Despite its Importance, “the exact course and depth of the recession in the [Philippine] Islands have never been seriously studied” (Richardson 1984:208). Indeed, studies that attempt to calculate the impact of global trade cycles, including that of the Great Depression, on the employment economies of the primate cities of Southeast Asia form a special lacuna within the generally underdeveloped literature on the economic history of Southeast Asia. This article opens both research questions by presenting a time-specific assessment of the impact of this international business contraction on important segments of the economy and society of metropolitan Manila, the capital and major port-city of the Philippines. In particular, this article focuses on the depression experience of the large Filipino bureaucratic middle class, of Filipino manual workers in commodities handling, manufacturing, and construction, and finally of the Chinese commercial sector. The article provides a first-cut disaggregation and analysis of relevant statistical data—much of it assembled here for the first time, as well as commercial reports and the contemporary press. The result is a picture of selective dislocation and hardship but one that is at once more variegated and generally less severe than anticipated.

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