Dr. Francis Navarro (third from left), a faculty member of the Department of History, receives the official replica of the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de la Yslas Filipinas Manila 1734 from Mr. Mel Velarde. Also in photo: Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (left) and Mr. Brian Giron (Department of History).

An official replica of Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de la Yslas Filipinas Manila 1734—considered by historians as the ‘mother of all Philippine maps’—can now be seen at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Filipino technology entrepreneur and educator Mel Velarde gave the map to the university on June 9, 2017.

“We are bequeathing to you— the next generation—a national treasure,” Velarde said at the forum and special exhibit of the original map held at Faber Hall.

The philanthropist bought the map (also known as the Murillo-Velarde 1734 map) in a 2014 auction by Sotheby’s London. Regarded as the first scientific map of the Philippines, it was prepared by a Spanish Jesuit Pedro Murillo Velarde with the help of 2 Filipinos: Francisco Suarez, who drew the map, and Nicolas dela Cruz Bagay, who did the engraving.

The large format map (1120 mm x 1200 mm) illustrates the Philippine archipelago.  As written on its Catalogue Note: “It is flanked by 2 pasted-on-side-panels with 12 engravings, 8 depicting costumed figures, a map of Guajam (Guam) and 3 city or harbor maps, notably Manila.”

The map shows a tiny island labeled “Panacot” later renamed Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal.  It also features the rocks and islands of Los Bajos de Paragua,” now known as Spratlys.  The Murillo-Velarde 1734 map was one of the documents submitted by the Philippine government in its case against China’s nine-dash line.

“At this simple ceremony, we celebrate 3 treasures: an exquisite map, a generous donation of the map, and the use of the map in the understanding and interrogation of contemporary issues ,” said Fr. Joey M. Cruz, S.J., Vice President for University and Global Relations. The map, he added, is “stunningly beautiful.”

Also present at the event was Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.  Carpio learned that the map — part of the 80 heirlooms owned by the Duke of Northumberland, Ralph George Algernon Percy — was to be auctioned. Justice Carpio shared this information with various public and private museums and individuals, including Velarde.

The map, he said, “debunks once and for all, the Chinese historical narrative that China has owned the South China Sea for 200 years. Now, the world knows better. Thanks to the definitive ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal, China’s historical narrative has been exposed as fake news. The map proves, beyond any shadow of doubt, that Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal were part of Philippine territory as early as 1734.”

Added Velarde, “You will see in the map who you are, who your ancestors are. I knew this map was not mine to keep. My role is just a footnote in the history: get the map and bring it back. I am donating it here because the map belongs here; Fr. Murillo Velarde belongs here. All this work together constitutes our continuing dedication to the truth, to the rule of the law, and the same ideals for which our nation was born, the same ideals that run in your blood.”

The official replica of the Murillo-Velarde 1734 map is currently in the upkeep of the School of Social Sciences.


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