Ongpin Street in the Binondo has become synonymous to what is now known as Chinatown. It is famous for being a treasure trove of gold-smiths, countless eateries serving only Chinese dished, pastry shops with tempting Oriental delicacies (like the famous Eng Bee Tin), and apothecaries selling herbal remedies and exotic cures.
Equally enticing are the side streets and alleyways offering an array of goods and good luck from fresh produce to exotic preserves to oriental charms to a wish for a good fortune at a side street chapel.
Adding color to the charm of this old commercial district are the frantic activities of tenacious vendors peddling their assortment of goods and competing for attention among the carnival of shoppers and travelers.
Being one of the major streets in Binondo, Ongpin was formerly called Sacristia after the sacristy entrance of Binondo Church which directly faced this street. In the scene from Noli me Tangere where Crisostomo Ibarra walked the old Teniente back to his barracks, Sacristia was the street he was traversing.
From Sacristia, the street was named after the man whose bronze statue presently stands on the corner of Ongpin and Rosario streets.
Don Roman Ongpin, was a dealer of art supplies. He founded the store El 82 in Calle Rosario on March 1, 1882. The store was frequented by famous artists with the likes of Juan Luna y Novicio, Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo, Fabian dela Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo.
Don Roman became popular among the Filipino-Chinese Community that in 1883 he was appointed teniete de primero meztiso then later as cabeza de barangay.
He was also noted to have been the first to wear the barong tagalong.
Don Roman also assisted in the Philippine Revolution. He provided the needed funds, food, and other supplies for the Filipino revolutionaries. He even allowed his store to be used as an outlet for revolutionary propaganda materials. For this reason, he was imprisoned. After his release, during the American period he opened his store and openly supported charities like the La Proteccion de la Infancia (housed in the famous building designed by Arcadio Arellano in 1915 called Gota de Leche).
He also became the president of Casa de Asilo de Invalidos Filipinos pro la Guerra which was founded by Pascual Poblete.
Source: Three Centuries of Binondo Architecture by Lorelie De Viana