Posted by Gregov on 10th February 2008
A general overview of the early colonization of the Philippines.
History is determined by fate. A self evident fact. Why places and people become what they are is generally influenced by the nation which was dominant at the time.
The Romans in their day influenced Europe, Egypt, Mediterranean and North Africa.
Great Britain influenced one third of the Globe at the height of her power.
Well, in the sixteenth century there was another major player, and for good or ill, right down to the name, the destiny of the Philippines was to be sealed by the Spanish.
History and the fickle hand of fate……….
Magellan (pictured) was killed the following month on April 27th by Lapu Lapu chief of Mactan – an Island off the east coast of Cebu, in the central archipelago. The Battle of Mactan as it was later to be known, is commemorated as the first Philippines conflict to repel alien invaders, and Lapu Lapu lauded as the first Filipino to fight and win over foreign imperialist forces.
He is commemorated with a statue in Mactan, and Lapu-Lapu City is named in his honour.
Of course, it’s worth noting that at that time Lapu Lapu was not a Filipino because the Islands had not been named as such then. A technicality perhaps, but decidedly in his favor was that he was a local chieftain who was not going to kowtow to Spanish superior forces as had his neighboring tribal leaders with such surprising submission.
The first king of Spain
It is often a misconception that Magellan named the Islands the Philippines. It was not until 22 years later, in 1543 that Ruy López de Villalobos led an expedition to the islands and gave the name Las Islas Felipinas – after the aforementioned Philip, who then was still only the heir apparent – to the islands that Magellan had first laid claim, Samar and Leyte. The name would eventually be given to the entire archipelago… but not just yet.
More About Magellan
Kolambu in turn introduced him to Rajah Humabon of Cebu, who – impressed with Magellan’s armoury and ships – happily converted to Christianity.
Humabon later managed to convince Magellan to embark on a mission to kill his rival Lapu Lapu of Mactan.
Magellan Ends His Life In Cebu
Whatever conversation took place between Humabon and himself through his translator Enrique of Malacca, we shall never know, but perhaps some misunderstanding took place.
Its also possible that Magellan was so deluded that God was on his side, he believed himself invincible. (The image shows the site of Magellan’s death).
Consider the facts: he did not take his most experienced soldiers with him, and he failed to reconnoiter Mactan’s coastline. Consequently he was unable to land his cannon, and marched knee deep through the water with forty of his men, to be overpowered by 1500 natives (or so the story goes – the numbers were possibly slightly exaggerated).
And the rest, as they say…is history!
And on that subject, the tale was finally conveyed to the Spanish king by the captain of the sole surviving ship able to limp home, and in so doing manage to complete Magellan’s circumnavigation.
So began (albeit not overnight) the Spanish conquest and colonization of the Philippines.
This history of the Philippines is concerned only that her captain Juan Sebastian Elcano (pictured) was able to relate the tale when he finally returned to Spain in September 1522. (Perhaps this is how the inflated number of Magellan’s opposing forces on Mactan occurred – after all, it’s always best to be defeated by overwhelming odds!).
There was to be no great substantial account of the voyage for a further three years.
It was not to be three years when the Philippines continued in isolation, nor three years of relative piece before the storm – there was to be a handful of small forays to the islands prior to the Villalobos expedition, but it was to be Villalobos who really started the ball rolling, although not very far. And yet, it was to be another 22 years after him, before Philip finally took a much more serious interest in finally securing the islands named in his honor!
It was February 13, 1565 when López de Legazpi and his troops landed on the shores of Cebu and established the first Spanish settlement. It was a Friday!
The First Governor And The First Capital
In early 1564 Philip II ordered an expedition to follow the Magellan and Villalobos ventures, and Legazpi, who at the time was the governor of Mexico City, was commissioned to undertake the task by the viceroy of Mexico, Luis de Velasco.
In November of the same year Legazpi set sail with five ships and 500 soldiers. He was then 62 years old. He arrived in the Philippines on February 13th 1565.
The next 6 years would be a period of establishing small settlements, negotiations and skirmishes with local chieftains, attempts at introducing the Catholic faith, and welcoming reinforcements from Spain and Mexico of additional troops and laborers.
Slowly but surely, bit by bit, over this period, the Spanish planted their roots.
It was June 24th 1571 when Legazpi established Manila as the capital of Spain’s new colony. Astounded by the size and excellence of this natural harbor – he built the walled city known as Intramuros.
With the help of Augustinian and Franciscan friars he became the first Spanish governor of the Philippines and worked to convert the indigenous population to the Catholic religion. He died of heart failure a year later in 1572. He was 70 years old.
The Philippines, after considerable conflict, finally managed to declare independence on June 12th 1898. Spain had ruled them for 327 years – but what a story to tell in the meantime…..!
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