remembering the galleons

For many of us, the word ‘galleon’ brings to mind the times we fell asleep listening to Philippine history teachers drone on about the “galleon trade” between the Philippines and Mexico. Come exam time, we’d frantically scramble to memorize dates and places and names and other bits of trivia, without realizing the significant impact of this era upon our country’s economy during that time, and how it extends to the present day.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts commemorates the enduring influence of the galleon trade with its Dia del Galeon Festival, which kicked off earlier today at the National Museum.

From the NCCA event handout:

With a 250-year history that connected four continents, the Galleon Trade was an essential trade route that served as a vessel for cultural exchange.

The whole world knows about the Silk Route, the Amber Road, but what about the Galleon Trade? For more than 250 years, the Philippines was the center of the world, with Asian, European and Latin American goods being traded on its very soil.  The galleon ships, the largest vessels during the time, were built by hand from Philippine hardwoods. Built by  expert seafarers, the Filipinos, these ships would travel for the next  two and a half centuries, changing the face of the world as we know it.

Via the galleons, Mexican chocolate was brought to Asia, Spanish music was brought to the Philippines, and the world was introduced to Philippine abaca and flowers like the ylang-ylang.

Somewhere in Mexico, there is an entire clan with the last name “Maganda”. They have lived there for more than 200 years.  In that same coastal region, the locals like to drink the sap of the coconut, which they call tuba.  Today Filipinos enjoy eating champorado and tamales. Coincidence – or the Galleon Trade?

What’s interesting to learn is that not only goods like shawls (manton de Manila), hemp, and sugar were traded, but also culture. Like the overland Silk Road that connected China to Africa and the Middle East, the maritime trade carried influences from around the world to the Philippines, through food, customs, art, and knowledge.

The Galleon Trade was a result of our colonial past, which, for all its disadvantages, also brought positive influences that helped shape our country into what it is today.

The NCCA has lined up other activities in connection with this event:

September 24-28

·      Lectures on arts, heritage, and indigenous impact
·      Music and movement workshops

Venue: National Museum of the Filipino People
Admission: P2,500  or P3,800 with food

October 8
An intercultural dialogue and culminating activity for workshop participants and guests; these will include presentations, creative industry exhibits, and declarations for unified action on the themes and impact of the galleon trade. Major resolutions and artistic results will be highlighted.

Venue: TBA
Admission: Open to the public

October 5,6
A forum organized by the Philippine Academic Consortium of Latin American Studies that  brings together scholars to share current research.  This year’s theme is “The Bicentennial of the Independence of Latin American Nations”.

Venues: October 5 De la Salle University, October 6 University of Sto. Tomas
Admission:  Go to

October 6- October 8
A harvest of performances and media arts modules reflecting on the themes of the galleon trade through its history and impact. It will include multi-cultural performances with a  production of Juana La Loca by Mexican playwright Miguel Sabido.  The play will fuse Spanish and Filipino languages with a multinational cast.

Price: TBA
For Reservations: To be announced, but please send an email to NCCA  if you are interested

October 5-9
A replica of a 17th-century galleon from Spain will dock at the Manila Pier for public viewing. Guests can climb aboard and experience life as it was during the period.

Venue: TBA
Admission: FREE, by donation
For Reservations: To be announced, but please send an email to NCCA if you are interested

October 8–11
A four-day educational trip from Manila to Cebu with on-board activities and tours around Cebu. The conference and workshop participants will lead the activities, to be shared with youth passengers.
·      On-board seminars, interactive performances, exhibits
·      On-land Galleon Trade significance reenactments, city and heritage tours

Venue: Manila and Cebu
For Reservations: Closed, the trip is fully booked

A series of commemorative events wll be held including:

·      Commemorative stamp displaying the Galleon Trade Route
·      Bilingual declamation and oratorical contests
·      Pilgrimage to 35 Philippine Heritage Churches

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