Botica Boie

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Botica Boie

Botica Boie was the first and largest drug store in the Philippines during the 19th century and well into the 1960s. Botica Boie was an important institution in the Philippines and has an interesting history, although historians tend to neglect its significance to Philippine culture.


History in the late 19th century

Botica Boie was founded in 1830 by a Spaniard named Dr. Lorenzo Negrao in Manila. The original name of the store is not known, as the name "Botica Boie" was coined only in 1867.

In 1850, two German pharmacists -- Heinrich Schmidt and Friedrich Steck -- purchased the drug store from Dr. Negrao. In 1857, Steck bought Schmidt's company share and assumed full ownership of the store.

A keen businessman, Steck also bought another rival drug store, the Botica de Sta. Cruz. Steck became a famous figure in Manila during the latter years of the Spanish era. He was known as Don Federico among the local people, who mistook him for a Spaniard. To monopolize his trade, Steck also bought Botica Sto. Cristo, which was located at 348 Calle Sto. Cristo in Binondo, and Botica de Cebu.

Steck was well known for extracting the essence of ilang-ilang and sampaguita flowers and distilling it for commercial use. His enterprise won the gold medal and highest awards at the expositions of Madrid in 1887 and St. Louis in 1904, under the trademark of "Pablo Sartorius," his nephew's name. It commanded the highest prices on the European market. A total of 2,504 kilos was exported in 1914.

Steck's success led other pharmacists to come up with similar products but of inferior quality, including artificial oils, which caused the market to falter. This affected Steck's business as well. It never recovered, especially since the places where ilang-ilang grew were converted into housing projects.

When Steck decided to return to Germany, he sold Botica Sta. Cruz to another pharmacist named Westernhagen, who was married to Isabela Gonzales Tuason, a daughter of one of the wealthiest families in Manila in the 19th century. Eventually Steck's nephew, Paul Sartorius, whose main concern was the ilang-ilang, bought the business and its three branches from his aunt in 1870. It remained in his hands for 10 years before he too returned to Germany.

Earlier in 1864, Reinhold Boie, another German pharmacist (why there were so many German pharmacists in Manila during this time was still a mystery to this day), was employed by another Escolta pharmacy owner, W. Von Borris.

In 1867 Boie went to Vigan, the center of the indigo industry, where he opened a pharmacy using his own name due to some requirements of the law (although the company was owned by his boss Von Borris).

Thus, the name "Botica Boie" actually started in Vigan in 1867. Somewhere in the National Archives should be the original grant issued to Boie by Spanish Governor-General Gandara to operate the store.

In 1869, Von Borris sold Botica Boie to Paul Sartorious while Reinhold Boie purchased Botica Sto. Cristo. Sartorious thus became the owner of two big drug stores: Botica Boie and Botica Sta. Cruz. Later on, Boie sold his own drug store to Sartorius and went back to Germany.

Sometime after taking over the Botica Boie, Paul Sartorius became ill and asked Boie to come back and run the business. In 1884, Boie (together with a German friend, Otto Ziegert) returned to Manila. Combining their funds, they purchased the drug store from the Sartorius family for 52,000 (pesetas?).

Thus, the company Boie named after himself a few years ago was now his. However, since it was a partnership, it now became Botica Boie & Ziegert. However, people would still say only Botica Boie when referring to the company, as they had been accustomed to.

When Ziegert died while on a trip to Germany, Boie took in Dr. Schadenberg as a partner. Both Boie and Shadenberg died in 1896, however -- one before the outbreak of the revolution, and the other in the midst of it in September. Both were buried in the cemetery of San Pedro Makati. Their German compatriots bought the company afterwards (although the author is still researching on who these compatriots were).

  • Footnote: Schadenberg did research on the Aetas and his mounted Negrito skeleton was exhibited in the Museum of Amsterdam. He traveled to Mindanao and ascended Mt. Apo, becoming the first European to do so. It was he who discovered the giant flower christened Rafflesia schadenbergiana, which attains a diameter of 80 centimeters, an honor he didn't appreciate because of the flower's hideous stench.

History in the 20th century

In 1918 when World War I broke out, all the Germans running Botica Boie, along with other German residents, were deported to the United States. The business was sold for P1,250,000 to another company. It is unclear who the owners of Botica Boie were at this time.

In 1922, Botica Boie bought A. S. Watson & Co., a branch of the Hong Kong store that apparently had been doing business on Escolta from 1880 to 1912 and had a branch in Cebu. The company was renamed The Philippine American Drug Company, although people still prefer to call it Botica Boie.

Aside from medicines, surgical and scientific instruments, they now sold flavoring extracts, floor wax, toilet articles, etc. Later on, the second floor of the Botica Boie building in Escolta was converted into an ice cream parlor.

For 86 years, Boie was located at 81-87 Escolta where the Lyric Theater stood. In 1916, it moved to 95 Escolta, running back to Calle San Vicente. The two-story building was remodeled and another two stories added in 1920.

In 1938 it became a true pioneer of retail, having opened 3 other branches, in Cebu, Iloilo and Legaspi, Albay. It established an American office at 16 Beaver Street, New York City, and a European office with E&A Hasche, at Steinstrasse, Hamburg, Gemany. Its main lines of business were wholesale, retail and manufacturing of chemist, laboratory, hospital and photographic supplies. In the 1938 Commercial and Industrial Manual it listed its principal owners as General Manager Roy S. Springer and directors J.P. Heilbronn, S.F. Gaches, Amos Bellis, and Salvador Araneta. It had a paid up capital of 2.65 million pesos out of a total capitalization of 3.5 million pesos. It acted as agent for American Cyanamid Company, Johnson and Johnson, Carl Zeiss, Parke, Davis and Company, Stanco Inc. and Zeiss Ikon Agfa Photo.

After World War II, on May 22, 1948, Botica Boie, Inc. was recognized as a corporation. It concentrated on the manufacturing and retail of its own products manufactured under PADCO-BOTICA BOIE. Later that year it was formally registered with the Securities and Exchange Commision under the name Boie, Inc. In 1963 PADCOS’s separate manufacturing and retail activities were eventually absorbed by Boie, Inc., the name by which the company was formally known from then on.

Botica Boie, as a retailing institution, finally lowered its curtain. It is interesting that no Filipino historian has yet written down the history of this once great institution.

  • Footnote: The sister company, Botica de Sta. Cruz is still operating as of 2007, and can be found in an interesting early 20th century setting in an obscure corner of Avenida Rizal.


Although the retail presence is gone, the company survives as Boie Inc. It was recognized by the Department of Trade and Industry on October 29, 1998 for its “pioneering venture over a century ago, staying on and surviving the challenges of the times, thus helping grow Philippine trade and industry to what it is today, and what it can be tomorrow.”

Boie saw the country through 5 flags, the Spanish, Filipino, American, Japanese and once again Filipino. DTI further cited Boie for keeping faith in the future of the Philippines.

Its present managers are:

  • Benito R. Araneta - President
  • Rita A. Quimson - Vice President
  • Ma. Lourdes A. Senn - Treasurer
  • Antonio A. Climent - General Manager
  • Henry Liguidliguid - Finance Manager
  • Malou C. Jose - HR Manager


1.Lipang Kalabaw Magazine, Vol.2 No.32., Manila, Philippines




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