Spanish and Filipino delegates to this year’s Tribuna España-Filipinas forum have agreed to embark on a coordinated “archiving program” of historical documents, especially those involving the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines more than 400 years ago.
As the sixth edition of the annual multisectoral forum between the two countries drew to a close on Wednesday, an official of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport told the Inquirer that some of the Spanish archives, once catalogued and translated, may even help the Philippines in its claim to the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
Luis Enseñat Calderon, director of the ministry’s Ibero-Archivos Program, said Spanish historical archives contained documents and maps on the Spanish colonization of the Philippines from the 16th to 19th century.
“The archives may be important in this way to demonstrate that in the 19th century, the Chinese did not control these group of islands,” Calderon said, when asked how Spanish archives could help the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China over the Scarborough Shoal.
He quoted colonial Spanish officials in the 1800s, saying these islands “were controlled, more or less, by the Philippines from Manila.”
While these documents are available at the National Historical Archive of Spain, he said it is not yet accessible to the public because his office is still digitizing the documents.
“But little by little, we can make progress and publish this on the website,” he said, referring to Spanish archives website www.pares.mcu.es.
Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq denied reports he made a categorical statement about Spain turning over old maps to the Philippines to help strengthen the country’s claim on Scarborough Shoal.
“The majority of the maps are here in the Philippines in private collections. We did an exhibition last year of all the important maps of the Philippine geography from 1598 to 1898—four centuries—at the Metropolitan Museum,” Domecq said.
“Those maps are also in Spain in our archives, which are open to experts from any place in the world,” he added.
Calderon said during the forum’s second day that an “exchange program” of Spanish and Philippine archivists was discussed, with one Filipino archivist going to Spain, and vice versa, hopefully by the latter half of the year.
He also invited Filipino archivists to help catalogue Spanish archives.
Calderon said they are also working with the National Archives of the Philippines to make digital copies for Spain of colonial documents preserved in the country.
Calderon’s office uploads the Spanish archives catalogues at www.pares.mcu.es.
He said the website contains documents sent by Spanish colonial officers in the Philippines to the King of Spain. Some Philippine maps from the 16th to 19th centuries have been uploaded, but some entries only contain descriptive references.
East Asian imperial point
“It contains information about the Philippines [during the Spanish colonization], and expeditions from Manila to Formosa, Siam, Moluccas, Ternate, Tidore. Manila was the imperial point of Spain in East Asia. Formosa was part of the Philippines. The Moluccas was part of the Philippines. Micronesia, Marianas, Carolinas were part of the Philippine Islands. And all was centralized in Manila and Spanish officers sent regular reports to the King,” Calderon said.
The forum closed with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology and the Spanish State Secretariat for Telecommunications and the Information Society of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism of the Kingdom of Spain.
The MOU was designed to encourage the “exchanges of experiences and best practices” between the two countries on information and communication technology.
Signing the MOU for the Philippines was Elizabeth Buensuceso, assistant secretary of European Affairs of the foreign affairs department and Domecq for Spain.