Philippines marks 500th anniversary of Magellan's landing
Magellan as depicted in a painting
The STAR/File

Philippines marks 500th anniversary of Magellan's landing

Kathleen A. Llemit (Philstar.com) - March 16, 2021 - 6:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — Did you know that today, March 16, 2021, is the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan's first landing in the Philippines?

The Portuguese explorer had first suggested his idea to his king, King Manuel, who had repeatedly rejected it. Determined to find the Spice Islands located at Moluccas or Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia, Magellan proposed to the then young Spanish king, King Charles I. The fleet, consisting of five ships manned by a combination of Spanish and Portuguese crew, left Spain on September 20, 1519.

After two years of trying to reach the eastern side of the globe, he and his crew landed in the Philippines on March 16, 1521. According to the 1974 book "Magellan and the First Circumnavigation of the World" by Ian Cameron, they stayed for a month and a half and befriended local leaders on the island of Limasawa in Southern Leyte. On March 31, an Easter Sunday, the first mass was held in the Philippines.

Accounts said that most welcomed Christianity but the island of Mactan in Cebu did not. Magellan, who forged friendship with Rajah Humabon, faced the latter's rival, Lapu-Lapu, and his warriors on April 27, 1521. The ensuing battle led to the death of Magellan.

After his death and the failure to win over Lapu-Lapu and his tribe, the remaining members of Magellan's fleet faced difficulties, including betrayal by Humabon as cited in Antonio Pigafetta's journal. The Italian scholar and explorer was part of the fleet who sailed for Moluccas.

In November 1521, the remaining fleet finally landed in Moluccas. The Victoria, the remaining ship captained by Juan Sebastian Elcano, finally returned to Spain in September 6, 1522.

Elcano and Pigafetta were the 18 remaining survivors out of the 270 who set sail for the Moluccas in 1519. This is considered as the first circumnavigation in a single expedition.

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