Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who was determined to reach India and the East Indies by a new route - under the southern end of America. His journey to the Philippines is believed to have been the first documented European expedition to the archipelago.
Born into a family of nobility in Portugal, and despite being in the service of the Portuguese crown in Asia, Magellan did not support for his plans from King Manuel I of Portugal and he was eventually selected by King Charles I of Spain to search for a new route to the Maluku Islands.
Ferdinand was given command of a fleet of five vessels and set off on a journey around South America, travelling through the Atlantic Ocean to Patagonia and onto the Pacific Ocean. By 1521, the fleet reached the Spice Islands and soon began their journey home in a bid to complete the first circuit of the globe.
During their return journey, the ships sailing under Magellan sighted the mountains of Samar at dawn on 17th March 1521, before making landfall the following day in the island of Homonhon. On Easter Sunday, 31st March 1521, Magellan planted a cross on the summit of a hill that overlooked the sea, claiming the islands he had seen in the name of the king of Spain and naming them Archipelago of Saint Lazarus.
Magellan went on to seek alliances with the indigenous Filipinos, beginning with the chieftain of Sugbu (now Cebu) - Datu Zula. In fact, he took great pride in converting the local people to Catholicism and even became heavily involved with ongoing political rivalries between the local Cebuano natives. This interference eventually led to Magellan’s involvement in the battle of the Cebuano natives against Lapu-Lapu, who was the chieftain of Mactan Island and enemy of Datu Zula.
As the sun rose on 27th April 1521, Magellan launched an invasion of Mactan Island with 60 armed men and 1,00 warriors from Cebu, but landing on the rocky shores proved difficult. In response to the conditions, Magellan ordered Datu Zula and his men to stay aboard the ships while he and his soldiers take care of the Lapu-Lapu army. However, the Mactan defenders had been seriously underestimated, with 1,500 present along the shoreline. Magellan and his soldiers were attacked and he was killed, along with 14 of his men. The remaining soldiers managed to reboard the ships before escaping back to Cebu.
As a result of Magellan’s death, claims on Spice Islands were eventually relinquished to Portugal as part of the treaty of Zaragoza. However, the treaty didn’t stop the Philippines from being colonised by the Spanish in the future when additional additional expeditions were dispatched to the islands.
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