Rare lithographs and medals highlight the Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2020.
Culture Spotlight

These rare Mindanao memorabilia remind us of our forgotten battles for sovereignty

The battle for Philippine independence was not exclusively fought by the Tagalogs, as these rare lithographs and medals included in the upcoming mid-year Leon auction prove. By LISA GUERRERO NAKPIL
ANCX | Jun 12 2020

The official date of our nation’s independence is June the 12th. Like clockwork, it usually dissolves into arguments over the right date and the rightful ‘first president of the republic’ — and even more sadly, whether we were even independent at all.

June 12th is a gloriously Tagalog-centric celebration, focused around the triumphs of Emilio Aguinaldo, the wily general who led the Magdalo of Cavite, (named after Mary Magdalene, patroness of Kawit) and who removed Andres Bonifacio from the revolution’s leadership with deadly finality.

Each battle’s name is engraved at the back of these medals.

It leaves out the history of Mindanao, or more properly the Sultanate of Sulu, in fending off the Spanish, and later, the American empire.

A wonderful pictorial history of one Spanish campaign — said to be “one of the finest illustrated books of 19th-century Philippines” — is a highlight of the upcoming León Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction on Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 2 p.m. It is none other than a very rare copy, in extraordinarily pristine condition, of the Expedición á Jolo 1876, by Baltasar Giraudier.

Giraudier was a Spaniard of French descent and one of the co-founders of the Diario Manila. (It would become incidentally a hotbed of secret Katipunan activity: The members would filch the printing press supplies to use in their own subversive newspaper.) The Governor-General, and commandant of the campaign, José Malcampo y Monge, invited Giraudier to be an ‘embedded reporter’ of his exploits. As a result, Giraudier documented first-hand the battles but also the villages, homes, and peoples of the south. 

Among the highlights of the upcoming León Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction are these Mindanao memorabilia.

This outstanding book is a breathtaking collection of 38 tinted lithographed prints consisting of a map of the Sulu area and 17 marine and topographic landscapes plus 20 portraits of ethnographic representations of Moro Sulu life and customs. So lovely and precious are they that they are usually ripped out and sold separately and are rarely to be found in such a complete state.

Altogether, these portray a panorama of the scenes of the Spanish military expedition led by Malcampo against the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo Jamalul-Azam (r. 1862–1881), who was based in Jolo. After several bloody battles, Malcampo was able to occupy Sulu and establish a garrison. Sultan Jamalul-Azam, however, proved that he was a talented international negotiator who not only leased North Borneo to the British but also negotiated a peace treaty with the Spaniards on 22 July 1878 on terms favorable to him.

It represented the last peace treaty between Spain and the Sultanate, which made the latter a protectorate of the former while at the same time guaranteeing autonomy to the Sultan in both issues of internal administration and the collection of port duties. Nevertheless, for Malcampo’s successful taking of Jolo, he was given the title Conde de Joló and subsequently Vizconde de Mindanao.

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Completely by serendipity, a separate lot on offer features a set of medals of Malcampo’s campaign. Each battle’s name is engraved at the back of the various pieces, in silver, bronze and copper. (One imagines according to the rank of the soldier.) These also feature the profile of the dashing King Alfonso XII, known ironically as ‘The Peacemaker.’

A second set of medallions are more memorabilia of subsequent Mindanao campaigns in 1895 and 1896, bringing us inexorably to that date of June 12 in 1898.

View The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2020 online catalog  and register to bid at Leon Gallery’s official site: www.leon-gallery.com. The auction is co-presented by ANCX.ph, the urban man’s guide to culture and style and the online lifestyle website of the ABS-CBN News Channel.