Camarines Sur village relives days of galleonsBy Juan Escandor Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
Facing the West Philippine Sea and the islands of Burias and Marinduque, the village of Dalupaon hosted a shipyard for the 17th-century Spanish galleons, the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and the Angel de la Guardia.
This fact has found its way into history lessons in the public elementary school of this fishing community in Pasacao, Camarines Sur, according to Joselito B. Villaflor, the village chair.
Moreover, the barangay council has declared a Galleones Festival during the weeklong fiesta on April 18-24, which the residents celebrate with street dancing by children at the plaza.
Villaflor cited as proof that a Spanish shipyard did exist in Dalupaon the remnants of a sawmill found near the shore, an assertion backed by historical accounts kept in several repositories in Spain.
Bicol historian Danilo Gerona confirmed the accounts from the Archive Franciscano Iberio-Oriental, Archivo General de Indias and The Museo Naval that both the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and the Angel de la Guardia were built in Dalupaon.
American writer Shirley Fish mentioned in her book, “The Manila-Acapulco Galleons: The Treasure Ships of the Pacific,” the “province of Camarines and Dalupaes” as the galleons’ place of origin.
According to Gerona, the Spaniards established shipyards in Dalupaon and in other parts of Bicol, including Masbate, Sorsogon and Albay, because of “the existence of good lumber, a nearby port as launching platform and a well-protected terrain.”
“From the port of Pasacao, Dalupaon is easily accessible by boat where hardwood called hamurawon or molave grew in abundance. Surrounded by a chain of low-lying mountains, the shipyard was well-protected from the buffeting of powerful winds,” he said.
Dalupaon was located in a strategic area where ships could easily be launched in any direction as it is fronting the Southern Tagalog provinces and Burias, Gerona said.
He said the period of shipbuilding in the village occurred when the Spaniards were establishing a foothold in the archipelago. Galleon trading was competitive as the Dutch were trying to wrestle conquered territories and control of the trade, he added.
Another Bicol historian, Jose Calleja Reyes, said the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and the Angel de la Guardia shuttled between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico, and doubled as defense vessels against Dutch incursions in the sea lanes that culminated in the Naval Battle of Playa Honda (Botolan, Zambales).
Sporadic battles at sea between the Spaniards and the Dutch for control of the galleon trade lasted for 80 years.
Gerona said the two galleons were built when Spanish Governor Juan de Silva ordered the establishment of shipyards that catered to maritime commerce from 1610-1614. Gerona said the galleons were 100-120 feet in length of keel and had an overall length of about 140 ft.
Lying down south of Dalupaon was the shipyard in Bagatao in the Sorsogon Bay where the San Felipe and Santiago galleons were built. The two galleons figured prominently in the battle at Playa Honda against the Dutch in 1616-17.
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