I HONESTLY do not understand all the noise behind the recent acquisition of Pedro Murillo Velarde’s map by Filipino businessman Mel Velarde, who still deserves to be cited for his efforts to retrieve an important document of Philippine history and a real masterpiece of 18th-century printing. It is hoped this map will soon be exhibited in a public museum (presumably the National Museum) for the enjoyment of the Filipino public.
Nevertheless, this map, which can be downloaded online, has been well known among historians, map collectors, and aficionados of Filipiniana in general. Was the purchase really necessary to defend Filipino claims about its sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc (or Scarborough Shoal) before the United Nations? Different versions of the map were already displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in July 2012, at an exhibition titled Three Hundred Years of Philippine Maps, 1598-1898. On that occasion, the historian and economist Benito J. Legarda, Jr. gave a speech on the life and times of the Jesuit priest Velarde. T-shirts printed with the Velarde map were even sold in that gathering. So why so much noise about this now when a version of the map is even available in the Wikipedia entry on Scarborough Shoal?