Monserrat “Chat” Peypoch (b. 1915, Aparri, Cagayan - d. 1999, Manila) was the first known female photographer to run her own studio in Manila. After WWII, she opened the first Chat Peypoch Studio on Taft Avenue, across the Philippine Women’s University, and established herself as the “foremost lady photographer of her time in a field dominated by the likes of Bob Razon of Bob’s Studio, Dominador Cruz of Tropicana, and Chas W. Miller of Chas W. Miller and Son Studio.” 



Born on October 18, 1915 to Francisco Garcia, a Spanish traveling jewelry salesman, and Josefina Saad, a Spanish-Lebanese, Chat spent her early years in Aparri, Cagayan, where her family relocated to when they left Barcelona, Spain. Chat’s family moved to Manila when her father started working at the Casino Español. At the young age of fifteen, she left her studies at St. Theresa’s College and worked as a receptionist at the studio of American photographer Chas W. Miller. With no prior experience in photography, she gradually learned everything on the job, from helping to put models at ease and pose beautifully to lighting, film developing, printing, and shooting. In 1949, she eventually took over the studio when Chas W. Miller left the Philippines and returned to the United States.   



A consummate photographer and entrepreneur, Chat successfully operated the Chat Peypoch Studio for fifty years. Specializing in black and white and sepia portraits, the studio was a “byword in business and social circles” and was favored by Manila’s top private schools such as Assumption, Maryknoll, St. Theresa’s, St. Scholastica, and La Salle. Many graduates from these schools fondly recall their trip to Chat’s studio – from its first location on Taft Avenue, to Mabini and U.N. Avenue in Manila, then to Pasay, and Las Piñas – to have their portraits taken for their yearbooks and reproduced as wallet-size prints, which are customarily given as keepsakes to classmates and friends.


Named “Photographer of the Year” in 1956 by the Federation of Women’s Leagues of the Philippines, Chat was recognized for her work in fashion and advertising photography, creating striking images for magazines, ads, calendars, and other publications. She shot for various publications including the Philippines Free Press, Weekly Women’s Magazine, Bride of the Times, and Style Magazine. She also did ads for major corporations such as Caltex and San Miguel. But it is through her work in portraiture that she became well known to generations of Filipino families, as she captured them during their most important milestones - baptisms, weddings, anniversaries, and most especially, graduations. 



Chat was married to businessman Ramon Peypoch Sr., with whom she had three children, Maria Carmen Peypoch Reyes, Ramon Peypoch Jr., and Maria Angeles Peypoch Fullerton. She was also an active member of several organizations, including the Philippine Photographers Association, Federation of Women’s Leagues of the Philippines, Catholic Women’s League, Army Navy Club, and the Red Cross.



After her death on May 7, 1999, her son, Ramon continued the operation of the Chat Peypoch Studio, re-opening it briefly in Legaspi Village in Makati City before turning over most of the business to Delfin ‘Juni’ Samson, who currently runs the studio in the Tesoro’s Building on Arnaiz Avenue in Makati today. (Ringo Bunoan)







"No 1 Lady Photographer." Tableau: Encyclopedia of Distinguished Personalities in the Philippines, National Souvenir Publications, 1957, pp. 384.


Peypoch, Ramon Jr. E-mail interview. Conducted by Ringo Bunoan, May 2022.