Art/Style/Travel Diaries

A Gen Z’er learns about galleon trade, how it made the Philippines what it is today

‘Buen Viaje' exhibit's last day, June 23, at Pinto Art Museum, is big celebration simulating arrival of galleon—with 'takas' from Paete, Mariachi band, and the arrival of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage from Antipolo cathedral shrine

Elmer Borlongan - Recuredos de Buen Viaje

Dengcoy Miel – Ang Brisen Dayo ng Dinarayo ng Marami

June 23, 2024, the last day of the Buen Viaje: Manila-Acapulco-Manila exhibit at Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, starts with a tiangge at 10 a.m. selling food, clothes, plants, garden materials to the public. Artists will come with painting materials to paint on takas from Paete, converting them into works of art—there will be takas of dogs, pigs and horses that artists will paint on. At 3 p.m. is a lecture by renowned chef and book author Claude Tayag, on The Foods that Crossed the Pacific. There will be music by a Mariachi band, dancing higante, ushering the arrival of the revered icon of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage from Antipolo Cathedral. The grounds of the Pinto Academy will be transformed to simulate the arrival of the galleon cargoes in Manila from across the Pacific Ocean. Guests are requested to come in costumes inspired by Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera.

On our way to Pintô Museum, I was telling Mila Guerrero that I grew up in Antipolo, where my school was. I thought I knew everything about Antipolo, but I later found out, not everything. A shocking fact is that I didn’t know that Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage was an important figure from the galleon trade. I have been curious about the galleon trade for quite some time, so finding out about this was exciting. I don’t think we learn enough about it.

The author meets historian Ambeth Ocampo

The author with Ambeth Ocampo and Mila Guerrero

Buen Viaje: Manila-Acapulco-Manila is an exhibit about the galleon trade between the Philippines and Mexico at the Pintô Art Museum in Antipolo, which runs until June 23. An exhibit in the Gallery of Prints, The Galleon Trade: 250 Years of Globalization, kicked off May 5 with a several lectures, including one by historian Ambeth Ocampo

The galleon trade makes me curious, because it’s an important part of our history. It’s not discussed that much, or we don’t really know about its significance. It lasted 300 years and we only get so much information. In his talk, historian Ambeth Ocampo mentioned that only the Spanish grew rich because of the galleon trade. He mentioned that officials were focused on the directive to develop provinces, the farming of the natives was disrupted, the natives were forced to build galleons, and Filipinos were told to build without pay.

In the exhibit, we learn that the galleon trade is important because it linked us to the west. It even shaped our culture to be similar to Mexico’s. I recall someone telling me that we are more culturally similar to Mexico than to our Southeast Asian neighbors.

During “Buen Viaje’s” opening, Pintô prepared exhibits and talks. The exhibit of the prints related to the trade including pieces that were more than 300 years old. They even said that if the print doesn’t look that good, that means it’s rare and they could not find a better copy of it. When I looked at the prints, they showed fruits and plants. They are important, because they show what came from Mexico or from the Philippines. Some of the fruits in the prints look different from what we have today. There were also other prints, like maps. Through this exhibit I saw that the Philippines was an important place, through which goods from all over Asia were brought to Europe and vice versa.

After the first exhibit, there were talks about the galleon trade. There were two speakers; first was Ocampo, and second was Bobby Orillaneda, curator of the Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Division, National Museum of the Philippines.

During his introduction, Ocampo said two centuries after the end of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, we gathered to see the cultural relations born in the trade. “We see its relevance in our time. By looking beyond trade from the former port cities of Manila and Acapulco, we can focus on the cultural and artistic exchange it generated.” During his talk, he made us see how the galleon trade connected us culturally with Mexico. He showed us maps that depicted the routes from Spain to the Philippines, religious figures that adapted to the native culture, and vegetation that came from the trade. He showed us the past through a historian’s eyes.

‘By looking beyond trade from the former port cities of Manila and Acapulco, we can focus on the cultural and artistic exchange it generated,’ said historian Ambeth Ocampo

Ocampo talked about when he went to a town in Japan in 2013. He viewed an exhibit which commemorated the 400th anniversary of the mission from Japan to Europe. There was a Japanese map of the world, and there were drawings of couples of different races. There was a Japanese couple, a Chinese couple, American Indians, and there wa a couple from Ruzon, which was how the Japanese referred to Manila. He told the crowd about the physical development of the different races over time. Ocampo said these were the types of people you would see in Manila during the galleon trade.

Ocampo said, “Being curious about the 18th century map taught me so many things. Not just what Manila was like in the 18th century, but also why we did not realize we were Filipino…We are an archipelagic country where people drown and do not know how to swim. I was taught in school that an archipelago was defined as a group of islands separated by water. When I was older, I realized that the water did not separate; the Philippines was an archipelago that was connected by water.”

He further said, “In a generation that is used to cars, we forget that water was the highway that connected the world. And this is what connected Manila to Acapulco to the rest of the world. If you look at maps and the geography of cities, we see division on maps, but I later on realized… History is not about division, but history is about connections.” Ocampo discovered, after decades of research, that the true magic of history lies in connections—just like water and the galleons that connected Asia with America and the rest of the world.

The next talk was by Bobby Orillaneda. I learned that we were a port for goods from Asia. These goods were transported to the west. Goods like pots, china, or anything worth trading went through us. He also mentioned that the National Museum is trying to search for the wreckage of galleon ships that sank or were lost.

The talk on the galleon trade made me recall when I was in college. Our professor would say that the Philippines is in a strategic location. We are at the center of Asia, where trade has been flourishing. We are also surrounded by water, which makes it difficult to infiltrate us.

Pinto Art Museum founder and distinguished art collector Dr. Joven Cuanang with the author

After the speakers finished their talk, Dr. Joven Cuanang of Pintô Art Museum thanked both of them. He said, “These are not only scientific, but they involve the way we have been closely intertwined in the culture…”

Afterwards, everyone was ushered to another gallery. Dr. Cuanang had asked different artists to depict the galleon trade. I was curious about what these artists painted. I saw that some works were inspired by the art during the trade. Some artworks were depictions of how artists saw the times. I was attracted to works related to the Virgin Mary, but I noticed we didn’t have that many artworks that discussed what goods came from the trade. That is important, because it was one of the main reasons why Spain and other countries came here.

“Buen Viaje: Manila–Acapulco–Manila” showed me how we are connected with the rest of the world through trade. Without such trade, we might have stayed an isolated island. Our culture has been heavily influenced by the galleon trade. Even the fruits and vegetables we eat and we think are native are actually from Mexico.

Mansy Abesamis’ Manila Acapulco Trade

Ferdie Montemayor’ Alay Lakad

We are a country enriched by different cultures. Connections are important. It’s nice to appreciate such relations, because they made us who we are today.

About author


Mica describes herself: “I am a straightforward person who also can be a perfectionist. But I know there are limitations. And one thing I declared to myself is to live my life as if it was art. It sounds cheesy but true. I grew up in Rizal, and I believe that it built my character and exposed me to a lot of Filipino values and beliefs. I went to college at DLSU-Manila and took a degree in Political Science. There are times I feel like a nomad because, ever since college, I’ve been staying in different places to be closer to studies or work. I’m a nerd and I find that cool. I believe in the power of learning, and I see myself as the result of years of education. Good and bad. I expose myself to a lot of experiences. I have exposed myself to topics related to art, politics, literature, religion, history, medicine, etc. Consistently, I like to do a lot of things. I get bored easily so I keep myself busy. I have to say that I love art. It is home for me. When things get rough, I always find myself drawn to it, and see it as a way home. But I have to say writing has been my dream. These days it has become my way back to myself, and a path to my peace of mind. I have no formal training, but whatever I do, I believe it develops good content. I want to write things that matter, and I believe I do.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for’s Weekly Digest and get the best of, tailored for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *