MANILA, Philippines - Somewhere in Mexico, an entire clan with the last name Maganda (the Tagalog word for "beautiful") has lived for more than 200 years, according to the country's National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
In that same coastal region, NCCA said locals like to drink the sap of coconut, which they also call tuba (the same term used in the Philippines).
Here in the country, meanwhile, Filipinos have learned to appreciate champorado (chocolate rice porridge) and tamales (starchy dough steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper), 2 original dishes from Mexico, over the past centuries.
This is not mere coincidence, NCCA said, but is among the many things brought about by Galleon Trade, the center of which is the Philippines.
The trade involved 250-year-old ships called galleons, which were built by expert Filipino seafarers out of Philippine hardwood.
"The whole world knows about the Silk Route, the Amber Road, but what about the Galleon Trade? For more than 250 years, the Philippines was the center of the world, with Asian, European and Latin American goods being traded on its very soil," the NCCA said.
It added, "Via the galleon, Mexican chocolate was brought to Asia, Spanish music was brought to the Philippines, and the world was introduced to Philippine abaca and flowers like the ylang-ylang."
A galleon named Andalucia is said to be the first vessel to have successfully gone around the world.
Two hundred and fifty years later, a replica of the galleon sets sail for the Philippines in an effort to highlight the country's role in global trade and cultural exchange.
The new ship, built by the Fundacion Nao Victoria in Spain, will be docked at Pier 13 in Manila from October 5 to 9, 2010.
"Inside the galleon, everything is a replica from the 17th century, from the furniture to everything else. Everything was studied, we even tried to copy the commands (used by the ship's controls) from documents," said Fundacion Nao Victoria's Ignacio Fernandez in Spanish, as translated by Guadalupe Fernandez Morente.
He added, "When they get to see the replica, people will feel how people sailing in the galleon lived in the ship. We hope everybody can enjoy the galleon."
It will serve as the centerpiece for the first international Dia del Galeon Festival, which aims to "assess the impact of the Galleon Trade as a vessel of cultural transmission across the continents of Asia, Americas, Africa and Europe in terms of food, agriculture, arts, customs, knowledge and world views."
Dia del Galeon festival director Cecile Guidote Alvarez noted that Filipinos have already expressed "much excitement and interest" over Andalucia's arrival, and is hoping that more people will take part in the events they have lined up this year.
"We want to recharge connectivity and relive history. We also want Filipinos to take pride in their heritage and creativity," she said, adding that they are also aiming for the "advancement of the welfare of Filipino seafarers."
Sen. Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Dia del Galeon festival, said, "We want to come back to these past centuries to remind ourselves of our rich history. Connectedness, that's what we're commemorating."
Asked about the relevance of the centuries-old galleon to modern-day living, Angara said, "The same exchange is actually taking place today, (only through different means)."
The Spanish community, meanwhile, has also commended the Philippines for spearheading the world's first Dia del Galeon festival.
Maria Molina, representative of the Spanish Embassy of the Philippines, said Andalucia serves as a "tool of cultural diplomacy" and "marvelous way to celebrate our past."
For more information, log on to diadelgaleon.blogspot.com
Photo courtesy of the Dia del Galeon festival committee