Photo by Wikimedia Commons

As the country’s first scientific map, the Murillo Velarde Map is an important artifact. It is evidence of the country’s historic rights, and a source of narrative for the youth to love the country. In many ways, it’s an embodiment of the Filipinos’ material being as a nation.

Designed by Fr. Murillo Velarde, a Jesuit priest, in 1734, it was the most comprehensive map of the archipelago at the time.

But for close to 300 years, the map was in possession of an English aristocrat. Until it came home to the Philippines three years ago—when a private citizen won it at an auction and decided it was time to bring back this treasure to Philippine shores. 

The map was formally donated and turned over to the government, under the care of the National Museum. In 2019, it sold for 46.72 million pesos in an auction to an undisclosed buyer.

The map is of utmost value, primarily because it shows that Panacot (Scarborough Shoal) and Spratlys (named there as Los Bajos de Paragua) are shown to be part of the Philippines. With many nations staking claim to the aforementioned islands, the Velarde Map is a significant weapon.

The map is so accurate and detailed that historians often refers to it as the “Mother of all Philippine Maps.”

Officially called the Carta hydrographica y chorographica de las Islas Filipinas, the map depicts a “high-quality, advanced and inclusive way of life of people in the archipelago—Filipino men and women working in the farm that represents self-reliance, family unity and sustainable livelihood; showing Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Moguls freely interacting with the ‘indios’.”

Many of the names of the 900 cities and towns identified in the map remain the same. Markers for mountains, seas, and lakes are surprisingly accurate. A true Filipino treasure.