Samuel_Scott_1Our ancestors have been trading with China, Japan, India, Siam (Thailand), Cambodia, Borneo and the Moluccas Islands (Eastern Indonesia) even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines.  When Spanish Augustinian priest Andres de Urdaneta found the Kuroshio Current in the 1565, he forever changed the world of trade.  Also known as the ‘Urdaneta Route or Tornoviaje’ it offered an alternative to the relentless Silk Road to Europe and paved the way for the trans-pacific galleon trade and the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

The Spanish later closed the ports of Manila to other countries except Mexico giving birth to the Manila-Acapulco Trade also known as the Galleon Trade which produced vast wealth for all the nations involved, wealth that largely supported the growth of cities – the first walls of Intramuros were paid for by the profit of this trade.  Manila became the center of commerce in the East bringing to life the first globalization of trade and commerce, in which the Philippines and Mexico were polar points of activity.  Silver, gold, and potatoes from the Americas and wine, tools, and furniture from Europe were traded for Asian silk, spices, and ceramics in global circuits that are still used today by more than 40 modern nations.

The Galleon Trade also allowed modern, liberal ideas to enter the country, eventually inspiring the movement for independence from Spain.

This very rich lesson of world history will now become the centerpiece of cultural and historical knowledge in Manila in 2015 as SM Group of Companies in collaboration with Museo Del Galeón, Inc. forms a large-scale bilateral project to showcase as educational and entertainment facility where Filipinos and tourists can delve into a unique perspective of the early stages of globalization – The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Museum or ‘The Galeon.’

When Madame Margarita Zavala, spouse of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, visited the Philippines in 2011, she enthusiastically endorsed the plan to build a galleon museum in Manila.  The Galeon was then made into a viable project through the collaboration of a Mexican architectural firm working with a Hong Kong- and Florida-based practice, and a pioneering Filipino museum development corporation.

Last Monday (November 10), I was invited to attend the formal groundbreaking ceremony of The Galeon.  The future site of the full-scale reproduction of a magnificent galleon will rise at the 8,000 sqm cultural facility at the Mall of Asia grounds located right in front of the IMAX buiding facing the  bay area.  Unlike all other galleon reproductions attempted before in the Philippines, the new museum will follow, in authentic detail, ship plans published by the Franciscan Order in the Philippines in the 18th century and re-discovered in a Mexican archive. It will undoubtedly become the highlight of the museum.



Along with the galleon, which will be viewable from multiple floors and angles on the outside, and through a tour of the interiors, there will be four other permanent exhibits through two floors.

THE CIRCLE (1000 – 1500)

The first gallery, entitled ‘The Circle,’ will pay respect to the development of maritime networks throughout 1000-1500, giving examples of how different navigators mapped out the seas they traveled and eventually connected these so that maritime networks circled the globe.

18K Armenian Gold Cross
18K Armenian Gold Cross

THE TORNOVIAJE (1565 – 1641)

The second gallery is called ‘The Tornoviaje,’ meaning the return route, and thus focuses on the period after Andres de Urdaneta discovered the Kuroshio Current in 1565 until 1641. The exhibit includes major devotional traditions in the Philippines born out of a sense of the dangers of the trade, first arrivals of plant material from the Americas, the system of trade and the walls of the city-fortresses paid for by the galleon trade in both Manila and Acapulco.

18th Century Altar Element, Cast Bronze Signal Cannon, 19th Century Manton de Manila Silk, Porcelain Jar, Bronze Coin

THE ZENITH (1642 – 1762)

The height of the trade, between 1642 and 1762, will be exhibited in ‘The Zenith,’ where original examples of the luxury goods that passed through and were traded between Manila and Acapulco will be on display. These shall include devotional statuary made of ivory and precious woods, as well as shawls, altars, and carrozas. Departure and arrival scenes in Manila and Acapulco will be displayed.


Finally, a room called ‘The Fade-Out’ will invite audiences to engage in interactive media that will further their exploration into the shift from one economic world order to another.

18th Century Sto. Nino de Cebu (made from Ivory, Gilt Wood, Silver and Fabric)
18th Century Sto. Nino de Cebu (made from Ivory, Gilt Wood, Silver and Fabric)

Construction will begin immediately with completion expected on the last quarter of 2015.  The Galeon is expected to command magnificent views of the glittering Manila Bay.  It will also feature exchanges including the influx of new world plants into the Philippines and Asia, such as pineapples, corn, potatoes, quinine and tobacco. The impact of the galleon trade on local food and economic culture, as well as its role in shaping commodities exchange in the modernizing world will be made evident and easy to explore. All texts and materials will be offered in three languages: Filipino, Spanish and English. The museum will bring visitors back to and through 1565 – 1815 AD with the help of antiques acquired from either side of the Pacific Ocean and expertly made images and reproductions.

“What was then just an idea is now fast becoming a reality,” said Hans T. Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings, Inc.


Sy who was present during the groundbreaking ceremony together with fellow project proponents Senator Edgardo Angara and His Excellency Ambassador Julio Camarena of Mexico, along with special guests Ms. Marian Roces the lead curator of TAO Inc. and representatives from the City of Pasay all expressed their excitement with the project saying that  The Galeon will indeed convey accurate, exciting information that will throw light on the roots of today’s banking, shipping, commerce, and cultural exchange in the Pacific region.




I can’t wait to see The Galeon standing in all its 65-meter magnificence and experience its interactive displays and galleries.  Who wouldn’t want to ride on an 18th Century Galleon?  I hope that they incorporate a base of flowing water so that it’ll be like you’re really on board a sailing ship.  Cool!

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