‘Document’ portends to show what belongs to China, what’s ours
By Abner T. Galino
It is certainly more than an amusing coincidence to find a burning fervor for the motherland on an expatriate named Rizal Reyes, a senior in his middle 80’s and a resident of mid-city Los Angeles. He confirmed that his father was indeed a fan of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. But, – here comes the surprise – he was not a Rizal fan but of Andres Bonifacio, and for the same reasons just like many other Filipinos who favor the plebeian over the intellectual nationalist.
Of course, Rizal and Bonifacio were never rivals. The debate on who should be crowned national hero came up during the American occupation of the Philippines. Rizal eventually got the prime spot at Luneta, aptly named Rizal Park, while Bonifacio got to stand in front of the Philippine Post Office building (which is just about four miles away). And so it came to be that the lovers would head to Luneta while the marchers who seek redress from government would gather at Liwasang Bonifacio. As far as politics is concerned, we know which of the two places became more exciting and relevant.
But this story is not about Rizal and Bonifacio. This story is about patriotism and a map, although not an original map but a copy of a 1734 map of the Philippines.
Reyes believes his copy, which was about the size of a bond paper (about 8 x 11 inches), was published around the late 1700. We have no way to confirm his theory. Although he was right to say that the printing technology already had the capability to make copies during that period.
The former chef obtained his copy during a trip to Barcelona, Spain ten years ago. He narrated that he went inside an antique shop looking for a book about bull fighting and instead chanced upon an atlas. It was not a big book and as Reyes examined it, he discovered that it had the Philippine map as its centerfold.
Reyes said he acquired the book for a song.
“Nung malaman niya nung may-ari na Pilipino ako, binigay na lang sa akin yung libro,” Reyes recounted.
Unfortunately, Reyes was not able to save the entire book.
“Medyo naging pabaya ako. Pero itong mapa na lang naitabi ko.”
Expectedly, what prompted him to come out with his treasured map has to do with his strong feelings about the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China. Reyes though was not very optimistic about our prospect of winning our territorial claim.
“Wala naman tayong magagawa sa China kung talagang magmatigas sila,” he said, adding that it is very unlikely that the US would go to war with China to defend us.
But then, Reyes said he is sharing his old map so that the young generation of Filipinos would be able to bear out that our territorial claim over Scarborough Shoal located off the shore of Luzon, then known as Panacot, has historical basis.
“Bihira lang na makakita tayo ng ganitong mapa ng Pilipinas,” he added, “na nagpapatunay na noon pa man ay itinuturing na bahagi ng Pilipinas ang mga pinag-aagawang isla.”
Also, Reyes was inspired to come out with his map when he saw the news about the Sothesby’s auction of a 300-year-old map of the Philippines. It was sold a Filipino millionaire Mel Velarde for P12 million.
The map, published by Jesuit priest Pedro Murillo Velarde in 1734, debunks the so-called nine-dash-line China has been using to lay claim over the South China Sea. It measures 1,120 by 1,200 mm. or about the size of two regular bath towels.
Sothesby said it was the first scientific map of the Philippines. It has 12 engravings, eight of which depicted native customed figures, a map of Guam and three city or harbor maps that included Manila.
The map was among the 80 heirlooms that the Duke of Northumberland Ralp George Algernon Percy auctioned after a flood hit the said county in April 2012.
The map’s buyer said he will donate the map to the Philippine government which has a plan to present it to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal in Hague, Netherlands.
A high delegation of Filipino officials flew to The Hague and presented its oral arguments on the Philippine arbitration case against China. The Philippine said it expects to win the case. Top officials from the Philippine government’s three branches were in attendance during the proceedings. They included Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio.
Malacañang said The Hague tribunal will decide first if it has jurisdiction over the case.
China has refused to participate in the proceedings and has criticized the Philippine government for initiating international arbitration instead of holding bilateral talks to resolve the dispute. Despite this pronouncement, the Chinese government has continued to build infrastructure in the disputed area.