Juan Martinez

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Juan Martinez
24 November 1859 – 15 April 1934
Place of birth: Orani, Bataan
Place of death: Manila
Father: Ponciano Martinez
Mother: Severina David
Spouse: Potenciana Sayo

Juan David Martinez (24 November 1859 – 15 April 1934) was a printer, publisher, bookseller, and a pioneer in the Philippine publishing industry.

Early life and education

Martinez was born on 24 November 1859 in Orani, Bataan to Ponciano Martinez and Severina David. His father worked in Iloilo serving a Spanish landowner until his death. Martinez and his sister, Isabel, were left to take care themselves. Because of poverty, Juan was not able to obtain a formal education and could hardly read or write. He made a living by catching fish at the wharf at Iloilo. A ship machinist found him and brought him to Manila. A childless couple gave him some money to start a living.


When he was a young man, Martinez roamed in front of churches and peddled various religious objects such as rosaries, scapulars, estampas (images), novenas, copies of awits and corridos, and other booklets. He carried all of these in a tampipi while walking the streets of Manila. Later on, he widened the scope of his area to neighboring towns and provinces.

The uprisings that occurred in 1896 and 1898 forced Martinez to retreat to the province leaving his business behind. He came back to Manila and put his business up again once peace was restored.

In 1900, Martinez found a small space in an alley in front of Plaza Calderon de la Barca near the Binondo Church. He had a glass showcase hanging from a nail fastened against the wall. In the evening, he detached the case from the wall and brought it to a nearby store for safekeeping. He paid the store owner two pesos and fifty centavos a month for the service.

By 1902, Martinez was already occupying a small room in the lower story of a house in the same street. He put up a sign in front of his story that said “Libreria J. Martinez” in front of his store. Business boomed and he had to employ four to five store helpers.

In 1905, Martinez bought a Minerva press for reprinting copies of old popular works. Prior to the purchase, he used the printing presses of his friends. He started reprinting copies of old awits and corridos starting with the bestselling titles Juan Tiñoso, Igmido, and Ibong Adarna to name a few. He then went on to reprint novenas, passions, and other religious literature. Each of his reprints were marked “Aring Tunay ni J. Martinez.”

Martinez’s printing press remained in Juan Luna Street until 1909 when it moved to Calle Estraude and stayed there until 1917. After that, he transferred his press to Cabildo Street in Intramuros, Manila. His printing business became very profitable and he employed as many as fifty workers at a time. Later on, he put up branches on Escolta and Plaza Moraga. At the time of his death in 1934, Martinez’s property was already worth half a million pesos.

Martinez published and reprinted over a hundred titles in Tagalog, over thirty in Kapampangan, and over thirty novenas, aside from the novels and dictionaries which he published. He paid the authors either in cash or free copies, or both. Among the written works which he bought and published were the following:

Martinez was instrumental in continuing the publication of awits and corridos, metrical romances that held poular sway among the Philippine folk. His print runs ranged from 5000 copies for awits and corridos and 10,000 copies for the most popular ones, which included religious novenas.Through his avid pursuit of vernacular authors, he was able to publish hundreds of titles. In the American colonial period, he expanded his bookshop business to three locations: Plaza Moraga 34, Plaza Calderon de la Barca 263 and 5 Estraude St in Binondo.

Family and personal life

On 11 September 1886, Martinez married Potenciana Sayo, originally from Quingua, Bulacan, on 11 September 1886. He met her on one provincial trip while peddling his wares. The couple had five children but only two survived to maturity: Roberto and Juliana. Both children learned the ropes of their father’s business.

Praxedes Sayo was Martinez’s sister-in-law and biggest competitor. It was through him that Sayo learned about the printing business. She published under the imprint P. Sayo, balo de Soriano (in Tagalog Limbagan at aklatan ni P. Sayo Balo ni Soriano). Among her chief authors was the great novelist Fausto Galauran, whom she championed among many.

Martinez died on 15 April 1934 and his remains were interred at the North Cemetery.

The Legacy

The publishing business was continued by Martinez's wife Potenciana, and the imprint was changed to Imprenta J. Martinez, later Libreria at Papeleria ni Juliana Martinez balo ni Gomez in the 1940s. Upon her death, her son Roberto carried on the family's publishing tradition, renaming it as R. Martinez & Sons. It republished out of print Spanish classics, including Wenceslao Retana's Vida y Escritos del Dr. Jose Rizal in 1951. It was involved in the 1961 Rizal Centennial celebration, when it issued deluxe facsimile versions of the Jose Rizal's novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Among its last major publication was "Maremagnum, o, Ang mga huli kong alalahanin" supposedly written by the great Filipino martyr Jose Burgos in Spanish and translated by Roberto's nephew Mariano Sayo into Tagalog.

The business was continued into the 1970s, when it finally ceased publishing. Its office located in Quezon Avenue across from the Welcome Manila Rotunda was taken over by real estate giant SM Development Corporation.


  • Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Volume 1. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1955.
  • “Juan D. Martinez (1859 – 1934) Pioneer Publisher.” National Historical Institute. (Accessed 3 February 2010.)
  • Quirino, Carlos. Who’s who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.



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