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Pinto’s ‘Buen Viaje’ promises to spice things up

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published May 04, 2024 5:00 am

Maybe it’s an accident of geography that the Philippines sits at the nexus of so much hubbub, toil, trouble and fortune throughout history—from its prime location in the East-West galleon trade up to the 1800s (making Manila a “true world city”), through its bulwark against the Japanese at Corregidor in WWII, through its promised hedge to Asia falling to communism in the ‘60s, through its current Sierra Madre wreckage placing it squarely in China’s sights.

Maybe we are all just accidents of geography.

If you ask Ambassador of Mexico to Manila Daniel Hernandez Joseph and Gallery of Prints co-founder Rudolf Lietz, the galleon trade that began connecting Asia to the West (and ran smack through Manila) was a kind of super globalization, driven by spice (hello, Dune!) and the promise of quick fortunes. Kind of like the tech revolutions now. Some of it was a bubble, some of it fed war machines (hello, Elon Musk!), and some of it led to huge riches for bold innovations.

“The Galleon Trade: 250 Years of Globalization” will display antique map and painting prints from The Gallery of Prints.

As Ambassador Joseph shows us various Spanish galleon models displayed in the Official Residence of Mexico in Dasmarines, he notes how a large number of passengers stuffed onto each trade galleon didn’t make it back—but if they did, they earned enough from their Asian adventure to live a comfortable life. It conjures up the promise that OFWs chase today, working abroad to send money home.

Running at Pintô Art Museum and Arboretum from May 5-June 23, “Buen Viaje: Manila-Acapulco-Manila” is an exhibit celebrating the galleon trade between the Philippines and Mexico, specifically the entry ports of Manila and Acapulco, and how trade influenced culture, food, language and art. It coincides with the opening of the Gallery of Prints exhibit “The Galleon Trade: 250 Years of Globalization” at Upper Galleries 1-3, all kicking off this Sunday with a cultural exchange of food and art, lectures by Ambeth Ocampo (“Mexico Under Our Skin”), National Museum maritime history speaker Bobby Orillaneda, food and culture writer Claude Tayag (“The Foods that Crossed the Pacific”) and Piet Bolipata, launching her book My Friend Frida Khalo.

Key art for Pinto's "Buen Viaje" exhibit by Guy Custodio

It’s a huge celebration, in fact, set fittingly at Dr. Joven Cuanang’s Pintô, a place where the iconic “Virgin of Antipolo,” once the focal point of sailors’ prayers to la Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) for safe journeys, now resides. Dr. Cuanang could not attend the launch at the Embassy of Mexico Residence, but Pintô exhibit curator Carlomar Daoana outlined what guests will experience.

Lietz, whose extensive collection of rare 17th- and 18th-century map prints of Asia chart Manila’s key role in galleon trade add immeasurably to the “Buen Viaje” exhibit, noted the key was opening up a transshipment point for trade in the East Indies, from which Mexico could more easily connect through Manila’s thriving ports.

(From left at Mexico Embassy launch): Gallery of Prints co-founder Rudolf Lietz, Ambassador of Mexico to Manila Daniel Hernandez Joseph, and Pinto exhibit curator Carlomar Daoana

Interesting also to note that maps were top-secret information then, so those who could “hack” or copy the maps of, say, Manila — as the Dutch managed to do with Portuguese maps at the time—could launch attacks, as the Dutch did in 1600, sinking the San Diego off Fortune Island.

The exhibit will intermingle historical maps with contemporary and period art, reflecting the commonality of two countries that somehow managed to evolve and preserve their own identities under centuries of colonial rule.

“Our language, manners, cuisine, clothing, foliage and many more have now become entwined, and have become part of each of us,” writes Dr. Cuanang. “We both struggled to become free from Mother Spain, and our histories are parallel in many ways as we have also assimilated the richness of the Iberian culture.”

Ambassador Joseph noted that only 44 years after Spain conquered Mexico, there was already a “Mexican-Spanish consciousness.” “It's different from a Spanish-Spanish language. That tells us that in our culture, we were already seeing the birth of this new culture where, when we speak Spanish, we mix it with Aztec words. Like the names of foods that we will see in the exhibit, especially the Aztec xocolatl”—what we now know and love as chocolate.

Expect to taste some of that as well at “Buen Viaje.”

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“Buen Viaje: Manila-Acapulco-Manila” and the Gallery of Prints exhibit “The Galleon Trade: 250 Years of Globalization” both open at Pintô Art Museum and Arboretum Sunday, May 5, 3 p.m. Contact [email protected] or phone 0995-9188636 with other queries.