Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Genuine Galleon

A couple of weeks ago, a genuine wooden galleon, Andalucia, was docked at Pier 13 right here in Manila. For barely a week it was open for public viewing and bus loads of people took the rare chance to go aboard the historic vessel, through the courtesy of the NCCA. I was fortunate enough to be forced by MTLA classmates Grace Servino and Rhia Digo to brave the early morning Manila traffic and make our way to where the galleon was berthed. With that same luck, we got there on a Thursday when crowds were manageable and the lines were quite short. We got in and out in an hour's time, but not really fast, enough for us to get good pictures of the huge boat to share.

Before we were allowed to go on the galleon, a brief seminar was given on how important the galleons were from the 15th to 19th centuries. There we learned that a lot of plants and vegetables were actually brought to the Philippines because of the galleon trade. Produce were brought in on board the large galleons coming from Mexico and other parts of the world thus becoming some of the early plants from the New World to get introduced to the Philippines. They further illustrated that all of the plants mentioned in Bahay Kubo song are all non-native plants and vegetables. They were crops popularized by the Spanish governors to be planted by Indios in their respective backyards.

Seeing the Andalucia, you could recognize that it is not a big boat. But upon embarking on the deck, I still got amazed on how pre-high technology could have built such a vessel out of wood and made them travel the seas and navigate around the globe. Again I remembered the story I heard that the Spaniards over-harvested our forests for different woods to build these magnificent galleons. I still have to confirm that one of their wood choice was our endemic Tectona philippinensis or Philippine teak. I began to wonder if any part of the Andalucia was built using Philippine wood.

As we descended to the lower parts I got to realize that the Andalucia had real life cannons on board. They peek through small windows where the crew probably peeped through to aim at the enemy. I again began imagining, this time the battles that the old galleons must have encountered through history. I was envisioning the cannons being aimed at a coconut-lined beach while the natives were charging the galleons on board their small rigged bancas. Hehehe, I admit I have a very strong imagination. But seriously boarding the Andalucia is such a historical experience, painting a very clear picture of what it must have felt like to sail the seven seas early on in history.

The Andalucia was only staying for a couple of days more in Manila before it gets to sail to Cebu for another week, then it's off again on a voyage to another part of the world. I am not sure if this galleon would again set sail for Philippine shores. I am glad it docked in Manila and happy I did get out of bed that morning to get on it, even if it was only for a few minutes or so. For the price of a cab ride to Pier 13 I got to experience time travel and 'Ship ahoy!' on board the Andalucia.

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