Saturday, September 29, 2018

Me Gusta

ESTE FRASCO DE BALSA, una especie de calabaza gigante para almacenar la tuba de Colima. The beverage became so popular in Western Mexico (it still is) that a decree by viceroy Luis de Velasco in 1610 prohibited the production of tuba because it had become the beverage of choice for the local Mexican population in the provinces of Colima and Zacatula and the sales of Castilian grape wine had dropped, costing Spain a large amount of tax revenue. Taverns and even churches replaced the Castilian spirit with the tuba, which prompted its prohibition and the deportation of Filipinos who produced it. "It can be averted, provided all the Indian natives of the said Filipinas Islands are shipped and returned to them, that the palm groves and vessels with which the wine is made be burnt, the palm trees felled, and severe penalties imposed on whomever remains or returns to making that wine.” Geographer Henry J. Bruman traced the Pinoy roots of Mexican palm toddy and its distillation in The Hispanic American Historical Review and Geographical Review. ¡Compuesta, y conquista al revés, señores! Here's to harvest season.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

One For Captain Kid

BEFORE SAYING GOODBYE to serious history posts and getting down to work, I want to share this kid-friendly picture story, complete with music and sound effects, of a Manila galleon's voyage (based on Gemelli Careri's 17th century narrative) by columnist Adolfo Arranz and infographic designer Marco Hernandez in last May's blog issue of South China Morning Post. This is only one chapter in a series of posts; read the rest by clicking the other tabs at the bottom of the screen. Also Dutch resident Kees Koonstra's cool project for the town of Puerto Galera, on whose beaches still wash up grains of black, petrified rice from galleons that once sought shelter in its safe harbor, loading supplies before heading out the treacherous salida at the Embocadero. Aye aye, captain Kees! says SpongeBob SquarePants.

                                                     Such is the legend. Hear this truth:
                                                     Over the trackless past, somewhere,
                                                     Lie the lost days of our tropic youth,
                                                     Only regained by faith and prayer...

                                                             --Bret Harte, "The Lost Galleon"       

Homage to Puerto Galera's history

Kees Koonstra and Puerto Galera mayor Rockey Ilagan with the miniature replica of a Manila galleon

Saturday, September 15, 2018

End Of A Deadly Passage

AFTER THE TE DEUM and the magnificent trade fair in Acapulco, flocked to by merchants and wealthy buyers from as far away as Peru, many questions still remain. Did Isagani Timbulan, one of four survivors of the Concepción who made their way back to Manila in 1639 ten months after the disaster, ever get to see once again his beloved Yanihan, who was on board the almiranta San Ambrosio that successfully made it to Nueva España? What about those rafts of coconuts and sacks of discarded mango seeds, used as toilet wipes in the meantime to extend their usefulness on the sea-tossed galleon? Who among the wretched and maltreated Pinoy crewmen jumped ship with nothing but rags and galleon trash on their backs to seek new lives in the New World? Art by Robert McGinnis of the James Bond posters fame.

Franciscan missions were later established in California (once thought to be an island) to provide life-saving citrus to the Manila galleons

The Acapulco trade fair

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Love In The Time Of Corcuera

SEBASTIÁN HURTADO DE CORCUERA'S autocratic governorship is demonstrated by his early conflict (three years before the Concepción tragedy) with the Augustinian Archbishop of Manila Fray Hernando Guerrero, precipitated by the execution of fugitive Spanish artilleryman Francisco de Nava on the grounds of San Agustín Church where had sought refuge after he had murdered a female slave he had fallen in love with, but was captured by Corcuera's determined police after they ransacked the church. Offended by the governor's blatant disrespect of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the archbishop refused to lift, even on such a festive day being the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (this day in 1635), Corcuera's previous interdict suspending all religious functions of the church, but was forced to relent and render church services when the Jesuits took the side of the governor.  Fray Casimiro Diaz, from material collected earlier by Fray Gaspar de San Agustín, wrote: "There did not fail to result certain charges against the governor, such as his having ordered the secular priests to be detained in the guard-house; his declaration that he could not be excommunicated by anyone except the pope; and if an order were given to him to arrest the pontiff, he would arrest him, and even drag him along by one foot (which he was proved to have said by several persons)." Rodrigo Duterte's hero? Read on: "The governor freed himself from all these charges by excuses in a manifesto which he published; but as it is not a part of my duty to examine their adequacy, I shall not do so...for there is no liberty in Filipinas to enable anyone to complain, or to speak his mind against what the government manipulates." In May of 1636, the governor ordered the exile of the archbishop to Mariveles Island, and the cabildo of Manila cathedral took over the administration of the archdiocese. Within a month he was allowed to return to the city, albeit under humiliating conditions. 

Equally telling is the account of Corcuera's own Filipino slaves among the hundreds of men, women and children captured during the Moro Wars of 1638 in Tatiana Seijas' Asian Slaves in Colonial Mexico (the Portuguese began the African slave trade across the Atlantic in 1526), and how Corcuera justified them to the court as "legal slaves because they had been captured in a just war against Muslims, and the enslavement of women and children in a just war was fully allowed under Spanish jurisprudence." And beginning November of 1639, four months after the four survivors of the Concepción reached Manila, and up to February the following year, nearly 25,000 Chinese were killed in the second Chinese massacre in the Philippines. The slaughter was precipitated by the murder of Don Luis Arias de Mora, a "heartless and extortionate" Spanish alcalde-mayor and overseer of public land around the lake towns of Biñan-Calamba, by his angry Chinese rice-farming settlers. Desperate and oppressed beyond what they could bear, they set out, 300 strong and armed with bolos, bamboo poles and farm tools, for Manila. But "this was hardly an anti-Spanish uprising, much less anti-Filipino. It was a bid for survival by cornered men." What followed was an epidemic slaughter of the Chinese, including loyal servants in households, upon Corcuera's order and out of paranoia. The governor later boasted to the King that he and his men had killed about 25,000 Chinese (close to the current count of Duterte's EJK casualties) and thus suppressed an armed rebellion, when in reality it was no more than a weaponless, stormy protest group. It makes sense that national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, champion of the fight for freedom and against oppression, would trace his roots more than two centuries later to those Chinoys of Biñan-Calamba (which may have encompassed the town of San Pedro, where my family presently owns a house in a subdivision). Blair and Robertson's account of the entire episode in Volume 29 of The Philippine Islands is a lengthy read, but Jesuit Charles J. McCarthy's summary in Philippine Studies grasps its essence. My wife being also of Chinese ancestry, I wonder how her forebears survived those pestilential years.

Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera, Governor of the Philippines, 1635-1644

San Agustin Church. Pen and ink drawing by Noel Bueza

Like Egyptians building a pyramid, Pinoy slaves labor on a Manila galleon. "Sometimes as many as 600 laborers were forced to work at building galleons and other ships. Some of them plane, some saw, some nail the timber, but the greatest number fell trees on the mountains, and these must be many and large, to keep out the tempestuous seas the galleons are to cross," wrote 17th century traveler Gemelli Careri. "Obtaining the lumber was the hardest work. Thousands of men serving under a labor draft sweated out grueling workdays that ran from dawn to sundown. They felled, rough cut, and transported the logwood that was shaped into the galleons at Cavite." Painting by Noel Escultura
Lading a Manila galleon at the port of Cavite. Art by Roger Morris

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Weekend Reading

THE LONG LABOR DAY WEEKEND should give me time to read up this hoard of resources about Mangyans and Manila galleons, less tedious with marine archaeologist William M. Mathers' coffee table book Treasure of the Concepción which I got earlier this year, signed and loaded with stupendous photographs of the recovered cargo. Also glad to find Bruce Cruikshank's chronology of all Manila galleons from 1565-1815, Blair and Robertson's brief mention of the Concepción tragedy, and Catherine Lugar's detailed report on the ill-fated galleon and the corrupt governorship of Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera, compiled from three years of research in seven countries by historians Peter Earle of the London School of Economics and David Webb of the University of London. From Lugar's article: "There were also more inundane trade goods, like 1,500 cakes of beeswax he was sending to Mexico." Inundane? What does does that word mean? Ora et labora! reverberates my Pinamalayan high school battlecry.

More gold from the Concepción: necklaces, a rosary cross and a figa amulet
Photographs too large to scan also appeared in the September 1990 issue of National Geographic 

The author holds one of 156 jars found intact which once held water, wine, oil and other vital supplies

A steersman in San Bernardino Strait struggles to survive a skirmish with a squall