In 1734, a Jesuit priest Pedro de Murillo Velarde drew a magnificent map of the Philippines. It was engraved and printed by Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay, a Tagalog who was the official printer of the Jesuit press in the Philippines then. The detailed map of the Philippine Archipelago combined enormous coastal and topographical detail with the attributes of a sea chart, showing the sailing courses for vessels heading to both Spain (Madrid) and New Spain (Mexico), as well as the course taken by Magellan in 1521. The map was called Carte Hydrografica Y Chorographica de la Yslas Filipinas.
The map is of utmost importance for every Filipino as it had been entered as evidence for the Philippines during the United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) arbitral hearing. It showed that Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal (named “Panacot” on the map) has been part of the Philippine territory as far back as nearly 3 centuries ago.
Images of different types of vessels sailing in Philippine waters and the ports of Manila, Zamboanga, and Cavite, show the country’s maritime culture, which many Filipinos have often forgotten. With over 7,641 islands (according to the National Mapping Resource and Information Authority) the Philippines has one of the longest coastlines in the world.
Meanwhile, 12 vignettes that decorate the sides of the map showcase Philippine products and the daily life of Filipinos. Foreigners who were in the country at the time, such as Persians, “Cafres” (Africans), Indians, Chinese, and Japanese, among others, attest to the Philippines as a rich trading port, too.
The 1734 map is by itself an important historical artefact. It was engraved and printed on 8 copper plates. The plates were taken by Britain when it occupied Manila from 1762 to 1764, and taken to England as war booty. The University of Cambridge used the plates to print copies of the map before the plates were “rubbed down” and re-used to make other maps.
Historian Ambeth Ocampo has this to say about the map . “The most important map of the 18th century is called the Murillo Velarde map, which I hope, will be renamed the Velarde-Bagay map. While traditionally the map should be named for the cartographer, because we’re Pinoy, we should highlight the Philippine contribution. The priest may have drawn a map but without the Indio who engraved and signed it, you will have no beautiful map. ”
The map was signed ” Indio Tagalo ” by Bagay, and measures one square meter.
A beautiful framed reprint from the original map can be seen in Herald Suites. •••