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Looking Back
Legaspi’s wish list

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:57:00 01/22/2009

Filed Under: history

This Thursday, Jan. 23, is the anniversary of the Malolos Congress. I should be writing about history connected to Barasoain Church, but my weekend trip to Cebu province on the invitation of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. led me to the narrative reports sent by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi from Cebu to the King of Spain in 1565. Most history students have, at some point, read the account of the Magellan expedition by its chronicler Antonio Pigafetta, but they seem to forget Legaspi and Urdaneta.

Contrary to popular belief, the so-called ?Spanish period? in Philippine history does not begin with Magellan?s arrival in Cebu and his well-deserved death in the Battle of Mactan in 1521. Magellan may have planted a cross and left the Santo Nińo with the wife of Humabon, but that is not a real ?conquista? [conquest]. The Spanish dominion over the islands to be known as ?Filipinas? began only in 1565, with the arrival of Legaspi. From Cebu, Legaspi moved to other populated and, we presume, important native settlements like Panay and later Maynila (not Maynilad as propagated by the ignorant).

Legaspi is often represented in art going through the Sandugo or Pacto de Sangre (Blood Compact) with Sikatuna. This is the historical basis for Philippine-Spanish friendship and diplomacy. It is also the basis for the Order of Sikatuna conferred by the Republic on diplomats. It is not well known that Magellan entered into a blood compact with Rajah Kolambu in 1521.

Spain is literally in our blood, in our culture. Juan Luna?s iconic ?Pacto de Sangre? hangs in Malacańang. Luna used the patrician Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera as the model for Legaspi and Jose Rizal for Sikatuna. A toast, an exchange of local wine mixed with blood, has also been immortalized by other Filipino artists, including National Artists Vicente Manansala, Carlos V. Francisco and Napoleon Abueva.

In all these representations of history a common error is made as to the source of the blood. Tfor example, the late Blas Ople wrote, ?One way of performing ?sandugo? is for both parties to offer a cup of wine, the mildest wine available. Each party then incises his/her arm and lets two to three drops of blood from the wound drip into his/her cup. They exchange cups. Each party then raises his/her cup to eye level, shakes the cup to mix the blood with the wine, and drinks from the cup. Preferably, bottoms up, for the eagerness to consume the mixture signifies the depth of each party?s will and determination to honor the agreement until his/her death.?

That is what we imagine the sandugo to be, but the incision is not made on the arm but on the chest! Legaspi?s narration is very clear on this: The blood was drawn from the ?pecho.? We are perhaps confused by the drawing of blood for the Katipunan in the 19th century. An incision on the arm drew blood that they used to sign or write out K.K.K oaths.

Why is the mistake on Legaspi perpetuated? Few people today read his reports to the king. I would not have reread Legaspi if not for the controversy over the site of the Blood Compact. This was previously believed to have happened on the side of a road between present-day Tagbilaran and Baclayon in Bohol. As a matter of fact, a historical marker and a life-size tableau of the event marks the spot that has since been proven to be on the wrong side of history, because the site of the Legaspi-Sikatuna blood compact was Loay, Bohol.

Rereading Legaspi I almost skipped a rather detailed list of supplies requested for his camp in Cebu. His wish list was dispatched to Mexico and he arranged the items according to three types: supplies required for barter or gifts; military supplies needed for both defense and offense; supplies required for ships. The barter goods are quite revealing because it shows what he believed the natives needed or desired, as well as what he thought would attract the Chinese and Japanese:

?Two bolts of scarlet Valencia scarlet cloth, with odds and ends, 7 bolts of scarlet Toledo cloth, 6 cases of headdresses, a great quantity of beads, blue green and yellow, 10 breadths of each sort, 2 pcs. crimson velvet, 3 dozen colored hats, one case large gilded coins for the Chinese, 2 bales and 2 boxes linens, 2 quintals of Muzavetas (whatever that means), 4 lbs fine coral of all sorts, 3 quintals glass (one blue), 1,000 bundles glass beads ? green and yellow, 500 dozen hawk?s bells, coins and small bars of fine silver for trade in China, 6 caldrons pitch, 2 large caldrons, such as are used for bucking linen; but they must be large and very strong, because they are to be used in making saltpeter, 1,000 sail needles, 2 saddles with long stirrups and colored velvet trimmings, with all rivets, bits, and stirrup-irons to be gilded, 2 cavalry saddles with colored trimmings, all to be of good quality, 6 gilt swords and daggers of good quality which are for the S.S. on the coast of China and for those in the islands of Japan.?

This now historical list may be trivial to most historians, but it makes us recreate the world of 1565 from the value placed on these items. From seemingly insignificant details history can be woven and be made relevant to our times.

* * *

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu.



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