The Magellan ProjectBy Jobers Bersales
Cebu Daily News
Over breakfast last Sunday, Gina Barte, Malou Samson and I began imagining how to proceed with finally putting up a maritime museum in Cebu. Gina is the president of the Philippine Chapter of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) while Malou is the curator of the University of San Carlos Museum and its secretary while I sit as vice president for the Visayas. Missing in this meeting was Antonio “Nono” Montalvan II and Tonette Pañares who overslept after the previous night’s celebration of the International Museum Day hosted at Fort San Pedro by the Cebu City Government. (Mayor Michael Rama graced the occasion proving his concern for culture and heritage.)
In previous column I wrote about the coming cinquencentennial in 2021of Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition and his eventual death at the hands of Lapu-Lapu in Mactan. It is an event that is still far in the horizon for us Filipinos who seem to always dill-dally until the last minute. I also wrote in at least two columns in the past about the dismal and palpable absence of a maritime museum in the country, given its long history of trading and commerce via the seas.
Well, last Sunday, after tiring of thinking whether the old Compañia Maritima Building standing so lonely near the SRP Subway Tunnel will ever be turned into one, we took matters into our hands — or more correctly, into our minds — by coming up with the idea of building a carrack in the replica of Magellan’s lead ship, the Victoria, the only one out of his three ships that made it back to Spain in 1521 in the first successful circumnavigation of the world.
The inspiration was the visit of the Galleon Andalucia last year, which turned out for me to be a let-down given that it was nothing but, well, a steel-hulled ship made to look like a galleon with nothing to show inside except for its being a replica of a galleon. I’m sure many expected that there would be a museum inside explaining the galleon and the whole idea of Spain’s dominion of the seas for a time and that there would be items for sale to souvenir seekers.
Blame it on the coffee or the splendid breakfast at Bo’s Café at the IT Park, but we gradually warmed up to the idea that perhaps building a carrack with a museum inside it is the best way to develop a maritime museum not just for Cebu but, because it will be inside a ship that is seaworthy and ocean-going, in as many places as we can think of. In one fell swoop — if only we had the millions now — this could actually become a traveling exhibition that may well go through the return route taken by Sebastian de Elcano and his ragtag band of survivors who made it back to Spain.
The inspiration behind this wild idea came from Gina who mentioned as an aside that the Republic of Chile was building its own carrack to bring to Spain as part of the 2022 celebrations there marking the 500th year of the return of the Victoria. This, after she told us that she was developing a small maritime museum for a school in Manila called the Asian Institute of Maritime Studies. That aside might actually have become the inspiration for a major project, which we have tentatively called “The Magellan Project,” which we hope will be realized in two years: a floating, seaworthy replica of the Victoria that will house a maritime museum collection inside. Plans are therefore afoot to see who will see merit in this project and will hopefully help raise the funds to build it, and the crew to operate and maintain it.
It’s always good to dream, and if one dreams, why not dream big? I have a feeling we may yet wake up within the year to see our dream coming true. Hope, as I keep repeating, springs eternal in our veins.
More from this Column:
- Rejoinder from non-pigs in the pigsty
- Cebuanos in a pigsty
- Culture and heritage: The unfinished agenda
- Ka Bino’s diapers
- Digging San Remigio anew