Apparently a Spanish Jesuit did 283 years ago and again last year.
Padre Pedro Murillo Velarde’s map (1734) is credited for giving the Philippines claim weight in the international arbitration in the Hague. Filipino international lawyers and historians calls it, “The Mother of All Philippine Maps”.
It was purchased by a Filipino executive and professor Mel Velarde for 13 million (PHP) in Sotheby’s. He said part of the reason why he pursued it was because he shared the Jesuit cartographer’s name.
The map came from a Victorian estate where parts of the Harry Potter movie was shot (first two films as the school). Apparently, a major culvert collapsed inside the property. They auctioned estates to fund the repair. The map is most likely part of the British loot when they came to Manila.
In Philippine studies, historical religious accounts are considered biased, if not completely unreliable. An example was when Rizal picked Morga’s Sucesos to anotate over countless religious’ history books about the islands. But even contemporary nationalist historians are willing to set this bias aside. No ones discrediting the Velarde Map for having been created by a Spanish religious.
The oldest pre-hispanic map I saw up close was made by Sultan Fakih Maulana Muhammad Amiruddin, a Mindanaoan ruler. It was made available in the National Library (Singapore) along with other rare maps. He wrote in Jawi, an Arabic form of writing used by Malaysian elites. The map was handed to interested British visitors.
One of the big If’s in our history is that if only the Sultanate of Sulu dealt with the Spanish, Sabah would still be Philippine land. When they agreed to lease it in “perpetuity” they’ve been duped.
Malaysians still remits to their descendants around 60K PHP yearly to this day as “cessation” money not as lease payment. Obviously playing with words to avoid recognizing historical facts.
I mentioned Sabah here because Borneo (Borney) is in Velarde’s Map. It shows the northern area which proves that the Spanish considered it part of the colonial state. Now here’s the difference, Spain left the islands to the Americans. When the British left, they turned everything over to Malaysia—including Sabah.
A Malaysian colleague from Sabah once told me that many Filipinos are in Sabah. Many had already applied for Malaysian citizenship.
The Velarde map gives ground to Spain’s role in securing and legitimizing our boundaries as a state. If it were not for their obsessive mapping, what would be the basis of our claims? No pre-hispanic maps exists that backs our legal plea in the west seas. What do we have before them? Oral traditions? Arbitration of this kind deals only with hard evidence.
If historical lines were not drawn and walls were not made then there’s no country.
I like what reality TV star turned US President Donald Trump said about borders, “Well, you either have a country or you don’t.”
The opposing view is that Spanish claiming the islands does not necessarily mean the creation of a state. Examples given are the presence of Mohammedan rulers and trade with China long before the Spaniards came. They say that we were already in existence long before the Spanish ships started show up.
But feuding rulers and seasonal commerce does not define the nature of a true state. A state is a governed territory (not necessarily independent like us in Velarde’s time), a nation on the other hand are people that shares a common culture, history, religion, values and language. Bring this two then you have a “nation state” which was what Aguinaldo and his contemporaries tried to establish. But by the time they pushed for this change, monarchic domination had been replaced by a new kind of empire—America.
The short lived Malolos constitution was an attempt to finalize a political and cultural identity. Representatives were placed to represent all provinces (including Palau, now an independent country). Although, not all were natives of the province they represented, the idea was to have different ethnic groups subscribing to an accepted polity.
Filipinoness, if we are to define it in their time, is hispanic and Catholic. Interesting to note here is the issue of separation of State-Church won by a mere one vote. This indicates a kind of religious conservatism in a time when the revolt cites Frailocracy as one of its catalyst.
The list of men that sat in that congress was perhaps the greatest minds our people had ever produced (more than 80 were not even properly educated but intellectuals). Unfortunately, the US had a different plan.
So we go back to the question, who gets to decide where a state’s territory begins and ends?
History has much to offer only if keep our minds open.
- A reproduction of the map is in the Library of Congress website (https://goo.gl/2NfHCC). This year, replicas has been handed to our military museums by Mr. Velarde, not the Jesuit, the one still living.
- The map’s exact title is “carta hydrographica y chorographica de las yslas filipinas : dedicada al rey nuestro señor por el mariscal d. campo d. Fernando valdes tamon cavallo del orden de santiago de govor. y capn.” I guess everyone’s in agreement, let’s call it Velarde Map.
- A great article (with maps) is from a certain “Ka Jaime” that has maritime accounts from the past centuries of Bajo de Masinloc. I learned a great deal about the history of dispute in West Philippine Seas here. (https://goo.gl/o4GwHp)
- What is rarely mentioned is that the engraver of the Velarde Map is a Malabon native, Nicolás de la Cruz Bagay. Padre Velarde immortalized his name by placing it in the map. Bagay is arguably the most successful local engraver of his time.
- The other name mentioned in the map was Fernando Valdes y Tamon, the Governor of the islands from 1729-1739. When he came back to Spain he built the Palacio Del Virrey De Manila in Molina de Aragón to honor the capital were he governed. It still stands to this day and is one of the province’s main tourist attraction.