Ferdinand Magellan and his discovery of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines - FERNÃO Magalhaes was born in Portugal around 1480, the son of the mayor of his native town. His interest in the nautical sciences started when he studied in the Court of Portugal. These studies filled him at an early age with enthusiasm for the great voyages of discovery which were being made at that period.

In 1505, he took part in the expedition of Francisco d'Almeida to establish the Portuguese viceroyalty in India. In 1511 he was in the Portuguese conquest of Malacca and he subsequently took part in the Portuguese expedition to Morocco. After getting entangled in a personal disagreement with his commander in chief and falling from the grace of the King after a report from Almedia, he devoted himself to his studies and projects, particularly reports of the recently discovered Moluccas sent by a friend, Serrão. Serrão had so greatly exaggerated the distance of the Moluccas to the east of Malacca that the islands appeared to lie within the half of the world granted by the Pope to Spain. Magalhaes resolved to seek the Moluccas by sailing to the west around South America.

As he could not obtain support from his country, he renounced his Portuguese nationality, offered his services to Spain, and took the name Ferdinand Magellan. King Charles appointed him commander of a fleet of five vessels, with provisions for 234 persons for two years. Magellan commanded the chief ship, the Trinidad; Juan de Cartagena, the San Antonio; Gaspar de Quesada, the Concepcion; Luis de Mendoza, the Victoria; and Juan Serrano, the Santiago. The expedition also included the chronicler Antonio Pigafetta.

The fleet sailed September 20, 1519, from San Lucar de Barameda, enduring the treacherous seas, winter, and a mutiny that saw the execution of De Cartagena and De Mendoza. More than a year after they set sail, they reached the Cape Virgenes that led to the entrance to the straits which today bear his name, the Magellan Straits. Suffering from the desertion of one of his ships, the San Antonio, he entered the straits and after three weeks reached the open sea on the other side, which he named Mar Pacifico. He continued to sail west and on March 15, 1521, he reached the Archipelago of San Lazaro. He was received in an amiable manner by the chief of the island of Cebu, Rajah Humabon, who was baptized along with several hundred of his followers. He then proceeded to subdue the neighboring island of Mactan but was killed in an encounter with the group of Lapu-lapu. His demise prevented Ferdinand Magellan from reaching his goal - the Moluccas - but his voyage accomplished the feat of circumnavigating the world, and that gave the first positive proof that the earth was round. What remained of his men - 18 of the more than 230 who began the journey with him - sailed back to Spain. Ferdinand Magellan and the Spaniards thus introduced the people of the Philippines to Christianity and opened it to the outside world.

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