Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz: A Filipino creole and the book he wrote

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Nov 20 2020 11:53 PM | Updated as of Nov 21 2020 02:08 AM

Out of intellectual disposition, research and scholarship, this Filipino Creole wrote a book on numismatics. 

What? sez you …. in heaven’s name is ‘numismatics’ anyway? And Creole? … a Filipino, at that! Well, let us commence with a bit of knowledge sharing.

“Numismatics,” basically, is the study and collection of money as currency, mostly about coins. The discipline includes “the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods.” A study of money as medium of exchange accepted as payment for goods, services and debts/taxes. 

And “Creole?” No, no, no…. it has nothing to do with Elvis Presley’s “King Creole!"

The word is of Spanish and/or, later, of French origin. Strictly speaking, it really means an individual person, whose parents are both full-blooded Caucasians, who is born in another part of the world, say in a colony. Arguably, the word has been bastardized with conflicting nuances over time. Nonetheless in other words, a creole is indeed a native of the country he was born in, and a citizen thereof, but possesses a different skin, eye and hair coloration. [nota bene: independence movements in Spanish South America were spurred by creoles (and the mestizaje) in a manner of speaking, precursors of patriotism in a nationalist colonial setting!] Filipinos who are still of undiluted Hispanic/European full blood (both parents) are the classic Filipino Creole.

Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz: A Filipino creole and the book he wrote

Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz: A Filipino creole and the book he wrote

Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz: A Filipino creole and the book he wrote

Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz: A Filipino creole and the book he wrote

And the book? It is an 1880 historical study of ancient Spanish money from the Roman Empire times. Printed in Madrid. What choice of subject! Was the author perhaps a 19th century nerd?

The author was a Filipino Creole, one named Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz. He was the indispensable patriarch of the Philippines’ Zobel de Ayala clan. He was Manila born (1842) of an immigrant father, Jakob Hinsch Zobel and local girl mother Ana Zangroniz, daughter of an “Audiencia” judge. The original Zobels, (the first Jakob and father Andreas are of German-Danish Lutheran lineage) both relocated to the Philippines in the early 1830s to establish the country’s first ‘botica’ (drugstore) business. (sources: Ayala & Wikipedia)

I am a knowledgeable and committed admirer of the Roxas-Zobel-Ayala clan and business organization, having spent a quarter century as an employee of the Ayala group of companies. All circumstances of the times considered, I personally find Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz the most colorful and exciting of the clan personalities. By the way he is the great great grandfather of the present day twin-leadership of the 21st Century Ayala conglomerate: Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala.

Image courtesy of Everipedia.org

Jacobo Zobel may as well be hailed as the country’s first ‘industrialist’ and may have been the most significant and biggest private enterprise employer of the era. Indeed, he merits with much deserved honor to be in the pantheon of historic Filipino economic development leaders of yore such as Toribio Teodoro, Gonzalo Puyat, Teodoro Yangco, etc. 

He pioneered the first public transportation business (horse-drawn tranvias); he built the original spans of the Quezon and Ayala bridges; he was the local agent of France’s Eiffel industries; as designated ‘Mayor’ of Manila, he implemented the long delayed 1863 decree on public education of Queen Isabella II; he was a friend and translator of Hans Christian Andersen (of Fairy Tales fame). He also had a stint in Fort Santiago for suspected nationalist sentiments (similar to founder Don Domingo Roxas). He is the first Filipino-born Mason, having joined the British-initiated Scottish Lodge in 1869. In fact, the Philippines Masonic Lodge No. 202 was named and dedicated (1974) in his honor.

I bring all this up for your weekend leisure because of a letter I received from a Facebook friend, Gerald Wassily Clavecillas, who happens to be the Director of Foundation & Public Affairs, Limbagang Pinpin Museum in memory of Tomas Pinpin (1580-1609), the first Filipino printer. The Museum is located in Abucay, Pinpin’s birthplace. It is dedicated to preserving the history of Filipino printing and press. I enjoy a common interest with Mr. Clavecillas which is Filipiniana.

He shared with me what ought to be exciting tidings for all “Filipinianacs!” (A word I took the liberty coining to mean irresistible aficionados of Filipiniana; somewhat derivatively akin to cardiac, iliac, aphrodisiac and insomniac). Wassily has recently acquired a very rare ‘obra maestra’ of Don Jacobo. Here is his letter:

“Dear Mr. Gomez,

Since our last purposeful correspondence I am happy to report another grand coup of an acquisition!

We have managed to acquire Don Jacobo Zobel's Magnum Opus, the exceedingly important - Estudio histórico de la moneda antigua Española desde su origen hasta el Imperio Romano -. After careful assessment they've been found to be in exceptional state, uncut and untrimmed; having all their original lithographs and map intact.

Having spent some years living in L.A. County, I took full advantage of the many open & accessible libraries, archives and museum centers. My time spent leafing thru rare first editions, admiring hand-tooled bindings and studying attentively heaps of original lithographs and immaculately preserved print art; gave me the inspiration to spearhead this humble endeavor.

Thus, over the course of several years, my US-based business partner and I, have been relentlessly assembling Filipiniana in California for the sole purpose of facilitating their eventual repatriation to the motherland. It is our fervent wish that a major museum group or cultural consortium worth its salt, would recognize the value & significance of the collection and in so doing, take charge over their conservation and subsequent exhibition. I know that soon our efforts will bear fruit with this regard.

Your many online articles sir, have been a real comfort in these uncertain times.

Sincerely, Gerard Wassily Clavecillas.”

Godspeed, Wassily……… and all you “Filipinianacs” out there! 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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