text | Carla Ocampo
photography | Lester Valle
How could a silk shawl worn by flamenco bailaoras be known as manton de Manila, yet trace its origins— in design and material— back to China? There was a moment in history when one eclipsed the renown of the other, and the only explanation to this (and more) is that Manila once enjoyed unprecedented fame and presence on the world stage… in the glory days of the Galleon Trade.
During this era, when chronicles were largely Euro-centric, Manila was the port from which the best products of the “Far East” were shipped to the Americas via Acapulco, and then to parts of Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. To paraphrase Nick Joaquin, during the height of this intercontinental exchange, Manila practically became a Pentecostal Jerusalem of sorts, where people spoke in tongues. At that time, the Philippine capital was an economic hub where traders and curious minds from across the globe converged.
Recollections such as these— and the question on whether the ordinary Indio actually benefited from this commercial exercise or not— surfaced again as our country’s National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) spearheaded the celebration of Dia del Galeon… The Day of the Galleon.
Highly-Googlable and well-publicized (to a fault), the festival was launched with relevant events… Artes Talleres, Espectaculos, Viaje del Galeon, etc. The most anticipated of these was the arrival of Galeon Andalucia, “Andalu-thia” to insistent purists.
EL GALEON ANDALUCIA
Docking in Manila Bay on the morning of October 6, 2010, Andalucia was a sight to behold; a beauteous deep brown vessel, of magnificent African Iroko hardwood on the outside and exquisite pine on the inside planks and cabins. Promotional videos show its full grandeur, with all sails billowing powerfully as it rode the Trade Winds.
Galeon Andalucia is the first and only replica of a 17th century galleon, and Manila— a significant face during the heyday of Galleon Trade— woke up with a sudden buzz and a festive mood.
For four straight days, the horrendously smelly Pier 13 at the city’s South Harbor instantly became THE PLACE TO BE.
Lines a couple of hundred meters long and three people thick snaked several yards away from the Harbor’s gate to the PPA Gym, where the eager must first sign a name on the registration sheet.
Overheard all along the queues were horror stories of women lining up as early as 5am and seeing the galleon at 10am, and early-morning barkadas being displaced by pre-registered groups who come in at near-noon. “Hindi sila organized,” muttered an artsy-looking lady who was two inches away from the gym’s door.
The air was full of quotable quotes, actually, depicting the 21st century motivation of Filipinos wanting to get near a galleon:
“Ang kargada n’yan, puro Spanish sardines,” a forty-something man joked.
“Damihan mo ng picture, ha. Bonggang-bongga, pang-Facebook!” a forty-something woman half-joked.
“Tag n’yo sa Facebook ‘yan, ha,” a teener said out loud, after essaying a wacky pose with eight of her classmates and a couple of teachers.
For a moment there, it would appear as if the order of the day was to collect taggable photos for “FB”, save for a few young ones who were solemnly touching the wooden beams of Andalucia’s body.
TEAM KT CRINGED
There were a lot of wasted chances for REAL education, on the role played by the Philippines in the Galleon Trade. On board the Galeon Andalucia were Spanish ushers, who only gladly talked about the galleon to a couple of Spanish-speaking Filipinos who happened to ask the right questions.
More neo-Indios would have appreciated things a bit deeper if only assigned guides really made it a point to TALK as, say, a group of ten reaches the main deck, or the forecastle, or the crew’s cabin. A little “Gather ’round here, folks,” on a megaphone should have done the trick.
Team KT cringed even more as the juvenile drum and lyre band, dressed in red and gold, began livening up the mood with… “Bulaklak” by the Viva Hot Babes, “Ispageti” by the Sex Bomb Girls, and an almost-right-but-not-quite “In The Navy” by The Village People. REALLY NOW...
Then again, anything and everything could have suffered birthing pains, and this is no exception. The 2010 event being the world’s first ever celebration of The Day of the Galleon, people ought to give it to the organizers for pulling off an overwhelmingly huge project. Bad vibes, tiresome queues and scorching sun aside, the impact of Galeon Andalucia’s visit is exceptional, and is definitely worth the effort, in the succeeding years.
Dia del Galeon has become a springboard, from which broader research on the Galleon Trade— and its impact on the Philippines and the world— shall commence.
We are going to resist a Spanish closing line in this blog. Instead, we say,
“SALAMAT, GALEON ANDALUCIA. Sa ngayon, kami muna’y muling magsasaliksik tungkol sa iyong nakaraan, upang mas maintindihan ang aming kinabukasan. HANGGANG SA MULI…”
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