Magellan’s discovery of the Philippines

On September 20, 1519, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer working for Spain, led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe in search of valuable spices, bringing his crew of 241 men, and a fleet of five ships – Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Victoria, and Santiago. Trading in spices during those times brought immense wealth to European nations. There were two records of the journey. The first was a journal by Italian passenger Antonio Pigafetta, and the second, a series of interviews with survivors by Maximilianus of Transylvania. Magellan’s expedition was undertaken because the Spaniards were looking for alternate routes to the east; wanted to discover lands, spices, and gold; and wanted to expand Spanish territory and spread Christianity. Magellan’s travel was long and arduous, and only two ships survived it. He discovered the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of South America and became the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean. His remaining ships arrived at Homonhon island in Samar on March 16, 1521, named it Isla San Lazaro, erected a cross, and claimed it for Spain. The islands were later named Filipinas (Philippines) in honor of King Philip of Spain. The first Catholic mass was celebrated on Limasawa island in Leyte on March 31, 1521, by Spanish friar Fr. Pedro Valderama. Among those present were Rajah Siagu and Rajah Kolambu who forged a blood compact with Magellan. Fr. Valderama baptized the two rajahs and 400 natives on April 14, 1521, in Cebu where Magellan erected a huge cross – the famous “Magellan’s Cross” – and gifted the converts with the Sto. Niño images as peace symbol. Magellan was killed by poisoned arrows on April 27, 1521, during the Battle of Mactan by natives of the island led by local chieftain Lapu-Lapu, who refused to recognize Spanish authority. The battle was considered the first Filipino resistance against foreign invaders, and Lapu-Lapu was hailed a hero. Magellan was credited with leading the first expedition that proved that the world is round by sailing from east to west. After him, five more Spanish expeditions followed between 1525 and 1542, starting Spain’s colonization of the Philippines in the next three centuries. Born in Oporto, Portugal, in 1480 to members of Portuguese nobility, Magellan served royalty at an early age. In Lisbon, he learned cartography (mapmaking), astronomy, and celestial navigation (steering a ship based on positions of the stars). He joined the Portuguese fleet sailing in 1505 to East Africa, and went to Malacca (Malaysia) and to Moluccas (Indonesia). In 1513 Magellan was wounded in a battle in North Africa. In 1517, he went to Seville to work for Spanish royalty.