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Vintage National Geographic Collection


For well over a century the American magazine, “National Geographic” has been one of the most popular and informative publications in the world. The magazine has focused on scientific inventions and countless discoveries in the natural sciences and archeological explorations. Over the decades it has been a constant source of new, well researched information for both young and old.

It was originally started by a small group of gentleman scholars and explorers in 1888 as the official publication of a somewhat exclusive “learned society” based in Washington; the National Geographic Society. In the early days only members received copies of the magazine. In recent years it has ventured into book publishing, movies and television and funded several highly successful independent explorations. The magazine and its many spin offs are now widely available commercially, and even produced on CD-Rom and DVD.

The Ortigas Foundation Library is very fortunate in that it will soon be lent an entire set of the National Geographic Society magazine collected by the Foundation’s chairman Rafael Ortigas Jr.. Atty. Rafa has been a life long collector of the magazine since his boyhood days in the 1950s when his father subscribed for their family.  He has since gone to the trouble and considerable expense to purchase all the very early editions in the official bound facsimile editions and track down the later editions from book dealers in the United States. Along with the bound copies of the magazine are special edition maps, scientific books and a great deal of highly educational material produced by the Society over the decades.

Of special interest to the Philippines are the articles written in the early teens by the American zoologist Dean C. Worcester who was one of the founding members of the First Philippine Commission in 1899 along with William Howard Taft a future American president (1909-1913). After the Philippine American War, when civilian government was re-established in Manila in 1901, this American appointed Commission became the effective government of the Philippines with Worcester as Secretary of the Interior. President William McKinley originally chose Worcester because he had done extensive scientific research in the Philippines under the aegis of the University of Michigan in the 1880s and 90s.

Worcester wrote three major articles which appeared in the National Geographic in consecutive years starting with the  March issue in 1911. Each was a carefully researched and profusely illustrated essay on the customs and material culture of the indigenous groups of non-Christianized Filipinos living in Northern Luzon and Mindanao. Worcester was an excellent photographer and had personally taken thousands of black and white photographs of the Philippines. For their November 1913 edition, Worchester’s long 100 page essay on Filipino tribal peoples took up the entire magazine. For one section of the magazine the editors had full page, hand-painted color plates made which were transposed over Worcester’s black-and -white images. This was one of the National Geographic’s first attempts to publish simulated “color” photographs. For Philippine collectors this is now the most sought after edition selling for over PhP 6,000 in good condition.

In May of 1930 the Geographic published a long article about the Philippines by William Howard Taft, after he had been the first American Governor General of the Philippines, President of the United States and Chief Justice of the American Supreme Court. Later in September 1930 the magazine came out with another of its classic articles about the Philippine. The essay “Unexplored Philippines from the Air” by Lieut. George Goddard combined the new science of aerial map making with incredibly beautiful photographs of the Philippine wilds.

After the Second World War and right up to the present, the National Geographic writers have continually returned to the Philippines to research and publish exciting and informative articles. The Ortigas Foundation Library is very fortunate to be receiving on loan a complete set, started over fifty years ago by Rafael Ortigas Jr’s father. For researchers of all ages this American publication offers a wealth of historical and scientific information about the world we live in, its oceans and even about space exploration. For Philippine scholars the National Geographic is a treasure trove of material on everything from indigenous tribal culture  to sunken Spanish galleons and volcanic eruptions.