Bernardo M. Villegas
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Global Heritage of Manila Galleons

          Asia will not only be the epicenter of the global economy in the next two decades at least.  It will also enjoy the highest growth in both domestic and foreign tourism, especially with the participation of such emerging markets as China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia.  History has been a magnet for tourism in Old World countries like Greece, Egypt, Italy and Spain.  It will be no different for tourism in Asia.  Already tourists from all over the world are attracted to the centuries-old Buddhist and Hindu temples of India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.  As I reported in a recent column, I myself was enchanted by the Buddhist and Hindu historical monuments of Sri Lanka.

          The Philippines may be handicapped because of the absence of these historical monuments.  Given the increasing interest all over the world in the globalization of trade and investment, however, we can leverage on the unique role our islands played in the first ever recorded globalization of trade.  I am referring to the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade that was founded when, on October 8, 1565, Basque navigator and Augustinian friar Andres de Urdaneta successfully sailed from the Philippines to Spanish America aboard the galleon San Pedro.  This was the beginning of the first globalized trade that linked the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe.  The Galleon Trade set a record of 250 years until 1815, a length of time unmatched by any shipping line to date.  Today, all over the world October 8 is now celebrated as Dia del Galeon or Galleon Day.

          In line with using history (together with culture and nature) as a more sustainable foundation of sound and healthy tourism, a National Galleon Museum will be put up to be a component of the itinerary of all tourists (foreign or domestic) interested in the history of globalization.  The idea of establishing this Museum was conceived by Senator Edgardo J. Angara and Madame Margarita Zavala,   First Lady of Mexico, during the visit of the latter to the Philippines in November 2011.  The objective was to promote the global heritage of the Manila Galleons through exhibitions, research and public programs that will foster awareness and appreciation of the ties that bind the Philippines with Iberoamerican countries. The Museum is a project of the National Historical Commission.

          The importance of the galleon trade is considered by Senator Angara as "one of the most important phenomena in our national history, and the history of the 35 other nations (apart from the Philippines and Mexico) that took part in it...Manila was the hub of this global trade, and it was through this that we first came into contact with many of the ideas, institutions and even recipes established in our society today."  The proposal to establish a National Galleon Museum has attracted the interest of Mexico and Spain, with other countries also expected to be drawn to the project.  No less than 37 modern nations in Asia and the Pacific, the Americas and Europe, were historically involved with the wider trade network that hinged upon the Manila-Acapulco trade.  Goods from all over Asia were transhipped from the Philippines to Mexico and in turn were distributed from Mexico to Europe and the rest of the Americas.  Such a global trade is now being replicated as the Philippines becomes  a manufacturing and logistics hub of multinational corporations from all over the world taking advantage of the strategic location of our country in the whole of East Asia.

          The National Galleon Museum will promote the global heritage of the Manila Galleons through exhibitions, research and public programs that will foster awareness and appreciation of the past and strengthen Philippine-Iberoamerican solidarity and cooperation.  It can be the very symbol of the Trans Pacific Partnership that is now being promoted by the U.S. with an increasing number of countries in the Asia Pacific region.  It will be most likely located at the NAVRESCOM Compound in Intramuros, Manila.  Once completed, it will be another "must stop" in the itinerary of tourists who already flock in big numbers to the Intramuros area because of its wealth of historical and cultural heritages.  I am certain that the project got another boost from the visit of Queen Sofia of Spain last week.  Originally coming from Greece and now the Queen of one of the most successful tourism destinations in the world, Her Majesty Queen Sofia would appreciate very much the role of history and culture in promoting tourism.    For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.