the benefits of the sweat of his brow.”
His El Progreso de Filipinas was really an anticipation of the principal themes of the
Reform Movement, which were: administrative reform; eradication of corruption in the
government; recognition of the Filipinos’ rights as loyal Spanish subjects; extension of the Spanish
laws to the Philippines; curtailment of the excessive powers of the friars in the life of the country;
and the assertion of the dignity of the Filipinos.
The treatise was printed in Madrid and only few copies of it reached the Philippines. It
was addressed to the government rather than to the ordinary man.
In May 1884, an uprising led by Andres Novicio, which was caused by the oppression of
local officials by higher authorities, occurred in Sta. Maria, Pangasinan. Surprisingly, of the
hundreds who were arrested, many were residents of Manila and of other provinces. There were
native priests, wealthy Filipinos and mestizos. Sancianco was one of them. But due to the
insufficiency of evidence, he was released.
In 1887, he came home and was appointed justice of the peace in Nueva Ecija. Imbued
with libertarian movement that influenced him while in Madrid, he ran into trouble with Father
Jose de la Fuente, parish priest of Cabanatuan. He resigned and joined the law firm of Don
Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista.
His participation in the Revolution of 1896 was not known. On November 17, 1897, he
passed away.
He was considered the First Filipino economist. He was the uncle of Don Epifanio de los
Santos, noted scholar and, grandfather of Gregorio Hernandez, Jr., Secretary of Education.
On March 6, 1941, the Municipal Board of Malabon passed Resolution No. 94, naming the
school in Tonsuya, his birthplace, Gregorio Sancianco Elementary School. On July 1, 1954, the
Municipal Board of Pasay passed Resolution No. 202, naming the public library as Gregorio
Sancianco Memorial Libray. A street in Cebu City also carries his name.
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biographies Volume 2. Quezon City:
Filipiniana Publications, 1955.
Eminent Filipinos. Manila: National Historical Commission, 1971.
Corpuz, Onofre. Roots of the Filipino Nation. Quezon City: Aklahi Foundation, 1950.
CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Volume 9. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines,

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