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UPD hosts RP-Spanish int’l conference on Pacific Ocean

The speakers at the opening of the Philippines-Spanish Conference on the Pacific Ocean were (left to right) Chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines Maria Serena I. Diokno, UPD Chancellor Caesar A. Saloma, Former Senate President Edgardo J. Angara and Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Manuel Domecq de Bobadilla.

(October 16)—In celebration of the 500th year since its first sighting in 1513 by Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the annual Philippines-Spanish Conference chose the Pacific Ocean as this year’s theme.

Now on its 11th year, the conference was held on October 8 and 9 at the Pulungang Claro M. Recto of the Faculty Center in UP Diliman, and organized by the Department of History of the UPD College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

Dr. Maria Bernadette L. Abrera, chair of the History Department said, “this conference seeks to discuss various aspects of the Pacific Ocean as a theater of engagement between the two worlds of Europe and Asia, where Spain and the Philippines served as the focal points in their respective spheres.”

Dr. Maria Serena I. Diokno, chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and UPD History professor, said the range of topics to be discussed at the international conference will result to a better, deeper understanding of Filipino-Spanish engagements. 

“From oceanic epicenters to scientific, cultural and religious engagements and trade, we will all be feted with new understandings through different lens (es) to our past.  Individually the papers have their strengths and taken together they will help us come together to a better, deeper understanding of Filipino-Spanish engagements over extended period of time,” she said. 

Diokno said historians are tasked to investigate these engagements.

“Our job as historians is to investigate the mode, ramifications and impact of the engagements whatever the outcome.  The idea of engagement above all highlights the place of historical agency and historical actors in different stages of Philippine-Spanish development and the recognition that agency rests not just with one or dominant party, that change is not always imposed from above or from outside, but rather takes place with the complex mixture of initiative, rejection, modification, and appropriation,” Diokno said.

First named Mar del Sur (South Sea) by Balboa in 1513, the Pacific Ocean was later renamed Mar Pacifico (Peaceful Sea) by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 for its calm waters.

Former Senate President Edgardo J. Angara said the Pacific Ocean’s first sighting 500 years ago is a global milestone. 

Historians and academicians from Spain and the Philippines at the opening of the Philippines-Spanish Conference on the Pacific Ocean on October 8.

“It opened up the exchange between Europe and Asia.  It also has local resonance because it helped forge closer Philippine-Spanish relations...The Pacific is the grand connector of the Pacific Rim economists and it will continue to do so,” Angara said.

Angara, the author of Republic Act 9187 declaring every June 30th as Philippines-Spanish Friendship Day, was the conference’s guest speaker.

Topics at the conference were divided into six panels: The Philippines, Spain and the Pacific; Scientific Explorations and the Challenges of the New Environment; Expedition and Expansion: The Voyages to the Pacific; Cultural Encounters; The Roots of Engagement; and Galleon Studies.

UP President Alfredo E. Pascual, in his message read by Dr. Ferdinand Llanes of the History Department, said the conference’s theme rekindles research on commerce. 

“Coming from the background in development finance, I see the theme as highlighting the increasing importance of the Pacific in current economic and geopolitical realities especially on this part of the globe,” Pascual said. 

Meanwhile, Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Manuel Domecq Fernandez de Bobadilla said Spain’s discovery of the South Sea (Pacific Ocean) was “just the first step in its long journey together with the Philippines towards the construction of the global world of today.” 

“The Philippines continues to be one of our main Asian partners in international relations and multilateral fora.  It is our only priority development partner in the region, and is now becoming a prime destination for our exports which have grown 40 percent in 2012.  Along with the more than 30,000 Filipinos that travel to Spain every year and the more than 15,000 Spaniards that come to this country, the exchanges and context between our universities and the renewed interest in the Spanish language are all clear signs of the good state of our relations,” Domecq said.

The Ambassador hoped for a fruitful exchange of ideas at the conference and that it would strengthen the “ties between the University of the Philippines and other Spanish Universities in a common effort to reconstruct our shared history.”

UPD Chancellor Caesar A. Saloma shared Domecq’s aspiration.

“While we both acknowledge that those centuries of European exploration and expansionism were fraught with violence and vicissitudes, we also recognize that those junctures in our histories cannot and should not hinder us from continuing to involve with each other this time in the spirit of genuine mutual engagement through research and other scholarly endeavors,” Saloma said.—Mariamme D. Jadloc, images by Jefferson Villacruz