Alfonso Ongpin

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Alfonso Tiburcio Ongpin y Tanbensiang (1885-1975) was an art connoisseur, gallery owner, Rizalist, Hispanist writer, and one of the greatest art collectors of the Philippines. In his lifetime he was the owner of the famed art supplies store and gallery Arte, which was a beacon of light to many poor and struggling artists.

Early Life

Ongpin was born on 11 August 1885. His father was Roman Ongpin, one of the early supporters and financiers of the Philippine Revolution and the art supplies owner of El 82, the predecessor of Alfonso's store Arte. His mother was Pascuala Domingo, descendant of the Philippines' first artist Damian Domingo. Alfonso' paternal grandfather was Simon Ongpin, an immigrant from Fujian province, China, while his paternal grandmother was Sinforosa Tanbensiang, a mestiza de Sangley. He was one of 19 siblings.

As a young boy he was taught by his eldest sister Eustaquia Ongpin, with his free time devoted to helping out in their father's store. He mastered Spanish under Vicentica Sioco. As a teen he enrolled at the famed Academia de Dibujo y Pintura under the maestro Teodoro Buenaventura.


Don Alfonso was an ardent Hispanist, being a honorary contributor (corresponsal honorario) of the internationally-recognized Spanish dictionary Espasa Calpe, from 1906 to the 1930s.

Over a lifetime, Don Alfonso collected many important Rizal documents, including Rizal's letter to his mother Teodora Alonso, wife Josephine Bracken, many of which were subsequently donated by his heirs to the National Historical Institute.

Don Alfonso built his art collection by accepting artworks from artists who could not afford to pay cash for their art supplies and canvasses. He also personally bought many pieces of art directly from the artists, including works of Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Fabian de la Rosa, and Fernando Amorsolo.


  • Valdes, Cynthia Ongpin. "At My Grandfather's Knee: A Portrait of Alfonso T. Ongpin." Metro Manila: Mission View Publishing, 2006.

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