In Manila: I Found Some “Galleon De Manila” Link Between Mexico And Philippines

Last June 2016, I had the chance to travel to my homeland the Philippines again, after so many years since my last visit. And although the chance to be there again was not a time for merriment or a holiday, I felt some kind of excitement to be back knowing that I will be able to visit Intramuros.

Intramuros is one of the places in the Philippines I’ve been longing to visit as part of my research objective of finding connections from the galleons of Acapulco and Manila.

You see, since experiencing the Manila Galleon museum in Acapulco, it has become my burning obsession to connect some of the dots that binded Mexico and the Philippines thru the galleons & also of the people who became part of her voyages. And this Manila visit is an opportunity for me to find more evidence of that connection.

I felt that seeing and experiencing the connection myself, will make me feel like some kind of Indiana Jones discovering a mystery that I only read in history books back home. It felt really exciting!

In Acapulco, I was able to visit the Galleon museum twice. There, I saw relics & artifacts from the galleons which originated in the Philippines, through bartering with China and other Asian countries. Not only that. The history about the 250 year expeditions was front and center. They were proud moments for me.

Also, in other parts of Mexico, like in Mexico city – museums always have something about Mexico’s past with the galleon trade. So, at least in Mexico, I know that wherever the path of the galleon’s content went, there will always be a museum containing some traces of its glorious past.

Nuestra Señora del Pilar galleon replicaIn Manila, though, I do not know what to expect.

In my research, I learned that Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was buried in San Agustin church. That there was the centennial marker of the Mexico-Philippines friendship in Intramuros (similar to what can be found at Barra Navidad in Mexico) and that the National Museum houses several artifacts from the galleons. I also learned that Intramuros is where I have to concentrate my research in Manila.

Also, I read about the planned Galleon Museum to be housed at the Mall of Asia (MOA). Although, in the history books, MOA’s location was not the main dock for the galleons, it’s good enough to know that the Philippines, at least, is contributing in her own small ways.

And so, now I am in Manila. In between my schedule, I squeezed at least a day to visit Intramuros using public transport, which I have not done for a very long time. Commuting was so different now compared to when I still live there. Traffic is so chaotic and air pollution is bothersome. Nevertheless, I was able to reach Intramuros.

Before I came, I planned to visit these following places: The National Museum, Fort Santiago, Plaza Mexico, Bahay Tsinoy, Intramuros Administration, The Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church.

I planned on staying in the area to explore the whole Intramuros but my circumstance at the time did not allow it.

On the day of my visit, unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. It rained really hard that even with a hired pedicab, it made going place to place very difficult. So, what I did was just choose at least 3 from the original list, ending up going only to Plaza Mexico, Bahay Tsinoy and San Agustin Church.

But even though I was only able to visit only those 3 places, I still felt satisfied upon seeing all those matching items from the galleons that were exactly similar to what I saw in Mexico. More specially when a historical fact matched exactly the same. My exploration was bearing some fruits!

(Notice the similarity?)
Manila galleon artifacts in Acapulco


similar artifact from manila galleon acapulco and manila


I liked most specially what I’ve seen at San Agustin Church. San Agustin Church not only carries an extensive content of the galleons and old, old Spanish-time artifacts.

It also there that the tomb of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi can be found. And because it is an Augustinian church and Fr. Andres de Urdaneta was Augustinian, the church pretty much reflects the first tornaviaje part of the Manila galleon voyage. It was like being in one of the churches in Mexico city when you are at San Agustin church.

(Tomb of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in Intramuros)
tomb of adelentado lopez de legazpi manila san agustin church tomb of founder of manila

At Plaza Mexico – I am assuming, was one of the original location of the galleon docks and of the Parian. I only took photos of the centennial marker of the Manila Galleon and of the statue of Mexico’s President – Adolfo Lopez Mateos. I would like to explore the area more but the rain kept pouring.

From my initial research of the real reason the Spaniards were bent on finding a shorter way of reaching Asia – it was specifically because of Chinese products. And with that, I found that the Chinese the Spaniards were dealing with in Manila were mostly Filipino-Chinese traders. This piece of history about the contribution of the Filipino-Chinese to the galleon trade can be found at Bahay Tsinoy.

(Some photos at Bahay Tsinoy)
chinese-filipinos at spanish era in manila chinos en filipinas en era espa
tsinoys during the spanish time in intramuros junk boats from china in intramuros during spanish era

At Bahay Tsinoy, it was narrated that the small contingent of Chinese traders in Manila (150 estimated) grew to more than 20,000 because of the robust trading that resulted upon the discovery of the galleon’s tornaviaje between Acapulco and Manila.

I never knew, before this finding, that even during the Spanish-era, the Filipino-Chinese were the prime movers of businesses in Manila!

During the Spanish time, in Mexico, the people from Asia who came from the galleons were called “chinos.” And even at present time, myself were always mistaken for a chino or japones in Mexico. I am assuming now that those sailors on the galleons were a mix of native Filipinos, Chinese-Filipinos and some other Asian nationalities who were all trading in Manila during that time.

I can only imagine how busy Manila was during the galleon days!

I sure would like to be able to find out more while I was in Manila but time wasn’t on my side. I am quite satisfied, though, that I was able to find the connection somehow but I promise that when I go back, I will also include Cebu and Bohol, for the reason that the Spaniards of the first tornaviaje landed in those provinces first before moving north to Manila.

But for now, I am ready to continue on with my research in Mexico again.

(See more photos of the galleon connection research in Manila on Facebook. Photos of Manila galleon contents in Acapulco is here.)

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