A Galleon Museum in Manila
There’s a plan to build a galleon museum in Manila that will not only make Filipinos appreciate Philippine historical ties with Latin America but in the words of Mexico’s First Lady Margarita Zavala, “could serve as an intercultural and globalization research center which will further help in uniting us.”
Madam Zavala, wife of President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, was here on a two-day visit last week.
At the cultural gala in her honor hosted by Sen. Edgardo Angara held at the Philippine International Convention Center last Thursday, Zavala shared her excitement after reading Jose Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.” “He wrote it in Spanish!,” she said, underscoring the affinity of Mexico and the Philippines in the Spanish language.
She said to the mostly English-speaking audience, “I know you speak in English but your heart is still in Spanish.“
Zavala, a lawyer and a member of the Mexican parliament, also observed that Philippine handicrafts are very much similar to Mexican handicrafts. “I’m sure the reason for this similarity goes back to the galleon,” she said.
The galleon is a large, multi-decked ship used primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries. Galleons sailed across the world bringing goods – spices, silk, silver, etc. in what is known as the Galleon Trade.
The Manila-Acapulco (Mexico) trade route, which was active for 250 years (1565-1815), planted the seed of Philippine-Mexico relations which Madame Zavala would like to bring to a higher level.
“This project will surely have the support of countries such as Mexico, Spain, China and the United States, among others,” she added.
In his speech, Angara said “the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade served as the lynchpin of global commerce, the forerunner of globalization as we know it, and one of the longest running most successful shipping routes ever.”
“The Galleon Trade enabled Spain – the Philippines and Mexico’s former colonizer – to participate in the highly lucrative Silver-Silk Trade,“ he said.
However, Angara said, silk and silver were not the only goods traded through Manila and Acapulco. “The interchange through more than two centuries was equally cultural as it was economic, if not more so. Traditions, institutions and ideas traveled with the mighty galleons together with goods and products.”
The barong tagalog, cockfighting, the harana (serenade), the Nov. 1 tradition of Dia Los Muertos (day of the dead); and Simbang Gabi are just some of the Mexican traditions that have also become part of the Filipino lifestyle.
The Philippines has made a name not only for its modern seafarers and shipbuilders. Those can also be attributed to the legacy of the Galleon.
Angara said, ”Perhaps the most important contribution of Filipinos of the Galleon Trade was the galleons themselves, built with Philippine hardwood in the shipyards of Pangasinan, Cavite, Marinduque, Albay, Camarines and Masbate. Filipino seafarers are the most able, in demand today as they were for navigating the galleons through the Pacific.”
Last October, a Mexican-built replica of the galleon visited the Philippines after it was shown in the Shanghai Expo.
The Dia del Galleon commemorative stamps were also launched during the cultural gala.
As a result of the reinvigorated Philippine-Mexican relations, credited to Madam Zavala, Angara said two Filipino students are in Mexico doing a study on the Galleon.
It’s awesome to imagine the wealth of information that can be learned from the Galleon Trade. “The glory of the past offers us lessons on how to move forward cooperatively, capitalizing on kinship forged and strengthened through the centuries,” Angara said.
Published in GMA News Online on November 29, 2011