FIFTH BIRTH CENTENARY OF LEGAZPI MARKED BY SPECTACULAR EXHIBIT

MANILA, February 6, 2004 (STAR) SUNDRY STROKES By Rosalinda L. Orosa - On Feb. 26, ranking Spanish and Filipino officials and historians will witness the opening of a spectacular exhibition at the National Museum to mark the fifth birth centenary of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.

Under the auspices of SEACEX (the Spanish agency for foreign cultural affairs), the Spanish embassy under Ambassador Ignazio Sagaz, and the Instituto Cervantes headed by Javier Galvan, the month-and-a-half-long exhibit entitled The Philippines: Gateway of the Orient from Legazpi to Malaspina will consist of some 200 items – paintings, ceramics, furniture, naval instruments including a sextant, armory and artifacts dating back to the 16th century.

These items, which will be brought to Manila from Spain, are authentic samples of the cargo during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade from the 16th to the 18th century. Legazpi’s diary, logbook and the annals of his expedition to Manila in 1564-1565, which were archived in Seville, Spain, and the first map of Manila done by a Filipino on a baul, are included. Also a portrait of Alejandro Malaspina who led the scientific expeditions to the Pacific Islands from 1789 to 1794. (The portrait was painted by an ancestor of IC director Galvan.)

In effect, the show of great magnitude will reflect the presence of Spain in the Philippines which played a dominant role in East-West cultural relations.

In the latest issue of Reseña, published by IC, Sevilla U. history professor Alfredo Morales contends (translation supplied) that the extraordinary quality of the exhibit has been achieved through several yeas of hard work. The display includes incredible objects like the mitre worn by San Fermin in San Lorenzo Church in Pamplona (Spain). Commissioned by a priest of Navarre and done by a Cantonese master in 1764, it was transported from China to Manila, and later to Mexico then to Pamplona in an endless journey.

With the help of five experts and several specialists, Morales has mounted a beautiful exhibit of three sections. The first Derroteros (nautical) consists of scientific navigations and expeditions which demonstrate the task of Spanish explorers during three centuries.

The second section, "To Govern, Administer and Evangelize," shows the actual colonization of the Philippines.

The third section, "An Archipelago of Interchanges", underscores Oriental-Occidental relations starting from the arrival of Legazpi.

The success of the exhibit in San Sebastian leads Morales to expect its warm reception by the Philippine public. He has no doubt that the Filipino arch repeatedly reproduced, which arch will be shown here for the first time, will attract the attention of Manilans. Done in oil in mid-17th century, it is the oldest pictorial representation of the city of Manila, and will be finally appreciated where it was first created.

The King of Spain opened the exhibit in October in Zumarraga, Spain, the Basque town where Legazpi was born. Spanish historian Carlos Madrid gives a brief biography of Legazpi in Reseña, hereunder further condensed with translation supplied.

Born in 1502 in the small town of Zumarraga, Miguel de Legazpi was the son of Juan Martinez de Legazpi who came from a genteel, prominent family of the region, as did his wife Elvira Garruchategui. Not being the oldest child, Miguel did not inherit the major part of the family fortune, for which reason, after a brief service as a notary public and councilor in the municipal government of his home town, he migrated to Mexico at 26.

Soon, he became one of the most prominent in urban Mexico. He married Isabel Garces by whom he had four sons and five daughters. He worked in the Finance Department as notary public, and was named mayor of the capital of New Spain in 1559.

Two years later, the King’s viceroy Luis Velasco relayed to Legazpi His Majesty’s wish that he head an expedition to the Indies, for which Legazpi would be named Adelantado. By then, he had become financially well-entrenched after years of service to the municipal government of Mexico. He had no second thoughts about embarking on a dangerous expedition in the final phase of his life though he was neither navigator nor military man. He was merely a faithful functionary of the King of Spain. His old friend, the Agustinian friar Andres de Urdaneta, had solicited that Legazpi head the expedition. Legazpi immersed all his fortune into the undertaking. A son solicited help from Madrid, claiming that his father had sold everything he owned. A younger daughter Elvira had to cancel her wedding, there being no more money in the family coffers.

Legazpi had so given his all during his tenure as governor of Manila that on the day he died, only a few pesos were found among his personal belongings. He had borrowed the money just days before his death, an amount which hardly covered the cost of burial.

On Aug. 20, 1572 Legazpi, after breakfast, had a discussion with a subaltern which so disturbed him, he started to feel bad. Partial paralysis set in, preventing him from moving half of his body; he had difficulty in speaking.

He could not go to the confession but having done so five days earlier, the Agustinian friars assumed he died a Christian death. So loved was he by his minions, tears flowed copiously at his funeral.

* * *

The King’s orders to Legazpi specified that the friendship with the inhabitants of the towns should count above all other considerations; the basic object of the mission being evangelization; that they were not to enter the villages if the inhabitants were to resist their presence; that there was to be no use of arms except in extreme situations – as a last resort. Legazpi was determined to follow the orders even in cases of reasonable doubt.

Jose Ma. Font, deputy for cultural affairs, and Chris Lukban will help mount the exhibit here for the IC.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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