The Murillo Bulletin Issue No. 6

Page 1

The Murillo Bulletin Journal of PHIMCOS The Philippine Map Collectors Society

Issue No. 6

August 2018

In this Issue:  

The Charting of Palawan 1521–1898

The Mythical Island of St. John

The Life of Alfonso T. Ongpin

U.S. Army Maps from the Moro Rebellion

The Murillo Bulletin Issue No. 6

August 2018 In this Issue page 3

PHIMCOS News & Events The PHIMCOS U.K. Tour 2018 by Andoni Aboitiz


The Charting of Palawan from 1521 to 1898 by Vincent S. Pérez


The Collecting Life of Alfonso T. Ongpin by Lisa Ongpin Periquet


Illusions, Confusions and Delusions – the mythical island of St. John by Margarita V. Binamira


U.S. Army maps of two campaigns during the Moro Rebellion by Peter Geldart


PHIMCOS Directors, Members & Committees


About PHIMCOS The Philippine Map Collectors Society (PHIMCOS) was established in 2007 in Manila as the first club for collectors of antique maps and prints in the Philippines. Membership of the society, which has grown to a current total of 45 members (including individual and joint members, and corporate nominees), is open to anyone interested in collecting historical maps, prints, paintings and photographs of the Philippines. PHIMCOS holds quarterly general meetings at which members and their guests discuss cartographic news and give after-dinner presentations on topics such as maps of particular interest, famous cartographers, the charting of regions of the Philippines, or the lives of prominent Filipino historians. A major focus for PHIMCOS is the sponsorship of exhibitions, lectures and other educational events designed to educate the public about the importance of cartography as a way of learning both the geography and the history of the Philippines. The Murillo Bulletin, edited by Peter Geldart. is published twice a year. PHIMCOS welcomes new members. The fee for an Individual Membership is Php.6,000 per annum; for Joint Memberships (for two people) and Corporate Memberships (with two nominees) the fee is Php.10,000 per annum. Members and guests who attend general meetings also pay a contribution towards the cost of dinner and drinks of Php.1,200 per member and Php.1,500 per guest. The application form and additional information on PHIMCOS are available on our website .

Front Cover: Palawan Island. Surveyed by Comr. W.T. Bate, R.N., assisted by Lieuts. C. Pasco & C. Bullock and Mr. W. Calver Mast. 1850-54, British Admiralty, London 1856 (Peter Geldart collection)


LINSCHOTEN, Jan Huygen. Exacta & accurata delineatio cum orarum maritimdrum tum etjam locorum terrestrium quae in regionibus China. Amsterdam, 1595. From Hubbard Collection of “Japan and Southeast Asia”.

Daniel Crouch Rare Books

London 4 Bury Street, St James’s London SW1Y 6AB +44 (0)20 7042 0240

New York 24 East 64th Street New York NY 10065 +1 (212) 602 1779

PHIMCOS News & Events


UR readers will notice that at 36 pages this issue of The Murillo Bulletin is 50% bigger than our four previous issues, thanks to the literary efforts of our contributors, the continued support of our advertisers, and the enthusiasm for the journal expressed by our society’s ever-increasing membership. 2018 is turning out to be the most active year ever for map enthusiasts in the Philippines. On 21 February we started the year with a general meeting attended by 25 members and 7 guests, at which Marga Binamira gave a presentation on the mythical island of St. John (see page 25), Popo Lotilla gave a talk on the mapping of Panay by Enrique Abella y Casariego, and Peter Geldart brought along two manuscript U.S. Army maps relating to the Moro Rebellion (see page 33). On 23 May PHIMCOS members participated in a day-long symposium, the first International Conference on Cartography in Philippine History, arranged by Mel V. Velarde, Chairman & CEO of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, and Dr. Carlos Madrid, Director of the Instituto Cervantes de Manila. At the symposium, the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde purchased for the nation by Mr. Velarde was on display; the Guest of Honor was Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Antonio T. Carpio; and other distinguished speakers included Prof. Carlos Villoria Prieto from Spain, Dr. Ambeth R. Ocampo of Ateneo de Manila University, Prof. Marya Svetlana T. Camacho from the University of Asia and the Pacific, and Tom Harper, Curator of Antiquarian Mapping at the British Library. We also enjoyed an animated presentation by Señora Almudena Morales Asensio, the Alcaldesa (mayor) of Laujar de Andarax in Andalucía, where Murillo Velarde was born. For the benefit of society members who could not attend the conference, and in anticipation of the forthcoming PHIMCOS tour to London, the following evening PHIMCOS hosted a special

dinner for Tom Harper attended by 16 members and 8 guests. This was Tom’s first visit to the Philippines and he expressed his enthusiasm for the symposium and the exceptional interest in antique maps he encountered, notably among PHIMCOS members. After dinner he gave an expanded version of his previous day’s talk on “The History of Cartography in the Philippines: Maps in the British Library”, illustrated with photos of some of the Philippine map treasures in the library’s collection. A week later, on 30 May, the second general meeting of the year attracted 19 members and 8 guests. Peter Geldart and Christian Perez gave a joint presentation on “British Naval Actions and Surveys in the Philippines During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars”, and this was followed by a talk on “Earthquakes and Calamities through Old Colonial Books and Maps (1645-1830)” by Jorge Mojarro. Then, from 6 to 10 June, a total of 15 PHIMCOS members and family members travelled to the U.K. to visit museums and the London Map Fair (see page 5). After the trip, the consensus was that, in light of its success, PHIMCOS should arrange more such cartographic tours in future. We have two more PHIMCOS meetings to look forward to this year, but the culmination of the Philippine cartographic events for 2018 will be the 36th IMCoS International Symposium, to be held in Manila from 14 to 17 October.

Tom Harper of the British Library (centre) with PHIMCOS members and guests on 24 May, 2018


The symposium, titled Insulae Indiae Orientalis, is being arranged by the Ayala Museum and the Gallery of Prints, in cooperation with the International Map Collectors’ Society (IMCoS) and PHIMCOS; other sponsors are the Aboitiz Foundation and Union Bank of the Philippines.

For delegates who arrive before the symposium opens, or who stay on afterwards, optional tours around Manila will also be arranged. Full details of the programme are available at the symposium website:

Events will include an opening cocktail reception and a gala dinner at the Manila Polo Club. The morning sessions will feature lectures by local and international speakers on subjects as interesting and diverse as the Philippine national hero José Rizal; the great 1734 Murillo Velarde map; Maggiolo’s 1531 portolan chart of the world; the 19th century tourist Anna D’Almeida; the Berghaus Atlas of Asia; exploration by the Dutch East India Company; “Rhubarb and Martini”; trade between New Mexico and Manila; the “Spanish Lake”; Chinese maps of the Philippines; and the role of maps in the South China Sea dispute.

After Manila, the second part of the 36th IMCoS International Symposium, titled “Cultural Encounters in Maps of China”, will continue in Hong Kong from 18 to 20 October at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

In the afternoons participants will enjoy visits to the exhibition of maps relating to the topics and themes covered by the symposium at the Ayala Museum; the Gallery of Prints; the map collections of the Lopez Museum and the Ortigas Foundation Library; and the University of Sto. Tomas Miguel de Benavides Library.


Our President, Jimmie González, comments: “The Board is pleased that its efforts to more effectively promote the Society’s programs are reflected in the increase in new and active membership; the well-attended quarterly meetings with engaging, thought-provoking presentations by our members; our successful exhibitions, including the Roving Exhibition held around the country; and the well-researched articles in the biannual issues of The Murillo Bulletin. The Society has also spread its wings by forming bilateral relationships with a number of libraries both in the Philippines and abroad; visiting renowned institutions overseas to see their collections of rare maps; and collaborating with other map societies, notably IMCoS.” 

The PHIMCOS U.K. Tour 2018 by Andoni Aboitiz

with contributions from Peter Geldart and Jaime C. González


COUPLE of years ago – before I joined the society – a plan was mooted for PHIMCOS to organize a trip to London for the annual Map Fair. The idea was to capitalize on the “special relationship” Jimmie and Connie González have with the British Library to see some of the highlights of its map collection that are not on public display. Peter Geldart volunteered to arrange visits to the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and Alain Miailhe suggested visiting the library of the Natural History Museum.

After only lukewarm support for a trip by a few members in 2017, a total of 15 PHIMCOS members (including spouses and relatives) signed up for this year’s tour. So there we were, the first batch of the PHIMCOS U.K. Tour 2018 participants, gathered at the Bodleian’s Weston Library for the start of our much-anticipated study expedition. The weather could not have been more cooperative as it was a bright and warm day at Oxford, a wonderful start to what would be an amazing (and rain-free) five days. After introductions and some banter we were enthusiastically led to the map room by Nick Millea, Map Librarian of the Bodleian Library. There, on full display, was the magnificent Selden Map, the only known Ming-dynasty Chinese nautical chart, which many of us had come specifically to see. And see we did (without touching!) as we were granted astonishingly unimpeded access to the map whose date and cartographer continue to be the subject of much speculation and study. We were also shown a photograph of the map when it was first rediscovered in the Library’s archives, illustrating the miracles of today’s conservation techniques. Thus, many of us were able to get our fill of this special and beautiful chart; absorbing the details and raising questions was the order of the day.

Under the guidance of Nick and his team, in addition to the Selden map we viewed other important maps from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, including a c1700 portolan chart of the China Sea, a manuscript British chart of the San Bernardino Strait by Lieut. Manuel M. Camacho dated 1804, and a huge 1904 foursheet map of the City of Manila by the U.S. General Staff Military Information Division. After being formally welcomed by Richard Ovenden, the Head of the Library (known as Bodley's Librarian), we proceeded to enjoy a guided tour of the Old Schools Quadrangle and Tower of the Five Orders, the 15th-century Duke Humfrey's Library lined with rows of priceless tomes, and a view of the main reading room of the modern Weston Library. The tour ended on the roof terrace with a panoramic view over the Bodleian and the Oxford colleges. Following a pub lunch we proceeded to the Museum of the History of Science to view various instruments made for navigation and the creation and use of maps. Viewing these amazingly intricate wooden and metal objects (including clocks, globes, spheres, astrolabes, sundials, quadrants, sextants and a very rare equatorium) further increased our appreciation and understanding of the times when our old maps were of great strategic import. I was particularly taken by the Arab instruments.

On the roof terrace of the Weston Library; Nick Millea is second from the left. ˃ 5

At the Natural History Museum, Marian Olbes turns the pages of Camel’s 17thc. book of botanical drawings

Our second day started at the library of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, where we were met by Andrea Hart, Head of Special Collections, and invited to view two relatively under-appreciated journals of great historical importance for the Philippines. The first was an enormous volume of manuscript pages by Georg Josef Camel S.J. on the botany of the Philippines in the late 17th century. Camel was a Jesuit missionary who visited the islands from 1687 to 1706. His magnum opus is said to be the first comprehensive account of Philippine flora and fauna, with descriptions of the plants, flowers and trees of the country accompanied by exquisite drawings of the same. After spending much time and focus taking in these botanical names and images created over 400 years ago, we mulled the idea of collaborating with the museum to publish this book, which most certainly represents an important aspect of our country’s cultural and scientific history.

Viewing the huge Klencke Atlas at the British Library; Tom Harper is third ˃ from the right


The second work was The Journal of a Botanical Mission to Island of Luconia in 1805, a manuscript diary compiled by William Kerr, who was sent to China and the Philippines to collect specimens for Kew Gardens. While we, unfortunately, had time to give this book only a cursory glance, the information and details we did sample were simply fascinating. We stepped into the world of a pristine Philippines interacting with these accounts by European scientists. The publication of this book should likewise be pursued if the intricacies of British copyright law relating to “orphan works” can be sorted out. For lunch we proceeded to the British Library, to be greeted by Tom Harper, Lead Curator of Antiquarian Mapping. Tom, an old friend for some of us and a more recent acquaintance for those of us who had met him at the dinner in Manila on 24 May, brought us first to view the awe-inspiring Klencke Atlas, until recently the world’s largest atlas. Containing 41 wall maps, measuring 5’9” x 6’3” when open, and now with casters permanently attached to its binding, in 1660 the atlas was given to Charles II by a group of Dutch merchants led by Johannes Klencke as a gift to celebrate the King’s restoration to the throne (and, coincidentally, in exchange for certain trade licenses). To quote Tom Harper: ”The size, scale and concept of the Klencke atlas impresses today, just as it impressed the diarist John Evelyn in 1660 when he saw it in the King’s cabinet, describing it as ‘a vast book of mapps in a volume of neare four yards large’.”

The PHIMCOS U.K. Tour in the board room of the British Library on 7 June, 2018 (from the left): Peter Geldart, Rolf Lietz, Alain Miailhe, Brigitte Miailhe, Elizabeth Lietz, Andoni Aboitiz, Jaime Laya, Alberto Montilla, Chari Montilla, Tom Harper, Connie González, Jimmie González, Kat Sicat, Gi Sicat, Hans Sicat & Marian Olbes

We did more than gaze upon the great atlas. Some of us got to actually turn the pages of this monumental work, lean over it and simply marvel at the delicate work of the engravers.

were a Plan of Manilla taken by storm … by the English Army, showing the artillery lines of the bombardment, and the diary of Deputy Governor Dawsonne Drake for Oct.-Dec. 1762.

After too little time with the Klencke Atlas, we moved on to the boardroom where Tom had spread out on the vast table a smorgasbord of important Philippine maps. We were all familiar with the magnificent 1734 Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, yet still many personal discoveries were surely made by being able to examine closely this particular example of the iconic map.

Another map of particular interest was Topographia de la Ciudad de Manila, a visual description of urban Manila created by Antonio Fernandez de Roxas / Hipolito Ximenez probably in 1717. This map, showing in great detail the everyday life in and around Intramuros, surely deserves to be studied much more closely.

I would be remiss in not pointing out the jewels among the over 20 other maps displayed by Tom. Laid out before us were the six sheets that make up the 1727 Carta Chorographica del Archipielago de las Islas Philipinas by Francisco Diaz Romero and Antonio Ghandia. The chart stands out for its beauty and rarity, the only known copy being that acquired by the British Library from the collection of Admiral Howe. Regrettably, this map seems to have been overshadowed in popularity by the Murillo Velarde. Along the table we saw a portolan chart drawn by Fernão Vãz Dourado in Lisbon in 1575 that had been acquired by King George III. Next to it

Set aside in a different part of the boardroom were items from the collection of Felipe Bauzá, acquired by the British Library in 1847. Three hand-drawn and painted manuscript maps of Manila and its environs included a very large Plano de la Plaza y Contornos de Manila of 1775, and a brilliantly-colored Plano de la Laguna de Bay dated 1792. I was intrigued that even some of our most knowledgeable PHIMCOS members were in awe of these maps, not having known they even existed! Unfortunately, real time did not stop for us and we had to leave the boardroom to allow preparations for our dinner. We reluctantly departed and were treated to a tour of the library’s conservation center, where fragile works are painstakingly restored and conserved.


Examining restoration work in progress in the British Library’s conservation center

Then we made our way to the exhibition James Cook: The Voyages. I thought this was a very relevant display for anyone wishing to understand more deeply the history of the Pacific and the cartography of the oceans around the Philippines. We returned to the boardroom for drinks and an elegant dinner hosted by Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, and joined by Tom Harper, Patrick Fleming (Director of Development) and Liz Scase (Head of Major Donors and Individual Giving), whom we thanked for their gracious hospitality and access to their Philippine map treasures. We had a lively conversation over dinner centered on how we could make these maps available to a larger audience, including the possibility of PHIMCOS collaborating with the Library in arranging the funding and publication of a book on significant maps of the Philippines in the British Library. Friday saw another early start as many of us made our way to Greenwich to visit the National Maritime Museum. Rather than showing us maps from the library, Dr Megan Barford, Curator of Cartography, had arranged a minibus to take us on a short drive to the museum’s new offsite storage facility. The building, only recently opened, was quite awe-inspiring with its high ceilings and state-of-the-art cabinets. After depositing our bags and pens, and signing the museum’s strict policy regarding photography (permitted, but not for publication), we were first allowed to see some of the collection of Thames School portolan charts, including one of East Asia by Nicholas Comberford of 1665 which is centered on “Laphillpinia” – the first time any of us had encountered such a spelling. 8

After leaving the temperature- and humiditycontrolled room we were treated to a viewing of some of the museum’s exceptional collection of globes. These were of all sizes, and included a celestial globe of 1537 by Gemma Frisius, a 1730 John Senex globe on which the track of George Anson’s voyage had been added in manuscript, an 80 mm pocket globe of c1770 by George Adams, and a nautical “skeleton globe” made by Charles Hatch in 1854 for teaching purposes. That evening some of us attended the annual gala dinner of the International Map Collectors’ Society (IMCoS), an opportunity for those of us who are new members to put faces to several well-known names from the global mapcollecting community. In addition to Rolf Lietz’s pitch for the upcoming IMCoS Symposium in Manila, we were on our individual tables making similar selling efforts. I am certain we did have some effect, and some people made a decision to come to Manila in October because of our presence at the dinner. The last two days were left for individual visits to the annual London Map Fair. It was, initially, an overwhelming experience for me never having seen so many astonishing maps in one setting. Yet it was fun, and I enjoyed the unplanned camaraderie as we bumped into each other in our separate searches. Tips and comments were exchanged, and I am grateful to some more experienced members for assisting me in navigating the displays of many of the world’s most prominent map dealers. We capped off the U.K. tour with a dinner with Peter Barber, who recently retired after a lifelong career at the British Library (where he was Head of Map Collections) and who clearly must be the world’s foremost expert on cartography. Peter was most candid yet helpful in guiding us through the world of museums, exhibits and the potential challenges awaiting us in rolling out some of the ideas we had brainstormed with his former colleagues. The night ended with rich Lebanese sweets, coffee and a unanimous agreement that this PHIMCOS U.K. Tour 2018 had been a super success. If I may quote Albert Montilla: “¡Qué se repite!” We look forward to new adventures and travel exploring our heritage through maps! 

The Charting of Palawan from 1521 to 1898 by Vincent S. Pérez


N 16TH MARCH, 1521 the expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the islands that would become the Philippine Archipelago. Some seven weeks later, following Magellan’s death on Mactan and the loss of one of their three ships, the first European explorers in the Philippines sailed to the island we now know as Palawan. In the words of Antonio Pigafetta, the expedition’s chronicler: “We discovered a large island, where grow rice, ginger, swine, goats, poultry, figs half a cubit long. … There are also coconuts, sweet potato, sugarcanes [and] we could well call that land the Land of Promise. It is named Pulaoan.”

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, Palawan belonged to the Sultanate of Brunei which, during its “golden age” under the rule of Nakhoda Ragam Sultan Bulkeiah (reigned 14851524), had expanded its hegemony to include North Borneo, Sarawak, Balabac, Banggi, and the Royal Sultanate of Sulu (founded in 1457) as well as Palawan.(16) In 1578 the Sultanate of Sulu gained its independence from Brunei, and in 1658 the Sultan of Brunei awarded the north coast of Borneo and Palawan to Sultan Salah ud-Din Bakhtiar of Sulu in return for his help in settling a civil war dispute.

“The king of that island made peace with us, making a small cut in his chest … and with his finger marked with blood his tongue and his brow as a sign of truest peace. The people of Pulaoan go naked like the others, and they all work their fields… They have very large domestic cocks; sometimes they make them joust and fight against each other, and each man stakes a wager on his own.” (1) The next known mention of the island is on the world map Nova, et Integra Universi Orbis Descriptio by Oronce Fine, published in Paris in 1531, where it appears as “Pluan”. Fine’s double-cordiform map “was the first printed map to plot any of the lands reported by the survivors of the first circumnavigation.” (2) Throughout the 16th century and well into the 17th century the island is shown with a variety of names, including Puloan,(3) Polagua,(4) Palobā,(5) Palohā,(6) Phian,(7) Paloban,(8) Palaguan,(9) Pulo aym,(10) Calamianes,(10) Paragoya,(11) Paragoa,(12) and Laparagua.(13) Some mapmakers hedged their names, for example as “Calamianes insula que et Paloan dicta” (14) and “Paragoya o Calamianes e Paloam”.(15) In these early maps the island appears in a great variety of sizes and shapes (square, irregular or triangular, some rotund and some elongated), and oriented from north-south to east-west.

Pulaoan by Antonio Pigafetta, from the Journal of Magellan’s Voyage, c1525, MS 351, courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (photograph taken by the author)


Detail of Puloan from India Extrema XIX Nova Tabula by Sebastian Munster (Basel 1540)

Detail of Polagua from India Tercera Nova Tabula by Giacomo Gastaldi (Venice 1548)

Detail of Palobā from Terza Tavola by Giovanni Battista Ramusio / Giacomo Gastaldi (Venice 1554) (Peter Geldart collection)

Detail of Palohā from Tertiae partis Asiae by Giacomo Gastaldi / Gerard de Jode (Amsterdam 1565/1593) (Mariano Cacho, Jr. collection)

Detail of Paloban from Indiæ Orientalis by Abraham Ortelius (Amsterdam 1570/1574)

Detail of Calamianes from J.H. Van Linschoten’s map of the East Indies (Amsterdam 1596)

Detail of Laparagua from Planta de las Islas Filipinas by Marcos de Orozco, Madrid 1663

Detail of Paragoya o Calamianes e Paloam from a globe gore by Vincenzo Coronelli (Venice 1688/1693) (Rudolf J.H. Lietz collection)

(author’s collection)

(courtesy of Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps)

(Rudolf J.H. Lietz collection)


(Rudolf J.H. Lietz collection)

(Rudolf J.H. Lietz collection)

Ottoman map of Palawan, Borneo & Mindanao by Kâtip Çelebi (Mustafa bin Abdullah aka Haji Khalif (Istanbul 1752)


(Rudolf J.H. Lietz collection)

Between 1673 and 1690 the power of the Sultanate of Brunei faded away and, after 150 years of control by Brunei, royal powers were returned to the sultans of Sulu. In 1701 Sulu Sultan Shahab ud-Din paid a visit to Sultan Kahar ud-Din Kuda of Maguindanao, but as a result of a misunderstanding war ensued and the latter was killed. Palawan was given to the Sultanate of Maguindanao in 1703, but in 1705 the island was ceded to Spain to discourage Spanish encroachments into Maguindanao and Sulu.

One of the first Spanish maps to show Palawan in detail is the Carta Chorographica del Archipielago de las Islas Philipinas by Admiral Francisco Diaz Romero and Sergeant-Major Antonio Ghandia (Madrid 1727),(17) in which the Isla de la Paragua appears with its rivers and “coasts, shown in elevation, … boldly and confidently drawn [but] with some errors of outline”;(18) bays, points and adjacent islands are named. Seven years later, a more detailed and accurate rendition of Palawan appears in the most famous of all maps of the Philippines, the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde (Manila 1734). To the west of the island three shoals are shown and named “Los Bajos de Paragua”. In 1726 Sultan Badar ud-Din I of Sulu signed a peace treaty with the Spanish government in Manila, and several more such treaties were to follow; however, attacks on the Spanish fort at Zamboanga did not cease, and pirate raids from Sulu and east Borneo continued to harass southern Luzon, the Visayas and northern Palawan. In 1738, in the settlement of Taytay on the eastern coast of Palawan, the Spanish military engineer Tomás de Castro completed construction of a coral limestone fort called Fuerza de Santa Isabel, designed to protect the inhabitants from pirate raids. Today the bastion stands guard over the picturesque islands of Taytay Bay.

Detail of Paragua and Los Bajos de Paragua from Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde (Manila 1734) (Library of Congress G8060 1734 .M8 / ct003137)

By the end of 1751 the Governor-General, Francisco José de Ovando, had run out of patience, and he issued a decree that ordered the extermination of all Moros, the destruction of their crops, the desolation of their lands, and 11

the recovery of Christian slaves. In 1753 Ovando sent an armada under Don Antonio Faveau y Quesada (one of his two fleet commanders) to the Visayas and Palawan as a punitive expedition against the piracy and slave-trading of the southern sultanates; but “the Moros reacted with fury”, repulsed the Spanish forces, and captured the galera Santa Rita and a falua.(19)

Chart of Faveau’s Voyage by Alexander Dalrymple (London 1781) (Biblioteca Nacional de España MR/6/I SERIE 53/198)

Faveau's expedition was recorded in the chart Carta Plana Particular de El Viage que hizo La Armada despachada el Ano 1753. Although the original manuscript appears to have been lost, it is known from a copy acquired by the French cartographer J.B.N.D. d’Après de Mannevillette and published in 1781 by the Scottish hydrographer Alexander Dalrymple.(20) The chart records that Faveau was charged with the establishment of a fortified base (presidio) on the southernmost tip of la Ysla de La Paragua, and with surveying the island’s coasts, rivers, coves, bays, anchorages, straits, currents, seabeds, and such other features as could be measured in the time available. Dalrymple visited Sulu with the schooner Cuddalore in January 1761, on the first of his three voyages to the Philippines. He signed a preliminary treaty with the reigning sultan, Bantilan Muiz ud-Din, which allowed the British to establish a settlement on Sulu and granted exclusive trading privileges in the archipelago, north Borneo and much of Palawan to the East India Company (EIC); in November the treaty was also countersigned by the sultan’s exiled elder brother, Sultan Alim ud-Din, who was held 12

in captivity in Manila. Dalrymple returned to Borneo and Sulu in June 1762 on the London and, having explored the island, persuaded the sultan to cede Balambangan (21) for the new settlement, which he envisaged as a trading emporium for British goods covering all of Southeast Asia.(22) On his return journey to Madras in December 1761 Dalrymple had taken soundings all along the western coast of Palawan (at that time unknown to the British), and in 1769 he published A Chart of the Schooner Cuddalore’s Track along the West Coast of Palawan in December 1761. He also published three largescale charts of Balambangan, the Sulu Archipelago, and parts of Borneo and southern Palawan.(23) Dalrymple’s last visit to Sulu was in 1764 on his voyage home after the British ended their occupation of Manila. In London he continued to promote “the Sulu enterprise” and was briefly appointed chief of the proposed trading post. Subsequently the Balambangan settlement was established, under John Herbert, but it was a failure (described as “a riot of fraud and peculation”) (24) and was finally destroyed by a party of Sulu islanders in February 1775.

A Chart of the Schooner Cuddalore’s Track along the West Coast of Palawan in December 1761 by Alexander Dalrymple (London 1769) (Peter Geldart collection)

Towards the end of the 18th century, the “blueback” charts produced by the commercial chart publishers in London show Palawan with additional details “drawn from the journals of the European navigators” or using “the surveys of several British navigators” including the EIC captains George Hayter (27) and Robert Carr.(28) These charts show various ships’ tracks and the “Paragua Shoals”, including Royal Captain Shoal. The Royal Captain was an East Indiaman which struck an uncharted reef 76 km west of Palawan on 17 December, 1773; the ship sank, but all six passengers and 99 crew survived the wreck bar three seamen who had found some barrels of arrack and “were so intoxicated with liquor that they could not get them away”.(29) Bay & Rivers of Ypoloté, on Palawan or Paragua; By Don Thomas de Castro, 1753 by Alexander Dalrymple (London 1774) (Peter Geldart collection)

In 1774-75 Dalrymple published several largescale charts of the bays of Ypoloté and Balabac copied from surveys drawn by Tomás de Castro when he was part of Faveau’s expedition in 1753; de Castro was subsequently a prisoner of war during the British occupation of Manila. (25) Another important chart of Palawan, published by Dalrymple in 1781, was Chart of the Island Palawan From Observations in the Sloop Endeavour in April & May 1774 by James Barton. Lieutenant James Barton of the EIC was based on Balambangan from 1769 to 1774.(26) Port Barton on the west coast of Palawan is named after him, and the Endeavour Straits and Endeavour Point on Palawan are named after his sloop Endeavour. This chart was re-issued by the Admiralty after Dalrymple’s death as chart no. 967, with the addition of the note “NB. Many Soundings and Shoals have been added from a Survey made in 1810 by Lieut. Ross of the Bombay Marine”. Even in times of war the EIC’s private navy, the Bombay Marine, continued to chart the Asian seas; the Chart Exhibiting the Track of the Honourable Companys Brig Antelope On the Coast of Palawan in 1810 by Lieutenant Daniel Ross was published (by the EIC’s hydrographer James Horsburgh) in 1815. Cape Ross, near the tip of the Copoas Peninsula on the west coast of Palawan, is apparently named after him.

Ulugan Bay, a deep-water bay on the west of Palawan facing the China Sea, was of special interest to mariners using the Palawan Passage (the sailing route from India to Canton along the west coast of Palawan). The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1837 published a letter from Captain George Creighton of the 378-ton trading ship Cordelia in which he “beg[s] leave to give publicity to some dangers discovered … on the coast of Palawan in the China Sea, on the night of the 3d Dec., 1836, and not hitherto laid down in Horsburgh's charts or Ross's survey”.(30)

Chart of the Island Palawan From Observations in the Sloop Endeavour in April & May 1774 by James Barton by Alexander Dalrymple (London 1781) (National Library of Australia MAP RA 42 V.2, Plate 398)


Detail from Sketch of Ooloogan Bay by ˃ George Crighton 1836, (London 1840) (Raphael P.M. Lotilla collection)

Creighton’s letter was accompanied by the Sketch of Ooloogan Bay in Palawan which was subsequently published by the British Admiralty in 1840.(31) Today Ulugan Bay is the home of a major naval base. After the Spanish and the British, the Americans were next to explore and chart Palawan and Sulu. In 1836 an American trader, G. W. Earl, sailed to Jolo to barter guns, powder and rifles in exchange for Sulu’s tortoise shells and Palawan’s birds’ nests. He was followed by the United States Exploring Expedition which, from 1838 to 1842, explored and surveyed over 800 miles of the Pacific Northwest and 1,500 miles of the Antarctic continent; mapped over 280 islands; and catalogued over 60,000 specimens of plants and birds. The expedition was under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, who had been in charge of the U.S. Navy's Depot of Charts and Instruments, but gained a reputation for being a harsh and dictatorial commander. In February 1842 Wilkes landed in Jolo and signed the first peace and trade treaty between the United States and Sultan Jamal ul-Kiram I of Sulu. Upon his return, Wilkes produced a report of the expedition in five volumes plus an atlas, which included a map of the Sulu Sea and Palawan oriented with south at the top. (32)

Detail from Map of the Sooloo Sea and Archipelago by the U.S. Ex. Ex. 1842 by Charles Wilkes (Philadelphia 1845) (David Rumsey Historical Map Collection; photograph ©2017 Cartography Associates)


In the aftermath of the First Opium War between Britain and China, France decided she needed to acquire naval bases and commercial stations in Asia, and the Philippines became a target. Rebuffed by the Spanish authorities, in April 1843 Captain François Page of the vessel Favorite signed a preliminary treaty with Sultan Jamal ul-Kiram I of Sulu to buy Basilan Island.(33) The mission was strongly promoted by Jean-Baptiste Mallat de Bassilan, a physician who had spent eight years in the Far East as a merchant in Canton and as chief surgeon at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Manila. Mallat was said to be “a strange character, vain and ambitious, but of rather mediocre ability, who knew how to get in good ministerial graces”; (33) he was named Agent for Colonial France for the Indo-China Seas, and was granted the addition of the honorific “de Bassilan” by the French king in recognition of his support for the venture. In October 1844, the French Admiral JeanBaptiste Cécille sent Captain Guerin in the corvette Sabine on a reconnaissance mission to Basilan, with Mallat and two hydrographers on board. However, on arrival at Maluso Bay a French ensign and a sailor were killed, and three other Frenchmen were captured. Notwithstanding intermediation by the Spanish governor of Zamboanga, the datus of Basilan declared their independence from Spain, and in February 1845 Sultan Mohamed Pulalun of Sulu agreed to cede Basilan to France for a price of 500,000 francs. After a retaliatory attack on the island, the French fleet sailed back to Manila, Macao and France. However, although the French cabinet approved the annexation of Basilan, the decision was reversed by King Louis-Philippe in deference to Spain, and France formally withdrew its claim over the island in August, 1845. Admiral Cécille was instructed “to look for another territory not within the European trade routes to China”; Mallat was furious,(33) but he was recalled to France where he published the second of his books about the Philippines, including his maps.

As well as detailed soundings and bearings at sea, the surveyors made frequent trips ashore to climb suitable peaks for the purpose of fixing triangular positions. They encountered local tribes, Malay chiefs, whales and unfamiliar birds, and faced numerous dangers including pirates, squalls and typhoons, an outbreak of smallpox, and getting grounded on several coral reefs. In May, 1851 the Royalist “anchored in the neighbourhood of a place called Bo-quet [which] contains a population of 200, exclusive of women; it is very prettily situated in the bottom of a deep bay, … under a precipitous limestone cliff … . The group of islands fronting this part of the coast is very remarkable and cannot fail to strike a stranger as such.” (36) Today, Bacuit Bay in the municipality of El Nido is an enclave of luxury island resorts.

Detail from Carte des Isles Philippines by J-B. Mallat de Bassilan (Paris 1846) (Mariano Cacho, Jr. collection)

In his map of the Philippines,(34) Mallat shows Palawan divided between the territories belonging to the Sultanate of Sulu and those ceded to Spain (with Taytay as the provincial capital). Because of its size, the island was divided in 1858 into two sub-provinces named Castilla (northern area) and Asturias (southern area). Later it was split into three military administrative regions, namely Calamianes, with its capital of Taytay, in the north; Paragua, the southern mainland, with Puerto Princesa as its capital; and Balabac Island with its capital in the town of Principe Alfonso. Having seen action during the First Opium War and after conducting surveys of the coast of China, in 1850 Commander William Thornton Bate of the Royal Navy began a comprehensive survey of Palawan and its adjacent islands in HMS Royalist, a vessel “little better than a wreck [and] so full of vermin that she had to be sunk to rid her of them” (35). Starting from the north end, Bate spent four years circumnavigating the island, where he surveyed the coasts, bays and principal harbours and named many of them, including the eponymous Port Royalist (aka Puerto de Yuahit on Spanish charts), which is today called Puerto Princesa.

The resulting chart Palawan Island. Surveyed by Comr. W.T. Bate, R.N., assisted by Lieuts. C. Pasco & C. Bullock and Mr. W. Calver Mast. 1850-54 was published by the British Admiralty in 1856 (see front cover). Bate also delineated the eastern border of the Dangerous Ground (the islets, shoals and reefs of the West Philippine and South China Seas now known as the Spratly Islands), and made accurate surveys of Bombay Shoal, Royal Captain Shoal and Half Moon Shoal. He was killed in 1857 while storming the walls of Canton during the Second Opium War.

Detail showing Sir J. Brook Pt. from Palawan Island Surveyed by Comr. W.T. Bate, Admiralty chart no. 967 (London 1856) (Peter Geldart collection)

One of the features seen on this Admiralty chart is “Sir J. Brook Pt.”, today’s Brooke’s Point. That the point is named after Sir James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak, is confirmed by a letter from Lieut. C. Pasco of the Royalist, dated 30th April 1852, in which he relates that when surveying the east coast of Palawan he met people who recalled the visit of “Tuan Brooke”, who had given one of them a letter “certifying to his honest character”.(36) 15

The Admiralty charts produced from Bate’s surveys were frequently copied by other charting agencies, notably by the Spanish Dirección de Hidrografía (even after the establishment of the Comisión Hidrográfica de Filipinas under the leadership of navy lieutenant Claudio Montero). For example, the Plano de una parte de la Costa Occidental de la Paragua was published in Madrid in 1873.(37) The French Dépôt de la Marine also published charts copied or derived from Bate’s surveys, including those of Baie Ba-Nog ou Ooloogan (1867); La Pointe Emergency et La Baie Saint-Paul (1868); and Golfe Malampaya (1869).

subsequently merged with the southern regions and, on 28 June 1905, renamed Palawan; Puerto Princesa was made its capital, which it remains to this day. Thanks to the early exploration by the pioneers who mapped Palawan for the rest of the world, today more than 550,000 foreign tourists each year marvel at the island that Pigafetta called the “Land of Promise”. 

Indeed, even the map attached to the Treaty of Paris of 1898 (under which the Philippines was ceded to the United States by Spain), which consists of a montage of six U.S. Hydrographic Office charts, includes the chart of Palawan (Paragua) Island that was “Surveyed by Comr. W.T. Bate, R.N. … 1850-54”. In June 1902, after the Philippine-American War, the Americans established civil rule in northern Palawan, calling it the province of Paragua, with its capital on Cuyo. Paragua was Golfe Malampaya, Depôt de la Marine chart no. 2790 (Paris 1869) (Raphael P.M. Lotilla collection)



Notes & References This article is based on the presentation given to PHIMCOS by the author on 25 October, 2017. The author thanks Peter Geldart for his assistance with the talk and in writing this article, and thanks Dr. Stephen Davies, Honorary Professor, University of Hong Kong, and PHIMCOS members Rudolf J.H. Lietz and Alfredo Roca for their advice and contributions. (1)

Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s Voyage: A Narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation, translated and edited by R. A Skelton, Yale University Press (1969) / Dover Publications, Inc., New York 1994.


Thomas Suárez, Early Mapping of Southeast Asia, Periplus Editions, Hong Kong 1999; see pp.125-127 for an explanation of why Fine places Palawan at about 175o west of the Canary Islands when Pigafetta’s figure was the (fairly accurate) 179o 20’ west from the linea (line of demarcation).


Sebastian Munster, India Extrema XIX Nova Tabula, Basel 1540.


Giacomo Gastaldi, India Tercera Nova Tabula, Venice 1548.


Giovanni Battista Ramusio / Giacomo Gastaldi, Terza Tavola, Venice 1554.


Giacomo Gastaldi / Gerard de Jode Tertiae partis Asiae quæ modernis India orientalis, Amsterdam (1565) 1593.


Joannes Paulus Cimerlinus, Cosmographia universalis ab Orontio olim descripta, Verona 1566.


Abraham Ortelius, Indiæ Orientalis, Insularumque Adiacientium Typus, Amsterdam 1570.


Giuseppe Cacchij dell’Aquila, Asia, from La Universal Fabrica Del Mondo, Naples 1573.

(10) Jan Huygen Van Linschoten, Exacta & accurata delineatio cum orarum maritimarum tum etjam locorum terrestrium quae in Regionibus China …, Amsterdam 1596. (11) Jan Jansson, Indiæ Orientalis Nova Descriptio, Amsterdam 1630. (12) Willem Blaeu, India quæ Orientalis dicitur et Insulæ Adiacentes, Amsterdam 1635. (13) Marcos de Orozco, Planta de las Islas Filipinas, Madrid 1663. (14) Jodocus Hondius, Insulæ Indiæ Orientalis Præcipuæ, Amsterdam 1606. (15) Vincenzo Coronelli, globe gore with the Isole Filippine o Las Filipinas, Venice (1688) 1693. (16) Josiah C. Ang, Historical Timeline of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu Including Related Events of Neighboring Peoples, SEAsite Project at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. (17) See “The Philippine Islands Through the Eyes of Francisco Diaz Romero and Antonio Ghandia” by Alfredo Roca, in The Murillo Bulletin Issue No. 3, PHIMCOS, Manila 2016. (18) R. A. Skelton, “Philippine Cartography in the British Museum”, published in Philippine Cartography 1320-1899 by Carlos Quirino, N. Israel, Amsterdam 1963 / Third Edition, Vibal Foundation, Manila 2010. (19) Francisco Mallari S.J., “The Spanish Navy in the Philippines, 1589-1787”, in Philippine Studies Vol. 37, No. 4, Ateneo de Manila University, Manila 1989. (20) Alexander Dalrymple, Chart of Faveau’s Voyage Reduced from the Original MS on a scale of 7 inches to 1o. Communicated by the late Mons.r D’Aprés entitled Carta Plana Particular de El Viage que hizo La Armada despachada el Ano 1753 por El M.Y.S. Marques de Ovando Governador y Capitan General de las Yslas Philipinas al Cargo de D. Antonio Faveau Quesada para el Establecimiento de un Presidio en la Punta mas al Sur de la Ysla de La Paragua reconocimiento de sus Costas, Rios, Ensenadas, Bahias, Surgideros, Estrechos, Curso de Corientes, Calidades de Fondo, y otras Circunstancias que pueden ser apreciables en todo Tiempo Sacada por las Observaciones y Diario del Mismo Don Antonio Faveau Quesada Comandante General de toda la Expedicion Quien La dedica Al Muy Ylustre Senor Marques de Ovando Gefe de Esquadra de la Real Armada, Del Consejo de Su Magestad, Governador y Capitan General de la dichas Yslas Philipinas, y Presidente de la Real Audiencia de Manila, London 1 August, 1781. (21) Balambangan Island (also called Felicia by Dalrymple) is strategically situated between the northern tip of Borneo and Palawan, to the south of Balabac Island and the Balabac Strait and west of Banggi Island; it now belongs to Malaysia. (22) Howard T. Fry, Alexander Dalrymple and the Expansion of British Trade, The Royal Commonwealth Society Imperial Studies No. XXIX, Frank Cass and Company Limited, London 1970. (23) Alexander Dalrymple, (1) A Map of part of Borneo and The Sooloo Archipelago: Laid down chiefly from Observations in 1761, 2, 3, and 4. By ADalrymple, London 20 Oct. 1769; (2) To His Majesty George the Third, King of Great Britain, &c. This Chart of Felicia and Plan of the Island Balambangan, is humbly presented By His Majesty’s Faithful Subject, ADalrymple, London 30 Nov. 1770; and (3) The Sooloo Archipelago, Laid down chiefly from Observations in 1761, 1762, 1763, & 1764 by ADalrymple, London 10 Dec. 1771.


H.M.S. Royalist on a Coral Reef by Henry Adlard from A Memoir of Captain W. Thornton Bate, R.N. by The Rev. John Baillie (London 1859)


(Peter Geldart collection)

(24) Vincent T. Harlow, The Founding of the Second British Empire, 1763-1793, Longmans, London 1952. (25) Alexander Dalrymple, (1) Bay & Rivers of Ypoloté, on Palawan or Paragua; By Don Thomas de Castro, 1753, London 25 July 1774; (2) Bay, called by the Natives, Dalawan, on the S.E. part of the Island Balabac; By Don Thomas de Castro; 1753, London 25 July 1774; and (3) Chart of Balabac, and Part of the East Coast of Palawan or Paragua, by Don Antonio Faveau Quesada, 1753, London 20 Jan. 1775. (26) Tom Harrisson, “The Unpublished Rennell M.S: A Borneo-Philippine Journey 1762-1763”, in Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 39, No. 1 (209), Kuala Lumpur, July 1966. (27) A general chart of the China Sea: drawn from the journals of the European navigators, particularly from those collected by Capt Hayter, Sayer & Bennett, London 1778. (28) A Chart of the China Sea, and Philippine Islands, with the Archipelagos of Felicia and Soloo, Shewing the whole Tract Comprized, between Canton and Balambangan, with the Soundings, Shoals, Rocks, & ca. Composed from an Original Drawing Communicated by Cap.t Robert Carr. and Compared with the Map of Pedro Murillo de Velarde Engraved at Manilla in 1734 as well as with the Surveys of Several British Navigators, Laurie & Whittle, London 1794. (29) Franck Goddio, Gabrielle Iltis, Christoph Gerigk & Miguel Moll Kraft, Royal Captain – A Ship Lost in the Abyss, Periplus Publishing London Ltd, London 2000. (30) George Creighton, “Newly Discovered Shoals off Palawan, and in the Strait of Sunda, with Directions for Ooloogan Bay” in The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1837, Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., London. (31) Sketch of Ooloogan Bay in Palawan With the Track of the Cordelia by George Crighton 1836, British Admiralty chart no. 1345, London Sept. 25th 1840. (32) Charles Wilkes, Map of the Sooloo Sea and Archipelago by the U.S. Ex. Ex. 1842, from Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, Atlas, Lea & Blanchard, Philadelphia 1845. (33) Denis Nardin, France and the Philippines From the Beginning to the End of the Spanish Regime, translated by Maria Theresa J. Cruz, National Historical Institute, Manila (1989) 2004. (34) Jean-Baptiste Mallat de Bassilan, Carte des Isles Philippines, Pour servir à l’intelligence de l’ouvrage sur les Possessions Espagnoles dans l’Océanie, from Les Philippines: histoire, géographie, moeurs, agriculture, industrie et commerce des colonies espagnoles dans l'Océanie, Arthus Bertrand, Paris 1846. (35) The Rev. John Baillie, A Memoir of Captain W. Thornton Bate, R.N., Second Edition, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, London 1859. (36) “Proceedings of ‘The Royalist’ on the Coast of Palawan”, in The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle for 1852, Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., London. (37) Plano de una parte de la Costa Occidental de la Paragua que comprende desde la Pta. Emergency hasta la Bahia de Sn. Pablo levantado en 1852 por el Commandante W. T. Bate de la Marina Real Inglesa, Direccion de Hidrografia chart no. 632, Madrid 1873.

Bacuit Bay in the municipality of El Nido

(photograph courtesy of El Nido Resorts)



The Collecting Life of Alfonso T. Ongpin by Lisa Ongpin Periquet


LFONSO T. ONGPIN (1885–1975) owned the largest and most significant collection of Philippine paintings before the Second World War, exceeding other private or government holdings. Until the mid-1950s, his home in Quiapo was a veritable museum whose walls were lined with the works of Philippine masters of the 19th century such as Juan Luna, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and Damian Domingo, and artists of the moment such as the brothers Fernando and Pablo Amorsolo, Fabian de la Rosa, Jorge Pineda and many others. He was also a talented photographer, picture-framer, and restorer / conservator of paintings and documents. Aside from his passion for art, Alfonso Ongpin was also a devoted Rizalista, to use an oldfashioned term for an authority on José Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. He amassed a significant collection of Rizaliana including first editions and other publications, original documents, photographs and personal possessions.

Alfonso T. Ongpin

An insight into Alfonso’s family background, steeped in art, business and patriotic leanings, is essential to the understanding of the nature of his life as a collector of art and Rizaliana, and as a sometime historian as well.

household paint, brushes, paper and stationery, and tools for carpentry and making jewelry. The art supplies were imported directly from Europe, El 82 being the only store in Manila to do so at the time.

Family Background and Early Life

It appears that Roman successfully mixed business with politics, and El 82 prospered. Among its clients were the artists and intelligentsia active in the nationalist cause, which he supported by supplying funds and weapons from the time of the Propaganda Movement of the early 1880s through to the Philippine Revolution and the PhilippineAmerican War of 1898-1902. In 1900, Roman was arrested and imprisoned by the Americans for a few months after his links to the Filipino insurgents were discovered. When he died in 1912, Roman was buried in the family plot in Manila’s North Cemetery, which has been described by the biographer E. Arsenio Manuel as “a work of art.”

Alfonso was a second-generation descendant of Simon Ong Pin, a Chinese immigrant to the Philippines in the early 19th century who was said to be a candle-maker by profession. One of Simon’s offspring was Roman Ongpin, father of Alfonso, who was known to his peers as a businessman and a patriot. In 1882, Roman established the family business in the district of Binondo, Manila’s present-day Chinatown, considered the oldest in the world. Named after the year in which it was founded, “El 82” was an art supply shop, although it also sold general goods and merchandise such as


Three years after Roman’s death, in 1915, the Municipal Board of Manila renamed Sacristia Street (in Binondo) to Ongpin Street in his honor. Today Ongpin Street is considered to be the main thoroughfare of Chinatown, and in 1975 a monument depicting Roman Ongpin was erected in Plaza Binondo, where it still stands in his memory. Roman was married to Pascuala Domingo, a grand-daughter of Damian Domingo, the pioneering Filipino painter who established his own school of painting in his home in Tondo in 1821. In 1828 Domingo became the first director of the first government-run fine arts school in the Philippines, the Academia de Dibujo. Roman and Pascuala had 16 children, only eight of whom reached maturity. Alfonso, their twelfth child, was born in 1885. Because of his father’s anti-clericalism, in keeping with the anti-establishment sentiment at the time, Alfonso never benefited from a formal education. The sum of his schooling consisted of being tutored at home, initially by his older sister and then by privately-hired tutors. Like the rest of his siblings, Alfonso spent a great deal of his youth assisting in the family store, and he probably became familiar with the revolutionary artists and other prominent intelligentsia who frequented El 82.

˂ Roman Ongpin and family in 1907 As a young man, Alfonso took up the sport of fencing. He seems to have had at least a modest ability at the sport; according to his eldest son, Luis, one of his earliest memories was that of his father taking him to a fencing bout at which he was one of the judges. Alfonso also indulged in the popular pastime of exchanging postcards with pen-pals worldwide, mostly female; hundreds of these are still in existence today as Alfonso assiduously filed them in albums. Throughout his life Alfonso maintained his hobby of photography, and at one time he possessed more than 20 cameras. His skill and interest in photography enabled him to document much of his life’s work of collecting Rizaliana and paintings by Philippine masters.

Alfonso married his third-degree cousin Esperanza Roa, from Cagayan de Oro, in 1912. They had four children, the eldest of whom, Luis, was my grandfather. Alfonso Ongpin seated with camera

Alfonso Ongpin with his friends Emilio Alvero and Jorge Pineda


For most of his life, Alfonso and his family occupied one half of a house located on Calle R. Hidalgo in Quiapo that was owned by his good friend and fellow collector, Felipe Hidalgo, a nephew of the famed Filipino painter Félix Resurrección Hidalgo. The house on R. Hidalgo was home to what the art collector and educator Alejandro Roces once described as the “soul of the nation”. It contained innumerable paintings, frames, albums of historical documents, photographs, coins, stamps, letters

and clippings relating to Philippine history, and Rizaliana including first editions and personal possessions of the hero. The “Rizalista” It is probable that Alfonso’s earliest sources for Rizaliana were family friends who had access to such items. Through his younger brother, Constancio (who had married Mariana Luna, a niece of the painter Juan Luna), Alfonso obtained a Luna portrait of Rizal. The Ongpin family also happened to be acquainted with Rizal’s maiden sisters, Doña Josefa and Doña Trinidad, and Alfonso would often visit them at their home nearby on Calle Juan Luna. From them he bought manuscripts and clothes belonging to Rizal. Alfonso contributed as well to the dissemination of accurate information about Rizal by distributing (free-of-charge) to his friends of like mind his own uniquely-printed pamphlets on various Rizal-related topics. He chose what he considered to be relevant articles, and did all the editing and the actual printing himself, using a small hand-operated printing press. He often corrected matters of historical inaccuracy pertaining to Rizal by writing acerbic letters to newspapers that published erroneous articles. By 1952, Alfonso had built up a collection of rare Rizaliana that included, among other treasures, the first ten editions of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, some of them autographed by Rizal; foreign translations of these novels; his correspondence; the negative of the famous

Alfonso Ongpin’s ˃ first-edition copy of El Filibusterismo by José Rizal

˂ Interior of Alfonso Ongpin’s house photograph of Rizal from which he would personally produce prints to give to his friends; original documents in Rizal’s own handwriting; a set of 33 different photographs of Rizal from boyhood to maturity, enlarged and printed by Alfonso himself; several busts and portraits of Rizal by famous Philippine artists; commemorative medals and coins; and articles of clothing and other personal possessions such as Rizal’s black raincoat, a piece of lining from the coat he wore when he was shot, the desk he used while teaching at a school during his exile in Dapitan, and the velvet slipper tops embroidered by Leonor Rivera and presented to Rizal before he sailed to Europe. Alfonso’s collection was not focused on any one aspect of Rizal’s life, but was in every sense unlimited, indicating an almost fanatical devotion to the hero. It is clear that his father’s nationalism was a profound influence, but more than that, Alfonso was definitely motivated by his own serious personal belief in Rizal. Collector, Dealer and Restorer of Paintings How did Alfonso start to collect paintings? According to his sister, Celedonia, at El 82 painters would often come and leave him their works as temporary payment for supplies. Some did not return to pay in cash, and Alfonso was happy to keep the artwork. When Roman Ongpin died in 1912, his children formed a partnership and continued to maintain El 82. Alfonso must have used his share of the inheritance to purchase art, and seems to have started collecting seriously around 1909, when in his early twenties. It is entirely possible that his earliest acquisitions may have been paintings by his great-grandfather, Damian Domingo. Celedonia relates how one of their Domingo grand-uncles sought Alfonso’s help in selling his father’s painting La Sagrada Familia as he was in need of money at the time. To his surprise, Alfonso himself was interested in buying it. 21

Some other Domingo works were discovered in Ilocos Norte in the late 1920s and were also obtained by Alfonso. These are among the rare identifiable works by Domingo, their authenticity bolstered by their provenance from within the Ongpin family. Alfonso’s first Juan Luna paintings probably came from the family of his brother’s wife, Mariana Luna, who (as mentioned) was a niece of the artist. From them he acquired a number of studies. Alfonso also struck up a great friendship with one of Luna’s brothers, Joaquin, a politician from La Union who served as governor and senator. A well-preserved collection of their correspondence in the 1930s indicates that apart from exchanging views on the sad state of artistic culture in the Philippines, the two traded a great amount of information pertaining to Juan Luna. Joaquin would often send photographs of his family to Alfonso for him to illuminate, as well as photographs of his brother’s paintings, and paintings for restoration.

Photograph of Andrés Luna with dedication to Alfonso Ongpin ˃

Alfonso was also acquainted with Juan Luna’s only son, the architect Andrés Luna de San Pedro (widely known by his nickname “Luling”), who may have made arrangements with him for the sale of certain of his father’s works. In a 1935 letter, Luling instructs Alfonso not to give a discount requested on his price of ₱6,000 for Luna’s painting España y Filipinas. At one point in time, the largest number of Luna canvasses belonged to Luling, and the next-largest belonged to Alfonso. 22

Interior of Alfonso Ongpin’s shop Arte

In 1927, Alfonso sold his share of El 82 to his siblings and, a year later, he established a small framing and art shop on Avenida Rizal (across from the Cine Ideal) which he called “Arte.” According to printed advertisements, Arte specialized in art supplies, picture framing and art publications, and had a permanent exhibition of paintings. It also offered restoration services for paintings and documents. By the time Alfonso opened his little shop, he had already amassed quite a collection of paintings. A newspaper advertisement announcing the opening of Arte proudly lists the display and exhibition of the Luna canvases Triclinium, Soprendidos and Criada Catalana, and Hidalgo’s Jovenes Cristianas and Artista y Modelo. Many newspaper articles from the 1920s to the 1940s referred to Alfonso’s collection as the most important private collection of Philippine art in the country, exceeding even the government’s own holdings. However, in the late 1920s, Alfonso appears to have started having financial difficulty in maintaining the collection, and sadly he parted with a pair of paintings that he had saved from neglect a few years previously: Luna’s Triclinium and Hidalgo’s Artista y Modelo. It seems that Alfonso did not have the acute business sense of his father, for after three years he closed the shop on Avenida Rizal, presumably because he could no longer afford the rent in the business hub, and moved Arte to the ground floor of his home on R. Hidalgo.

Arte removal notice in 1931; the figure is derived from a painting by Juan Luna


There are numerous letters from the Enciclopedia Espasa editors acknowledging material, including photographs, received from Alfonso. As a researcher, Alfonso sought out the sources closest to his topics: he corresponded with Joaquin Luna for the biographies of the Luna brothers; the history of the Philippine national hymn was provided by the composer himself, Julian Felipe; and the patriot Remigio Garcia supplied details concerning the Philippine flag.

Alfonso Ongpin (left) with Fernando Amorsolo (right) c1950s

His abilities at conservation seem to have been known, for in 1932 the well-known architect and artist Juan M. Arellano (then with the Bureau of Public Works), upon the request of the secretary of the governor-general, engaged Alfonso to do conservation work on Luna’s Blood Compact which hung in Malacañang. Alfonso was paid ₱200 for the job. The next year, he accepted work on six more oil paintings, all the property of Malacañang. He did not confine his efforts to paintings; he compiled an album consisting solely of paper diplomas that he had restored. Writer and Historian One other role Alfonso Ongpin played in Philippine history was as one of two Philippine correspondents to the Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americana, known as the Enciclopedia Espasa, a mammoth Spanish encyclopedia of (initially) 72 volumes published from 1908 to 1930. Around 1914, Alfonso had subscribed to the encyclopedia, which arrived in installments. According to his son Luis, his father felt that the encyclopedia’s biography of Emilio Aguinaldo was biased and inaccurate. True to form, Alfonso wrote to the editors expressing his opinion, and (on a voluntary basis) he may have offered to relay more accurate information to the editors for use in the succeeding volumes.

As always, Alfonso’s deep interest and abiding reverence for Philippine art and history made him feel that accuracy could not be compromised in any way, especially in what he considered a significant publication. The Enciclopedia Espasa listed him among its correspondents as a literato Filipino (“Philippine man-of-letters”), which made Alfonso laugh and comment years later: “If only those academicians knew that I never went to school.” Dissipation of the Collection Alfonso died in 1975 at the age of 89. Some years after his death, the Rizaliana publications were sold to a private collector, and the remainder of his collection was donated to the National Historical Institute in 1982. Alfonso appears to have held on to the most personally significant paintings to the end, for aside from the family portraits and numerous small works personally inscribed to him by the artists, he retained the works of his greatgrandfather Damian Domingo (who is known as “the father of Philippine painting”), which would have been worth a great deal if he had chosen to sell them.

The album in which Alfonso kept “before-andafter” photographs of the oil paintings he restored


The most notable aspect of Alfonso’s collecting was his complete and utter devotion to this preoccupation. He collected Rizaliana and paintings because he loved them and appreciated their place in Philippine culture and history. This was perhaps also the collection’s greatest weakness as Alfonso was unable to sustain the depth and breadth that his collection had achieved at its height in the 1920s. He had no steady source of income other than from his collecting passion, a situation that eventually overtook his best efforts to make a living as a framer, restorer and supplier of art materials. As his collection became, more or less, his means of livelihood, over the years Alfonso sold paintings and some Rizaliana to friends and important collectors such as Luis Ma. Araneta and Eugenio López Sr. But perhaps he would not have minded the loss of his collection, especially to institutions such as the National Historical Institute, and to the serious collectors such as Araneta and López who have made their collections available to the public. In this way Alfonso T. Ongpin was able not only to build his great collection, but also to share it with many more of his countrymen, thereby ensuring his place in the history of Philippine art. 


Alfonso Ongpin at home, from a photograph published in the Sunday Times Magazine in Manila on January 7, 1962 This article by Lisa Ongpin Periquet, the greatgranddaughter of Alfonso T. Ongpin, is based on the presentation given to PHIMCOS by the author on 23 August, 2017. All photographs are from the Collection of Alfonso T. Ongpin.

Illusions, Confusions and Delusions – the mythical island of St. John by Margarita V. Binamira


ROM Atlantis to Shangri-La, history is filled with great mythical lands. The Philippines is no exception: we have our own legendary island, St. John. Maps of the Philippines from the 16th century to as late as the 19th century show islands named “St. John” at numerous locations around Mindanao. In different shapes and forms, these islands took on various names, in several languages and both genders, as they drifted in and out of cartographers’ maps, charts and imaginations. The Illusory Island Whether referred to as “San Juan”, “S. Ioannes”, “St. Jean” or “S. Giovanni”, the island of St. John was a permanent fixture in many early maps. Sometimes feminized to “S. Ioanna” or “S. Juana”, St. John also appears in multiple locations as (a) two or three small islands hundreds of kilometers east of Mindanao; (b) another island or group of islands appearing south or southwest of Mindanao, near Basilan, Jolo or Sulu; or (c) one large island directly east of Mindanao. How did the concept of St. John come to pass? I speculate that the story begins (as do all European-centric histories of the Philippines) with Ferdinand Magellan. When Magellan sailed west to get to the east, his journey was not without its share of bad luck. As recounted by Antonio Pigafetta, the Venetian who was the expedition’s chronicler, after Magellan was killed in battle off the island of Mactan in 1521 his expedition’s two remaining ships, the Victoria and the Trinidad, managed to limp their way into Tidore, in the Moluccas, in November 1521. After weeks spent on making repairs and loading spices, the Victoria, captained by Sebastián Elcano and with Pigafetta on board, continued its journey westward, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, and back to Spain, becoming the first ship to circumnavigate the globe.

The Trinidad, on the other hand, had sustained heavier damage and had to stay longer in Tidore for extensive repairs. Finally, five months after its arrival, the Trinidad, captained by Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa, weighed anchor and set sail for Spain. Unlike the Victoria, the Trinidad went back the way it came, across the Pacific Ocean. In May 1522, in his search for favorable winds to carry them across the Pacific to Panama, Gómez de Espinosa “discovered” two islands, recorded their location in his logs and charts, and named them ‘San Juan” and “San Antonio”. These islands, recorded at roughly 5o N. latitude, were at the western end of a chain of islands later to be named Las Carolinas by the Spanish. Unfortunately, the Trinidad did not find favorable winds to carry it across the Pacific. Facing starvation, mutiny and death, Gómez de Espinosa ordered a return to the Moluccas. Upon the Trinidad’s arrival in Ternate in November 1522, the Portuguese captured the entire crew and confiscated all of the captain’s charts, maps and logs. Here begins the story of the mythical island of St. John. Please note that the observations, inferences and conclusions are entirely my own (unless otherwise stated).

Detail of S. Joan, S. Jan and the Isole delle Donne in Tavola XVIII of the composite map of the world by Urbano Monte (Milan c1587) (David Rumsey Map Collection; image ©2000 by Cartography Associates)


The Confusion Begins My research shows the earliest appearance of St. John is in the early 16th century, on the portolan charts drawn by the Portuguese cartographer Gaspar Luís Viegas in Lisbon in 1537 (now held in the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence). Viegas draws two small islands far to the east of Mindanao; no doubt he must have seen the notes and charts that were taken from Gómez de Espinosa by the Portuguese in Ternate. Though he depicts two islands, he labels them both “San: Joã”. Giacomo Gastaldi’s Il Disegno della terza parte dell'Asia, published by Girolamo Olgiato in Venice in 1570, shows islands all over the place. There is an “I. delle Done” where the larger island of St. John later emerges, immediately to the east of Mindanao; “S. Ian” to the south of Mindanao; and “S. Giovanni” to the west of Mindanao, which becomes “S. Iouan.” in the later edition of the map published as Tertiae Partis Asiae by Gerard de Jode in 1593. Clearly influenced by Gastaldi, the composite world map by Urbano Monte (Milan c1587) shows the Philippines in Tavola XVIII. It too has the “Isole dele Donne” located east of Mindanao where St. John eventually surfaces and, similar to Gastaldi, a group of islands identified as “S. Jan” south of Mindanao and an island named “S. Joan” far to the west of Mindanao. In 1575, Spaniard Juan López de Velasco published the Geografía y Descripcíon Universal de las Indias, which includes a manuscript map that shows the division and ownership of territories belonging to Spain and to Portugal as defined by the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas. In the map, crude illustrations of the Philippine islands

Detail of the Ilhas de S. Ioan, the Ilhas de S. Iohan and S. Ioan on Cebu from Asiae Nova Descriptio by Abraham Ortelius (1570/1574) (courtesy of Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps)

show an island directly east of Mindanao that would later be identified as “San Juan”. In his book, López de Velasco places the location of St. John directly to the east of Mindanao, separated by a large canal. The island is said to be roughly 20 leagues in size from north to south. So sure was López de Velasco of his information, he goes further by stating that the island of “St. John” is one and the same as the island which Antonio Pigafetta describes as “l’Acquada da li buoni Segnialli” (the wateringplace of good signs). Pigafetta’s “Island of Good Signs” was in fact the island of Homonhon, in the Visayas, where Magellan’s expedition anchored for a few days to re-provision their ships after the long voyage across the Pacific, and found fresh water and traces of gold.

˂ Detail of I: de S: Ioana and

I: de S: Ioannes from Insulae

Moluccae celeberrimæ sunt ob Maximam aromatum by Petrus Plancius (Amsterdam 1594/1617) (Peter Geldart collection)


˂ Detail of San Juan (shown as island no. 10) in Descrípcíon de las Indías del Poníente

published in the Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas i Tierra Firme del Mar Océano by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (Madrid 1601); from the map of 1575 by Juan López de Velasco

(B601 H564h - image courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

The seminal map Asiae Nova Descriptio by Abraham Ortelius, from his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Amsterdam 1570), shows three different locations for St. John: an archipelago southwest of Mindanao named “Ilhas de S. Ioan”; two islands east of Mindanao named “Ilhas de S. Iohan”; and a village named “S. Ioan” located on the island of Cuba (Cebu). As Ortelius’s cartography was influenced by Italian, Portuguese and Spanish charts, he places St. John in all the locations previously identified by these three major sources. Curiously, Ortelius’s map of the East Indies, India Orientalis Insularumque, also from his Theatrum, does not show any islands labeled St. John at all. Other Dutch cartographers locate St. John in these same previously-identified areas. The maps of Jan van Linschoten and Petrus Plancius have (respectively) two or three “I. de S. Ioannes” where Viegas and Ortelius show them to the east of Mindanao; and Plancius follows Gastaldi in locating St. John, feminized into “S: Ioana”, to the southwest of Mindanao. At the beginning of the 17th century, Spaniard Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas published a map of the East Indies, very similar to López de Velasco’s map of 1575. In his Descrípcíon de las Indías del Poníente (Madrid 1601), Herrera y Tordesillas attempts to organize and assign names to the islands that are seemingly strewn all over the place. He draws a fairly large island directly east of Mindanao (where the “Isole dele Donne” was located by Gastaldi and Monte) and labels it “San Juan”.

Ignoring the Herrera y Tordesillas map as a source (since it had not yet been published in Holland), in 1608 another Dutch cartographer, Jodocus Hondius, published his Insulæ Indiæ Orientalis Præcipuæ which, like the earlier Plancius chart, shows two locations for St. John: three small islands to the far east of Mindanao called “I. de S. Jonnes”, and also a feminized “S. Joana” southwest of Mindanao. Perpetuating the Delusion of St. John Herrera y Tordesillas’s work was translated into several European languages and widely distributed, notably the Dutch edition (with the same map) published in Amsterdam in 1622. For the following two hundred years, the larger St. John (aka San Juan etc.) appears permanently in maps and charts as a prominent feature directly east of Mindanao.

Detail of I. Ioan from Carta particolare dell’Isole Filipine è di Luzon … d’Asia Carta X by Robert Dudley from Dell' Arcano Del Mare (Florence 1646) (Rudolf J.H. Lietz collection)


In Dutch, French, Italian and English charts from 1622 onwards St. John morphs from an amoeba-like shape into different forms: triangular, elliptical, splatter and/or peanutshaped. More importantly, it remains fixed in this location well into the 19th century. Some cartographers also continued to show multiple islands named St. John (or its variants) to the far east of Mindanao, but the islands called St. John formerly depicted southwest of Mindanao gradually disappear from the maps.

Detail of S. Gio: Buenas Cenhales from Isole dell’Indie, divise in Filippine, Molucche, e della Sonda by Vincenzo Coronelli (Venice c1692-97) (Jaime C. Laya collection)

Detail of S. Iuan and I. de S. Ioan (in two locations) from Les Isles Philippines by Nicolas Sanson (Paris 1652) (Alberto Montilla collection)

For the next few centuries St. John is a fixture whose presence is never doubted, as real in the maps as it is in the consciousness of the mapmakers. It appears as “S. Iuan”, “I. Ioan”, “I. de S. Giovanne” or “I. Juan” on maps by Johannes Blaeu, Nicolas Sanson, Robert Dudley and John Senex; and on his map of the Isole dell’Indie, divise in Filippine, Molucche, e della Sonda (Venice c1692) the Italian cartographer and Franciscan friar Vincenzo Coronelli shows the island as “S. Gio: Buenas Cenhales / I. de Bonnes Enseignes, ó di San Giovanni”.

Dampier also comments on the island’s “vast number of tall Trees” which are such that “it looks all over like one great Grove”. He was apparently describing the island of Siargao, but his words were widely held to be true and greatly contributed to the myth of St. John. Heavily influenced by Dampier, Charles Theodore Middleton even illustrated the “Men and Women of St. John” in his widely-read book A New and Complete System of Geography (London 1777) (see below).

Some authors were so convinced of the island’s existence that they described its inhabitants. In his book A New Voyage round the World (London 1697) William Dampier not only portrays the inhabitants, but also includes its location and a physical description of St. John: “St. John’s Island is on the East-side of the Mindanao, and distant from it 3 or 4 leagues. It is in lat. about 7 or 8 North. This Island is in length about 38 leagues, stretching N.N.W. and S.S.E. and it is in breadth about 24 leagues, in the middle of the Island. The Northermost end is broader, and the Southermost is narrower: This Island is of a good heighth, and is full of many small Hills.” 28

(Image courtesy of Brown University Library)

˂ Detail of the Isla de Mindanao from

Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde (Manila 1734)

(Library of Congress G8060 1734 . M8 / ct003137)

Note that Mahaba and the I.a d. Siargao are shown to the northeast of Mindanao, but the island of St. John is missing.

Interestingly, and ironically (since it was the Spaniard Herrera y Tordesillas who heavily influenced the placement and prominence of St. John in maps), as far as I have been able to ascertain neither the Spanish mapmakers (such as Marcos de Orozco and Francisco Diaz Romero / Antonio Ghandia) nor the Jesuit cartographers in the 17th and 18th centuries show the mythical island. Instead, they accurately place the island of Siargao east of Mindanao where St. John would have been located. In his Insulae Palaos seu Novae Philippinae 87 Archipelagus S. Lazari vel Carolinae, the Czech Jesuit missionary Fr. Paul Klein identifies the island of Sonsorol (or Sonrol), which is the island most likely “discovered” by Gómez de Espinosa and named “San Juan”.

The Jesuit missionaries and the Spanish administrators were in Asia, notably in the Philippines and Micronesia, and had more accurate information of what was or was not there – like the island of St. John. In contrast European mapmakers rarely visited the places they mapped, and either depended on firstor second-hand accounts of voyagers for information, or copied extensively from each other or from other cartographers. And even supposedly first-hand information could be wrong; the Carte de la partie Orientale des Philippines by A.J. Gaitte in Voyage dans les Mers de L’Inde (Paris 1779) by Guillaume J.H.J-B. Le Gentil de la Galaisière, a French astronomer who visited the Philippines in 1768, shows a large “I. S. Juan” southeast of Siargao.

Indeed it is notable that the most famous map of the Philippines, the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas published in Manila in 1734 by the Spanish Jesuit Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, does not show or make any mention of St. John or any of its variants at all. After it was published, many cartographers copied the Murillo Velarde map or used it as the basis for their maps of the Philippines; but despite the non-appearance of St. John in the Murillo Velarde map, many cartographers were still influenced by earlier maps and/or by Dampier’s account. For instance, the Carte Réduite des Isles Philippines Pour servir aux Vaisseaux du Roy by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (Paris 1752), which states that it has been based upon (but is not a “servile copy of”) the Murillo Velarde map, still shows an enormous “I. St. Jean” to the east of Mindanao (see back cover).

Detail of I. S. Juan from Le Gentil’s Voyage dans les Mers de L’Inde (Paris 1779) (Rudolf J.H. Lietz collection)

Any errors in the mapmakers’ works took years to correct, as they had to re-engrave the copper plates that were used for printing. It was simpler to perpetuate a mistake than it was to redo the plates, and if no one took them to task, it was easy to get away with inaccuracies. 29

Nevertheless, towards the middle and end of the 18th century the true location and actual existence of St. John began to be corrected, or at least questioned. In his journals, Captain Philip Carteret (who participated in two of the Royal Navy’s expeditions of circumnavigation in 1764-69) casts doubt on Dampier’s account of St. John. But cartographers were still hesitant to totally give up the non-existent island: the map of the Isles Philippines by Gabriel Nicolas Raspe (Nuremberg c1763) shows “Panlong ou Isle St. Jean”; and A Chart of the China Sea, and Philippine Islands published by Laurie & Whittle (London 1794) shows “Siargao or St. Johns I.”. A Chart of the Pelew Islands and Adjacent Seas by Captain Henry Wilson, from An Account of the Pelew Islands (London 1788), shows an island off the east coast of Mindanao with another name, “Mahaba”, and where St. John was previously drawn far to the east of Mindanao, another island is named in its place: Sonrol. As their charts were used by mariners for navigation, the London “blueback” chart publishers endeavored to make them accurate, and tried to correct the misrepresentations of St. John in other charts by using alternative names or references albeit without giving up St. John completely. A Chart of the Passages between the Philippine and the Isles of Borneo and Mindanao … published by Robert Laurie & James Whittle (London 1794) shows “Isle S. Juan from le Gentil’s chart”, but adds the note: “NB. This Isle of St. Juan is omitted in several Maps, Chiefly in that of Murillo, and in the Small Chart given to the Officers of the Royal Captain at Surigao”. Far to the southeast of Mindanao, the chart also shows the “Isles of St. Johannes in the Old Spanish Maps / very dangerous”.

Detail of Panlong ou Isle St. Jean from Isles Philippines by G.N Raspe (Nuremberg c1763) (Jaime C. González collection)

Even so, as late as the mid-19th century the ghost of St. John still appears in maps, such as the Reduzirte Karte von den Philippinen und den Sulu Inseln from the Atlas von Asien by H.K.W. Berghaus (Gotha 1832). However, this particular map does identify a separate “Dampiers I.” to the south of “I. S. Juan”, and (just in case these islands, named in previous maps, do happen to exist) also shows two peanut-shaped islands to the east that are labeled “Johannes ?”. Shattered Illusions So where and what exactly are the islands called St. John? As mentioned, over the centuries they occupied three locations: a group of islands far to the east of Mindanao; a single large island directly east or northeast of Mindanao; and a large island or group of islands south or southwest of Mindanao, in the Sulu archipelago. Based on Gómez de Espinosa’s location of 5oN. latitude for the islands he “discovered”, there is strong evidence to suggest that he was referring to the island of Sonsorol in Palau, as this is located close to 5oN. Sonsorol is roughly 680 kilometers east of Mati, Davao Oriental, and could easily have been one of the two or three islands that were drawn together far to the east of Mindanao by many cartographers.

˂ Detail of Isle S. Juan from A Chart of the Passages between the Philippine and the Isles of Borneo and Mindanao, with those to the Southward of the Sooloo Archipelago and the Isle of Mindanao by Laurie & Whittle (London 1794) (Alberto Montilla collection)


This becomes clearer when looking at Jesuit or Jesuit-inspired maps of the 1700s when the Caroline Islands, of which Palau is part, were under the administrative control of the Spanish in the Philippines. Other maps of the time also identify an island named “Sonrol” rather than St. John; the other islands grouped with St. John could be Pulo Anna and Merir, islands within the Palau group which lie to the south of Sonsorol. Detail from Die Ostindischen Insel published by Berghaus, Flemming and Sohr (Leipzig, 1855) (David Rumsey Map Collection; image ©2000 by Cartography Associates)

Detail of I. Sonsorol from Insulae Palaos seu Novae Philippinae by Fr. Paul Klein S.J. (Augsburg 1726/1748) (Carlos Madrid collection)

There are various explanations for the “St. John” that appears directly east or northeast of Mindanao. The first is that it could be the main island of Palau (Panlog or Panlong in maps) that found itself drifting westward towards Mindanao at the mercy of the cartographers through the years. Or “St. John” could also be an exaggerated island of Leyte or Siargao that, cartographically, drifted south through the centuries. Plancius and van Linschoten show an island “Subu(n)ra” that could easily grow in size, and morph into the more familiar shape that became the St. John seen, for instance, in Bellin’s maps. The St. John that appears south or southwest of Mindanao remains a mystery.

Alternatively, it could have been a simple error in translation. By the time the name of the island arrived with the Portuguese in Ternate, “San Juan” in Gómez de Espinosa’s Spanish translated into “São João” or Viegas’s ‘San: Joã”, which sounds and looks close enough to Siargao (especially since the letter “j” was often written as “i” in the 16th century). At that time, Siargao could have had a different name and/or pronunciation in Spanish or Portuguese, leading to a confusion of names for the island. Like the children’s game of telephone line, any alteration from the original tends to be magnified with distance and time and, until a reckoning is done to correct it, the altered state becomes reality. Gómez de Espinosa’s original notes and charts were “lost in translation” in the care of the Portuguese (despite attempts to keep them secure and hidden), so when they eventually made their way to the Dutch and the rest of Europe, the mistake was perpetuated for centuries. Consequently the mythical island of St. John acquired a cartographic reality all of its own. 

Sources & References R.T. Fell, Early Maps of South-East Asia, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, Singapore 1991. Dennis O. Flynn, Arturo Giráldez & James Sobredo, European Entry into the Pacific: Spain and the Acapulco- Manila Galleons, Ashgate Publishing, Farnham / Burlington, VT 2001. Peter Geldart, Mapping the Philippine Seas, Philippine Map Collectors Society (PHIMCOS), Manila 2017. Dr. David E. Parry, The Cartography of the East Indian Islands: Insulæ Indiæ Orientalis, Countrywide Editions, London 2005. Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s Voyage: A Narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation, translated and edited by R.A. Skelton, Yale University Press (1969) / Dover Publications, Inc., New York 1994. Carlos Quirino, Philippine Cartography 1320-1899, Third Edition, Vibal Foundation, Manila 2010. Thomas Suárez, Early Mapping of Southeast Asia, Periplus Editions, Hong Kong 1999. Three Hundred Years of Philippine Maps 1598-1898, Philippine Map Collectors Society (PHIMCOS), Manila 2012.



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U.S. Army maps of two campaigns during the Moro Rebellion by Peter Geldart


URING the four centuries of Spanish rule in the Philippines, Spain’s writ in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago was largely confined to a few coastal forts such as Zamboanga, from which their garrisons would make occasional punitive expeditions into the interior inhabited by the ethnic Muslims of the Philippines, the Moros. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, Spanish forces occupied the town of Jolo (the seat of the Sultan of Sulu) and signed a Treaty of Peace on 22 July, 1878. Pursuant to this treaty, control of the Sulu Archipelago beyond the Spanish garrisons was handed to the Sultan as either a dependency (the Spanish interpretation) or a protectorate (as understood by the Sultan). Background to the Rebellion The Treaty of Paris of 1898, which concluded the Spanish-American War, ceded all of Spain’s colonial possessions in the Philippines to the United States. The American government informed the Moros that the relationship they had with Spain would continue, but the Moro Sultan of Sulu, Hadji Mohammed Jamalul Kiram II, demanded that a new treaty be negotiated. The resulting treaty, signed by General John C. Bates on 20 August, 1899,

conceded U.S. sovereignty over Sulu and its dependencies, whereby the U.S had the right to occupy (but not give away or sell) the islands and was responsible for foreign relations. In return the U.S. guaranteed the Sultanate's autonomy in its internal affairs, governance, religion and customs (including polygamy and slavery), and provided for monthly payments to the Sultan and his datus (tribal chiefs). The Bates Treaty “was made as a temporary expedient to avoid trouble with the Moros” (1) until the Americans had subdued the Filipino insurrection in the north, and by the time the Philippine-American War officially ended (on 2 July, 1902) U.S. forces were already pushing into the interior of the Moro territories. Starting in mid-1901, Captain John J. Pershing established friendly relations with the Maranao tribes on the northern shore of Lake Lanao in Mindanao. Following ambushes of American troops by Juramentados (Moro swordsmen) and a resulting punitive expedition, from September 1902 Pershing attempted to enforce American control over the region using a level of respect, tolerance, and understanding of local politics that resulted in his being proclaimed a datu. His early career in Mindanao culminated in a march around the lake in April and May 1903.

Detail from the manuscript map of Fort Almonto to Marahui, Mindinao, P.I. … by Captain A.W. Bjornstad


Wood's March to Marawi On June 1, 1903, the Moro Province was created, with a combined civil and military administration covering the five districts of Cotobato, Davao, Jolo, Lanao and Zamboanga. Major General Leonard Wood was appointed as the civilian governor of Moro Province and commander of the military Department of Mindanao-Jolo. Wood, who did not approve of the Moro customs of blood feuds, polygamy and slavery, reversed Pershing’s relatively benign methods of maintaining control over the region in favour of a series of harsh military campaigns to suppress the Moro resistance fighters. The first of these, in October 1903, was an unsuccessful attempt to recreate Pershing’s march around Lake Lanao, as recorded in the map titled Fort Almonto to Marahui, Mindinao, P.I. / Sketch of trail traversed by Co’s “C”, “D” and “F”, 28th Infantry and 49th Co. P.S. / October 11th-16th 1903 / Captain William J. Lutz, 28th Infty, Com’dg. / Prepared by Captain A.W. Bjornstad, 28th Infantry. The map, oriented to the south, shows the route taken by the U.S. infantry, cavalry and field artillery from the Spanish fort of Almonte on Iligan Bay to Camp Marahui (Marawi) on the Iligan-Lake Lanao Military Road. The map also shows topographical features, the Lianga (Liangan) River, Lake Talao, camp sites, water sources, and the enemy positions and cottas (Moro forts) of Sultan Ponung, Sultan Tarumpung, Rajamuda Domingo, Sultan Adit, Sultan Pitilan, Rajamuda Talao, and Datto Pongaga Adit.

forces stationed on the island. Hassan requested the return of his slaves; the Americans refused; and by November 1903 Hassan had assembled as many as 4,000 Moro fighters in the Crater Lake region of the island, to besiege the American-occupied capital of Jolo. The Jolo Expedition, commanded by Colonel Owen Jay Sweet, landed with a force of 1,250 soldiers (including the 28th Infantry commanded by Robert L. Bullard), and proceeded to attack Hassan's Palace, “the strongest cotta in the entire Sulu Archipelago”.(3) With the Americans in pursuit, the Moro fighters retreated to the east, where Hassan was persuaded to surrender at Lake Seit but was then freed “by a howling band of krismen”.(3) Over the following week Wood ordered his troops to destroy every hostile cotta they could find with an artillery bombardment followed by an infantry assault. The uprising ended when Hassan was eventually cornered and killed at the volcanic crater of Bud Bagsak in March 1904. The map titled Map of Route of March and Engagements of Sulu Expedition by 28th and 23d U.S. Infantry / On the Island of Jolo, Nov. 12th to 23rd 1903 / Commanded by Colonel O.J. Sweet, 28th Inf. / Prepared under Directions of Captain T.A. Pearce, 28th Inf. November 28th 1903 shows (on a scale of 2 inches = I mile) hills, lakes, rivers and other geographical features; Moro cottas; and the sites of engagements with the enemy.

The campaign, launched during the monsoon, was a failure. Wood wanted to do everything himself and did not employ Moro guides; consequently “the heavily burdened troops thrashed through the mud and swamps, losing supplies and equipment, and finally made an attack on a small cotta, which left one soldier dead and five wounded.” (2) The Hassan Uprising Wood was given an excuse to abort the march to Lake Lanao and redeploy his troops to Jolo by the outbreak of the Hassan Uprising. Panglima Hassan was datu of Luuk province in the east of Jolo Island. In June 1903, some of Hassan’s slaves escaped and were protected by the U.S.


Detail from Map of Route of March and Engagements of Sulu Expedition … Nov. 12th to 23rd 1903 by Captain T.A. Pearce

Detail from Map of Route of March and Engagements of Sulu Expedition by 28th and 23d U.S. Infantry On the Island of Jolo, Nov. 12th to 23rd 1903 … Prepared under Directions of Captain T.A. Pearce, 28th Inf.

The map also shows the route taken by the U.S. troops from their landing site (12th Nov.), around Lake Seit and Baksak Hill to Paglima Hassan’s encampment (13th Nov.), and eastwards to Opao’s Cotta (14th Nov.); the return route via Tumboc Cotta on the Badjang River and around Crater Lake (15th-17th Nov.) back to the landing site (18th Nov.); and the route then taken westwards around Mount Silumaan (19th-20th Nov.) and along the north coast to Jolo (21st-23rd Nov.).

final military governor of Moro Province, implemented a disarmament plan in 1911. The Moro Rebellion finally ended after the Second Battle of Bud Dajo (December 1911) and the Battle of Bud Bagsak (June 1913); the province was then placed under a civilian governor in December 1913.  The maps, from the author’s collection, were purchased at auction and came from an estate in the United States; the photographs are courtesy of University Archives, Westport CT, U.S.A.

End of the Moro Rebellion The Bates Treaty was unilaterally abrogated by the U.S on 2 March, 1904. Wood continued to fight the Moro Rebellion “with a rough hand”; in his two-and-a-half years as governor his troops fought as many as 100 engagements, culminating (in March 1906) with the First Battle of Bud Dajo (aka the “Moro Crater Massacre”) where up to 1,000 Moros (including women and children) were killed. Wood’s successor, Tasker H. Bliss, did not send out any punitive expeditions, and Pershing, who returned to Mindanao in 1909 to take over as the third and

References (1) Madge Kho, The Bates Treaty of 1899, Jolo Culture and Historical Society (2000). (2) Brian McAllister Linn, Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill (1997). (3) James R. Arnold, The Moro War: How America Battled a Muslim Insurgency in the Philippine Jungle, 1902-1913, Bloomsbury Press, New York (2011).


PHIMCOS Board Members 2018 Mariano Cacho, Jr. Chairman Emeritus

Jaime C. González President

Jaime C. Laya Ph.D. Vice-President

Margarita V. Binamira Secretary

Vincent S. Pérez Treasurer

Peter Geldart Director

Rudolf J.H. Lietz Director

Alfredo Roca Director

Hans B. Sicat Director

Assistant to the PHIMCOS Board: Yvette Montilla

PHIMCOS Members 2018 Individual members Andoni F. Aboitiz

Margarita V. Binamira

William Brandenburg

Robin Bridge*

Mariano Cacho, Jr.

Marinela Fabella

Dominik Furst

Richard Jackson

Jaime C. Laya

Benito Legarda

Elizabeth Lietz

Rudolf J.H. Lietz

Raphael P.M. Lotilla

José L. Mabilangan

Gonzalo Mac-Crohon

Carlos Madrid

Francisco Romero Milan

Jorge Mojarro

William-Alain Miailhe de Burgh Alberto Montilla

Ambeth Ocampo*

Maria Isabel Ongpin

Christian Perez

Vincent S. Pérez

Lisa Ongpin Periquet

Dieter Reichert

Alfredo Roca

Felice Sta. Maria*

Matthew Sutherland

Emmanuel A. Ticzon

Jonathan Wattis

Joint members Angelica & Edwin Bautista

Ernestine D. Villareal-Fernando* & Marcelo Cordero Fernando Jr.*

Ma. Fedeliz & Peter Geldart

Marie Constance & Jaime C. González Corporate members

Calamian Islands Corp. (representatives: Carlos R. Araneta & Janet T. Ong) Legispro Corp. (representatives: Hans B. Sicat & Regina F. Sicat) Ortigas Foundation, Inc. (representatives: Jonathan Best & Beatriz V. Lalana) * New members in 2018

PHIMCOS Committee Members 2018 Communications Committee

Education Committee

Membership Committee

Peter Geldart*

Margarita V. Binamira*

Carlos Madrid*

Christian Perez

Alberto Montilla

Raphael P.M. Lotilla

Lisa Ongpin Periquet

Maria Isabel Ongpin

Hans B. Sicat

Lisa Ongpin Periquet Emmanuel A. Ticzon


* Committee Chairman

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Carte Réduite des Isles Philippines Pour servir aux Vaisseaux du Roy Dressée au Dépost des Cartes Plans et Journaux de la Marine by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, Paris 1752 (Jaime C. González collection)

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