A Common Heritage of Profound Legacies: Pedro Murillo Velarde and Antonio Tirol Carpio


To be delivered at the Book Launching of Justice Antonio Carpio’s e-book, Manila Polo Club, May 4, 2017, 5pm.

Mr. Mel V. Velarde

I am truly honored to be part of this launching event of an important e-book, authored by Honorable Antonio Tirol Carpio, Senior Associate Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court.

Yes, this book is about the West Philippine Seas, the Law of Sea, and the UNCLOS decision. But it is more than that. It is a literary and visual masterpiece, offering new and simple ways of viewing oceans and lands, peoples and nations, and the Law of the Sea that rule them. This book offers an intellectual and multi-sensorial journey from confusion to clarity, separating errors from truths, about the Law of the Sea.

It offers an abundance of historical, legal, socio-cultural and geo-political ideas and insights. Equipped with this book, this generation and the next generations would be able to formulate new algorithms for inter-racial and inter-regional cooperation. Lucidly written, every page is embellished with high-definition graphics, using visual artistry at its best, and availing of the most advanced cloud computing technology of its time. Download the e-book from anywhere, anytime, 24 by 7.

Most especially, it is free of charge.

It is one of Justice Carpio’s legacies, the object of his intense diligence and devotion, with which he dedicates so zealously and patriotically to the Filipino people.

The 1734 Murillo-Velarde Map is also officially exhibited here this afternoon. Known as the 1734 Hydrographical and Chorographical Chart of the Philippines and regarded by historians as the “mother of all Philippine maps,” it is the first scientific map that shows the entire Philippine archipelago. Produced by Spanish Jesuit Priest, Pedro Murillo Velarde (born in 1696, died 1754), together with two early Filipinos—Francisco Suarez, who drew the map, and Nicolas dela Cruz Bagay, who engraved it.

From a geographic point of view, this large-format map is top of its class, given its accuracy at a time when there were no airplanes, GPS or Google earth. But there already was “call a friend”; Father Murillo Velarde had many Indios as friends. They joined him and his fellow priests in producing this map. They wandered all over our lands and used their eyes by day, and stars by night, to explore and document the sizes and shapes, location and relation, of our seas, rocks, islands, mountains and many other points of interest.

The map is also a magnificent ethnographic document, as it depicts on twelve engravings, the life of the Indios, the Spanish settlers and other ethnic groups living in the archipelago. Most especially, the islands and rocks in Scarborough and Spratlys, identified respectively as Panacot and Los Bajos de Paragua, are drawn in this map, showing that they have been part of our archipelago since centuries ago, when our land was under Spanish rule. The map of Murillo Velarde had set the standard of map-making in the 17th century and beyond.

In 2014, Justice Carpio discovered that this map was scheduled to be auctioned off by Sotheby’s London in November of that year. He shared this information to various public and private museums, and individuals including myself.
I was the lucky bidder who won in that auction. So last April 21, 2017, we signed a deed of donation with the Office of the Solicitor General of the Philippine government, represented by the Honorable Secretary Jose Calanggan Calida, officially making this map a gift to the Filipino people.

Pedro Murillo Velarde was also a lawyer, a graduate of law at the University of Salamanca. He learned to speak Tagalog to immerse into the lives and circumstances of the Indios. In 1745, numerous revolts took place around Manila against the religious haciendas that had grown at the expense of indigenous and communal lands. The Indio rebels were caught and arrested, and this Spanish Friar, Pedro Murillo Velarde, defended them as their lawyer when they were prosecuted. In fact, he wrote a manifesto entitled: “The Manifesto in defense of the Indios of Gilan and San Mateo.”
The Spanish hierarchy questioned Murillo Velarde why he was defending the Indios. His answer was: “the only way to conquer them is to conquer their hearts thru the rule of law.”

This is exactly what Justice Carpio is achieving thru his works behind the scenes of the UNCLOS case, and thru his speeches and personal interactions with people around the country and the world.

This personal civic duty he imposes upon himself has blossomed into a visual cum literary compilation, a patriarchal narrative in the making, in the form of an e-book as his tribute to all nations and generations, now and in the future.

There is a plaque of honor installed at a government office at Laujar de Andarax, Andalucia, Spain, with the name Pedro Murillo Velarde bearing the title: “Defender of the Indigenous Rights of the Filipinos.”

I hear the same honorific recognition in the words of former Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Albert del Rosario, when he wrote in the foreword in the ebook and I quote: “Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio is a dedicated public servant, an eminent jurist, an outstanding scholar, and an ardent patriot in promoting and defending our nation’s rights as enshrined in the Law of the Sea. … our staunchest defender of our country’s position in the disputes over the South China Sea. He used his vision, wisdom and expertise towards helping our country forge our legal strategy for the South China Sea.” I end this set of quotations using the first sentence in the foreword Sec del Rosario wrote: “Our country owes an incalculable debt of gratitude to Justice Antonio Carpio.”

The works, advocacies and principles of Pedro Murillo Velarde and Antonio Tirol Carpio, that mirror each other, constitute the very essence of who they are, making the absence of one as potent as the presence of the other.

Both exemplified a rare kind of conviction deeply ingrained like codes in their souls. Faced with moral crises, they showed to the world what performance beyond the call of duty truly required. It is not what one can do, but what he ought to do, for the greater ends of humanity.