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Opinion

It is 500 years, today…

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Jorge Moragas Sanchez - The Philippine Star

On March 16th 1521, a historical event that changed the world forever took place here, in Samar, in this very spot. On that very same day, the Magellan-Elcano expedition arrived here in Samar to discover the astonishing beauty of this country and the immense humanity of its people.

The arrival took place after a very long, hazardous and challenging journey that concluded with the first circumnavigation of the world for the first time in the history of mankind and changed the world forever.

That journey not only made possible the first contact, the first touch of our two peoples, Spain and what was later on going to be the Philippines, but also connected people from Asia, America and Europe through the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, known before as the South Sea. A connection that the Galleon of Manila exemplified for centuries some years later.

In fact, the goal of the journey was just embraced as a trade mission in search of another route to reach the Moluccas, the so known Spice Islands (today Indonesia). But not only did they discover an alternative route, the trip also represented a leap forward in many realms for that time.

In geographical terms the trip was the proof that the Earth was round, a piece of knowledge that revolutionized the communications as sailing from Asia to Europe through America was then possible. But also in many other fields: navigation, civil engineering and architecture, gastronomy and many others.

But let’s try to visualize and imagine that very unique landmark for a moment.

At the arrival in Samar, the very first contact between our two people took place here in Homonhon, an optimal and fruitful human touch. The expeditioners were welcomed by the natives with food and water and in return they gave them goods that they had with them on board.

They later celebrated together the first mass and since then the Philippines became the only Asian country (except for East Timor) to be Catholic, a faith that is today a distinctive feature of the Filipino national identity.

Almost a month later, after the death of the head of the expedition, Captain-General Magellan, in the Battle of Mactan during a fight against Datu Lapu-Lapu, another turning point of events took place: Juan Sebastián Elcano became at one point the leader of the expedition.

It was him who made the decision to continue the trip back to Spain, against the opinions of many of his fellows, a stance that changed the world forever.

And today, here we are, Filipino and Spanish authorities in Samar, on the very same day 500 years later, re-enacting the dawn of this longstanding friendship between our two people.

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Jorge Moragas Sanchez is the Spanish ambassador to the Philippines.

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