A copy of what historians regard as “mother of all Philippine maps” was donated by Mr. Mel Velasco Velarde, President and CEO of NOW Corporation and alumnus of the UA&P Master in Business Economics Program, to UA&P President Dr. Winston Conrad Padojinog on April 25.
Carta Hydrographica Y Chorographica De Las Yslas Filipinas, first published in Manila in 1734, was made by the Spanish Jesuit Friar Pedro Murillo Velarde together with two Filipinos – Francisco Suarez, who drew the map, and Nicolas dela Cruz Bagay, who engraved it.
This large-format map (1120mm x 1200mm) is the first scientific map of the entire Philippine archipelago. It shows the archipelago flanked by two pasted-on-side panels, each containing six vignettes depicting scenes of people and places in the country. Among the features in the archipelago is a tiny island labeled “Panacot,” which was later named Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal. Also shown as part of the Philippines are the rocks and islands of Spratlys, labeled on the map as “Los Bajos de Paragua.”
The map was one of the 80 heirlooms owned by the Duke of Northumberland, Ralph George Algernon Percy, that were auctioned by Sotheby’s London on November 4, 2014. Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio got wind of the auction of the map and shared this information to various public and private museums and individuals, including Velarde, who is also an educator and a technology entrepreneur. Velarde participated in the bid and won.
The 1734 Murillo Velarde map was one of the 270 ancient maps cited at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) hearings in The Hague in the Netherlands when the Philippines contested China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea. In 2016, the PCA tribunal declared that China’s claims were invalid.
Velarde believes that the ownership of the map is every Filipino’s birth right. He donated the map to the Philippine government. He now raises public awareness on the map and its significance to our cultural and historical heritage by donating replicas of the map to government agencies, academic institutions, and private organizations.