The Dutchman’s Day, 1600 | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

The Dutchman’s Day, 1600

/ 04:05 AM November 17, 2021

European maps of Asia from the 16th to the 17th centuries, while obsolete in the face of Google Earth, are worth a second look as expressions of what cartographers knew or imagined about our side of the world. As visual records of the emergence of geography, that is, geo (land) and graphia (writing) we find the Philippines in various forms and shapes. That the Philippines differs in early Spanish and Portuguese maps illustrates their rivalry during the “Age of Discovery and Exploration” when each jealously withheld maps and charts from the other.

Dutch cartographer Abraham Ortelius, who invented what we know today as the modern Atlas, published a 1571 map of Asia with the Philippines in an odd, unrecognizable shape. His map includes sea monsters attacking a ship, and a pair of frolicking mermaids admiring themselves with handheld mirrors. Hondius, another Dutch cartographer, situated the Philippines in the “Insulae Indiae Orientalis” (East Indies) drawing the archipelago as we know and recognize it today without Google Earth. Hondius’ map includes a naval battle between Spanish and Dutch ships, a reminder of the many Dutch threats to the 17th century Spanish Philippines.


The first Philippines-Dutch encounter occurred in December 1600 between Olivier van Noort, in command of the Mauritius and Eendracht, and Antonio de Morga who commanded the San Diego, San Bartolome, and two smaller vessels whose names escaped history. It is amusing that Van Noort is described by Spanish sources as a pirate and invader, while Dutch sources hailed him as the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the world after Ferdinand Magellan, Sebastian Elcano, Francis Drake, and Thomas Cavendish. So much for the biases of history. Antonio de Morga, lieutenant governor of the Philippines, is best remembered for “Sucesos de las islas Filipinas” (Events of the Philippine Islands) published in Mexico in 1609. Morga’s book was considered so authoritative Rizal published an extensively annotated edition in 1890. Morga was the victor against the Dutch in 1600, that is, until his shipwrecked flagship, the San Diego, first sighted by Gilbert Fournier in 1992, was excavated by a team of underwater archeologists led by Franck Goddio and the National Museum of the Philippines.

Some 34,000 artifacts found in the San Diego provide a picture of life and trade on a 17th-century ship plying the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade. Some of the artifacts now on display in the National Museum are: Kraak or Chinese export porcelain for Europe; Zhangzhou ware from the tail end of the Ming dynasty, specifically the Wan Li period (1573-1619); storage jars from China, Thailand, Myanmar, Spain, and Mexico, some with their contents intact; weapons from Europe and Japan; domestic objects, etc. From all these emerge a different version of Morga’s “victory.”


On Oct. 16, 1600, Van Noort anchored in the Bay of Albay in search of supplies, he flew a French flag, claimed he had Royal permission to trade, and even disguised a sailor as a Catholic priest to mislead the Spanish who welcomed the friendly fleet. Van Noort was exposed when a captive Spanish sailor escaped and alerted Spanish priests. Then English musician, John Calloway, part of the crew was captured by natives while drinking ashore and turned over to the Spaniards in a cage. Van Noort burned native villages and sailed off. He heard about the brisk trade in the port of Manila from a Portuguese-speaking Chinese in a junk he captured along the way.

Morga sighted Van Noort off Nasugbu at dawn on Dec. 14, 1600; they engaged in battle for six hours. While Morga’s flagship, San Diego, sank off Fortune Island and the Dutch flagship sailed away, he claimed victory with the capture of the second Dutch vessel and the standards of the enemy flagship. Discovery of the San Diego in 1992 revealed Morga was incompetent and cowardly. One of the first to abandon ship, and left his crew to die. He did not take the enemy ship when he could as he remained speechless on deck, lying on a kapok mattress. It is significant that Morga’s gold seal was found in the San Diego shipwreck, a reminder that even a long-held version, from a primary source, of the Dutchman’s Day in 1600, can be overturned by historians with better research.

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, Dutchman's Day, Looking Back, Olivier van Noort, Philippine-Dutch encounter
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