Did Magellan Survive the Battle of Mactan?

At the time of writing celebrations are underway to commemorate the first circumnavigation of the world by the Elcano-Magellan expedition. That remarkable, courageous endeavour was a success, it repaid its investors handsomely, laid the foundation for the Manila-Acapulco galleons which inaugurated truly global trade for the first time, linking Asia, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia.

And, of course, the Spanish occupation of the archipelago later to be named after Felipe, prince of Asturias, later the King of Spain and, for a brief four year period King of England, co-ruling with Mary Tudor until her death in 1558.

It is also the 500th anniversary of the victory of Lapulapu, the chief of Mactan, against Magellan’s forces.

In the predominantly Catholic Philippines the event is also being celebrated as the planting of Christianity with the first Easter Sunday Mass on 31 March 1521, and thereby hangs a tale, or at least many questions. First instance, why First Easter Sunday Mass?

No-one really knows when the First Mass took place. Pigafetta, on whose translated narrative we rely, records very few masses and there must have been many onboard ship during its traversing of the inaptly named Pacific Ocean. Sailors, after all, need all the help they can get, earthly and divine. A thanksgiving mass would be a natural event on finding land in an uncertain sea.

In the case of Magellan, that would probably have been 17 March 1521 off the island of Sulu-an.

The next Sunday, 24 March, was important in the Catholic calendar – Palm Sunday. It would seem inconceivable that there would be no Mass on such an important day.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a journal from Fr. Pedro de Valderrama, the priest of the expedition, to clarify the situation.

We are fortunate to have the Pigafetta account of the event at all. On March 25, while the Trinidad was being anchored in the rain three days before sighting Mazua he fell overboard while fishing when his feet slipped off a wet yard. As he struggled in the water his hand found a piece of tackle hanging from the mainsail and held on until someone aboard heard his shouts and a small boat picked the dripping Pigafetta from the sea.

Bear it mind that a ship is the territory of the state whose flag it flies, it just happens to wander around a bit, so the Masses aboard ship were not on foreign soil by tradition and law. In a sense, those celebrating the mass aboard ship were still in Spain. The Easter Sunday Mass was celebrated on foreign soil.

Pigafetta was there to record the activities of the expedition to the Mollucas, rather than a daily diary, so interactions with the people they came across, the establishing of trading relationships, and conversions to Christianity were his primary interests. The mission objectives were to find a source for profitable spices, to satisfy the many private investors, to get sworn allegiances, to keep Charles V of Spain happy, and secure conversions, which kept the Pope happy with King Charles V.

What we cannot know with any precision, is what was going through the heads of the people they met, made arrangements with, and converted to the faith. But we can make some guesses that would surely not be far from the mark.

For centuries before the arrival of the Spanish the islands of what became the Philippine Archipelago were an integral part of coastal Southeast Asia trading patterns. Until direct trade was established with China, Champa – now parts of south east Vietnam and Cambodia – acted as an entrepot. When Magellan arrived the traders of the archipelago were well accustomed to the strange foreign rituals involved in establishing trade relationships. And, of course, the odd habits of foreigners.

It would begin with each side showing how rich, powerful and generous they were, followed by some formal declaration of peace and brotherhood, and, if required, promises of protection and a nominal oath of allegiance to the foreigner’s country if necessary.

When the Chinese emperor prohibited merchants from trading outside his empire, the merchants simply had the datus and rajahs they traded with swear allegiance to the emporer, creating the legal fiction that they were now part of China and could trade in return for the occasional tribute mission to make sip-sip to the emporer.

One might wonder whether the notorious Nine-Dash-Line had its origins in that legal fiction, most of China’s ancient trading partners, who would have sworn loyalty to the emperor, lay on the outer side of the line.

That, perhaps, is the prism through which we might glimpse a bit of the ‘Filipino’ point of view of Magellan’s activities.

On March 27 the expedition spotted a fire on an island, Mazua, and anchored off it. The next morning a boat with eight men aboard approached the Trinidad. This seems to have been an official delegation from Rajah Kolambu. Magellan’s Sumatran slave/interpreter was able to speak to them, they would have understood Malay, the lingua franca of coastal Southeast Asia. It was not usual for slaves to be appointed interpreters by Rajahs and Datus and it would make perfect sense for Kolambu to sent a Malay-speaking slave to meet with a foreign vessel.

The boat stood off from the Trinidad, cautious. To break the ice, Magellan tied a red cap and other items to a piece of wood and offered it to the men in the boat who then returned to the island. Two hours later Rajah Kolambu arrived in his own boat accompanied by a second, both filled with warriors.

That Enrique did not speak an indigenous language is implied in Pigafetta’s comment that the King and Enrique could converse because “The King understood him for in those districts the kings know more languages than the other people.”

Other contemporary sources say that Enrique was dispatched specifically because he spoke Malay.

Still, Kolambu was cautious. He let some of his men board the Trinidad where Magellan treated them well and handed over some gifts. When the men returned to Kolambu’s boat he offered Magellan a large bar of gold and a basket of ginger, which Magellan did not accept and Kolambu returned to the island happy.

Step one of the trading ritual was complete. Each side had demonstrated that they were powerful, chose to withold that force, and had no aggressive intentions.

That afternoon, Magellan’s ship moved to a new anchor close to Kolambu’s village.

Next day, Magellan sent Enrique in a boat to ask for food and assured Kolambu they had come as friends, not enemies. Kolambu took the same boat to Magellan’s vessel with jars of rice and foodstuffs.

Kolambu greeted Magellan with an embrace and set out a meal on deck. Magellan showed off the richness of his merchandise, had one of his cannons fired, presumably without shot, showed Kolambu his charts and compass and had one of his men dressed in armour but without arms being attacked with swords and knives. Someone, and there is some debate about who, concluded with Kolambu’s agreement that one such man was the equivalent of ten native fighters.

Magellan was careful to point out that he had 200 such men at his command in each ship. The point seemed well taken by the King of Butuan, who, it is safe to say, did his numbers.

Afterwards, Pigafetta and another man returned with Kolambu to the island where they spent the rest of the day getting sozzled on the local booze while being presented with meal after meal presented on porcelain imported from China. The eating and drinking went on till nightfall when Kolambu said the equivalent of “I’ll go head” and Pigafetta slept ashore.

During what sounds like an epic day of partying Pigafetta noted down local words for various items and says that they were astonished when he read the words back to them. His account is a little ambiguous: does it indicate that the local people had not seen writing before? Or were they astonished that he could speak some of the words in their language? Either is possible but Pigafetta would certainly have recorded any examples of written language and does not.

Bear in mind that the first uses of writing were related to trade and contracts. The famous Laguna copperplate is one example. Another use among Islamic community is for tracing the leader’s descent from the the Prophet Mohammed through the tarsilas but these people were not Muslims.

The next day, Saturday, Pigafetta returned to his ship along with Rajah Siaui of Calagan, Columbu’s brother. Magellan gave gifts to Rajah Siaui and had dinner with him. There was much talk of gold and much of it in evidence.

By the end of that day, Stage Two of the trading rituals was complete – the bonding process between the future partners. On Sunday morning, Magellan reached Stage Three, with an impressive display of power and promises of using that power to benefit Kolambu and his brother.

Magellan dispatched Father Valderrama, Enrique and a few men to consecrate an area and set up a cross near the shore for the Easter Sunday Mass. Enriquie told Kolambu and his brother that they were not there to eat but to conduct a religious ceremony.

When the time came for the Mass came, Magellan, Pigafetta and fifty men went ashore without body armour but with their weapons, including muskets. As Magellan’s boats went to shore the ships at anchor fired six cannons ‘… as a sign of peace”.

The two rajahs were placed either side of Magellan, who led the way to the consecrated area. The two chieftains imitated the Spanish reverence, approached the cross by did not kiss it, kneeled in attitudes of worship. When the wafer, the host, was raised muskets were fired to alert the ships at sea, which fired all their artillery.

A fencing match followed the Mass, to entertain the chieftains.

Magellan then made an offer the chieftains could not refuse. He had a cross, nails and a crown carried in, to be placed at the highest point of the island. He explained that it was the standard, or symbol, of King Charles V, and guaranteed that any Spanish ships that saw it would treat the local kindly, releasing any captured local on being show it.

As a cherry on the cake, if they adored it each morning they would be unharmed by any thunder, lightening of storms. Magellan offeredto send ships against Kolambu’s enemies and make them obedient to him. The cross, said Magellan, would be of great use to them.

The transactional nature of this final piece of ritual theatre is clear in Pigafetta’s narrative.

This first mass, then, was integrated into the business dealings between Magella and the two chieftains.

There were no conversions or baptisms so, while it was the first Christian Mass on land in the islands it did not implant Christianity. To the local people it can only have appeared to be what it, in fact, was – a series of exotic rituals to establish a basis for trade.

Despite all the partying, there was little food on the island. Kolambu and his brother only went there occasionally to hunt, so it would seem they must have taken food supplies with them to Mazaua. Magellan needed to replenish his food stocks and he was told that Cebu was the best place to go since it was the largest port and did the most trade.

Magellan asked for pilots and offered to leave a crew member as hostage for the safety of the pilots. There is no reference to him leaving a hostage.

Over the next few days a little trading was done as the two chieftains recovered from yet another bought of drinking – Pigafetta remarked that the people were heavy drinkers – and with the help of Magellan’s men brought in a rice harvest.

One local offered Magellan a bowl of rice and eight bananas in return for a knife worth just a few copper coins. The vendor refused several gold coins, he would only accept a knife, which he was given. Later, says Pigafetta, “one of those people wanted to give him a pointed crown of massy gold, of the size of a colona for six strings of glass beads, but the captain refused to let him barter, so that the natives should learn at the very beginning that we prized our merchandise more than their gold.”

At Cebu, on Sunday April 7, Magellan abandoned the normal practice of anchoring offshore and waiting to be approached and went in with guns blazing. He lowered his sails to battle position, flew his banners, and fired all his artillery, the latter contrary to standing orders of Charles V “..which caused great fear to those people, says Pigafetta.

Magellan’s foster-son, Cristobal Rabelo, and Enrique were sent ashore to find a a large crowd and Humabon, the short, tubby, much tatooed chief of Cebu, still shaking in fright. The interpreter told them that firing cannon “…was our custom when entering into such places, as a sign of peace and friendship, and that we had discharged all our mortars to honor the king of the village.” reports Pigafetta.

Watching the proceedings was a Muslim merchant from what is today Thailand who had arrived aboard a junk four days before with gold and slaves. He had stayed behind to shift his stock of slaves and yellow metal.

Asked what the newcomers wanted, Enrique told them that his master was a captain of the greatest king and prince in the world, and that he was going to discover the Mollucas. Having heard about Humabon from Kolambu, the expedition had come to trade for food.

Some hardcore, tense diplomacy followed. Humabon demanded tribute be paid to him and pointed to the Moro trader as an example of a tribute payer. Enrique responded that since his master was the captain of so great a king, he did not pay tribute to any seignior in the world, and that if the king wished peace he would have peace, but if war instead, war.

Humabon was no mere island potentate, he lead a major trade centre that reached as far as Bicol and Tondo. Although he was probably not in a physical condition to personally lead warriors into battle, he could call on the support of others in the islanders, like Kolambu, and Pigafetta’s narrative suggests that he was still sending out slave-raiding parties.

Perhaps the Moro trader sensed that Humabon might be willing to call Magellan’s bluff because he intervened with a warning in Malay for Humabon to be careful: “These men are the same who have conquered Calicut, Malacca, and all India Magiore (India Major) If they are treated well, they will give good treatment, but if they are treated evil, evil and worse treatment, as they have done to Calicut and Malacca.”

This is a very interesting statement, it implies that Humabon was familiar with the Portuguese occupation of Malacca in 1511, two decades before, and their activities in Calicut. It is notable that the trader identified the newcomers as Portuguese – he would have been familiar with the Portuguese in Malacca, and may have assumed they were Portuguese, which Magellan actually was, in much the same way as present day Filipinos will often assume any random Caucasian to be American.

Enrique corrected him, according to Pigafetta: “The interpreter understood it all and told the king that his master’s king was more powerful in men and ships than the king of Portogalo, thathe was the king of Spagnia and emperor of all the Christians, and that if the king did not care to be his friend he would next time send so many men that they would destroy him.”

Humabon decided to go into a huddle with his men, said he’d give an answer the next day and treated visitors to a sumptuous feast.

At the time, Humabon was in conflict with the chiefs of Mactan Island, who were more militarily powerful than he was. A deal with Magellan might give him the opportunity to defeat Lapulapu.

After Magellan’s delegation returned to the Trinidad and gave their account of the negotiations Kolambu, whom Pigafetta says was the second most influential chief in the area, went ashore to speak with Humabon and reassure him.

Things had calmed down the next day, Monday April 8, when Magellan dispatched Enrique and the expedition’s notary, Leon de Espeleta, met with Humabon and some of his chiefs in the village square and sat with them. Humabon asked if he was expected to pay tribute to the Spanish king and was told it was not necessary and that the expedition wished only to trade with him and no-one else. If Magellan wanted to be his friend, said Humabon, he should send him a drop of blood from his right arm and that he himself would send the same to Magellan. De Espeleta said Magellan would comply.

Humabon said it was the custom for he and visiting captains to exchange gifts and who should go first. The notary replied that since Humabon wished to continue the custom, he should be the one to go first. We cannot know what Humabon said to his people after the emissaries had returned to their ship but evidentially he gave orders for as much food to be collected as possible to trade with the expedition.

On Tuesday morning Kolambu came to Magellan with the Moro trader in tow, who saluted

on behalf of Humabon and said that they were collecting as much food as possible to give to him, and that after dinner Humabon would send one of his nephews and two others of his chief men to make peace.

Magellan then has one of his men armed with his own arms, and launches into an extraordinary rant. With Enrique’s help he tells the Moro “…we all fought in that manner. The Moro was greatly frightened, but the captain told him not to be frightened for our arms were soft toward our friends and harsh toward our enemies; and as handkerchiefs wipe off the sweat so did our arms overthrow and destroy all our adversaries, and those who hate our faith.”

Pigafetta writes: “The captain did that so that the Moro who seemed more intelligent than the others, might tell it to the king”. But there is more to this bit of theatre, often disregarded or not usually noted.

The context of this outburst, and the first mention of Magellan defending his faith is that in 711 the Iberian Pensinsular, which covers modern Spain and Portugal, was invaded and occupied by the Muslim Berbers, the Moors, of North Africa under General Tariq ibn-Ziyad and became Al-Andalus. The region became a centre for literature, the arts and the sciences under the Muslim regime.

After several false starts Christian forces got the reconquista underway and finally ousted the Moors after 800 years with the taking of Granada in 1492, which some may recall is when Columbus set off to find India and bumped into the American continent which, to his dying day, he believed to be India. Magellan was 12 at the time, a page of Queen Leonor and consort to King João II of Portugal.

Re-Christianised Spain proceeded to throw out Muslims and Jews, so did Portugal under Manuel 1, whose service Magellan entered in 1495. The result of these expulsions was that a number of Spanish speaking Moors sought greener grass and bluer oceans in Southeast Asia.

In the years up to 1521 Magellan had faced Muslim forces as part of building Portugal’s empire in Indian and Malacca.

Now, in the harbour of Cebu, on the deck of his ship, he finds himself facing a traditional enemy, not only of Portugal and Spain but of his Catholic faith, a Muslim, just a little less than 30 years after the fall of Al-Andalus. Moreover, one who has a key relationship of influence with the local chiefs. Hence his reference to “…all who hate our faith”.

After dinner that day a team consisting of Humabon’s prince and designated successor, Tupas, who was married to Humabon’s eldest daughter, Kolambu, the Moro trader and various worthies, including eight chiefs, to finalise the peace agreement. Having determined that Kolambu and Tupas had the authority to make peace Magellan segued into proselytising his faith.

His listeners were much impressed. The old men and women would be honoured under Christianity, Humabon would get a suit of the armour that he have previously demonstrated to make its wearer invulnerable to attack, as Christians they would be treated better than non-Christians, which would include, of course, Muslims, and perpetual peace with the King of Spain.

Baptism was set for the next Sunday. In the meantime, Tupas treated Pigafetta and his friends to a gong orchestra of semi-naked young girls, and pale-skinned naked dancers. Arrangements were made to bury two of the expedition’s crew who had died over the past couple of days.

The expedition opened shop for trading on Friday. Pigafetta noted that the people used weights and measures, scales and ‘justice’. Metals like iron and ‘largers pieces of merchandise’ the expedition accepets gold. One piece of gold, about 1.5 ducados, was swapped for 14 pounds of ironSmaller items like beads were exchanged for foodstuffs. There were none of the spices Magellan wanted to sell at a profit back in Spain.

Magellan discouraged his sailors from trading for gold because they would have given all that they owned for a small amount of gold, and would have spoiled the trade forever.

On the Saturday, an ornate platform was built for the baptism ceremonies and Homabon warned that the ships’ cannons would be fired.

Magellan continued marketing baptism on Sunday as the rituals got underway. He told Humabon, that, as a Christian, he would defeat his enemies more easily than before, a claim that was not going to age well in the light of subsequent events.

Not all the chiefs were willing to fall into line. Humabon said that some ofhis chiefs did not wish to obey, because they said that they were as good men as he. “Then our captain had all the chiefs of he king called, and told them that, unless they obeyed the king as their king, he would have them killed, and would give their possessions to the king”. The chiefs decided to obey the order to become baptised.

Magellan announced that he was going back to Spain but would return “…with so many forces that he would make him (Humabon) the greatest king of those regions”.

This would have seriously disrupted the status quo in the region. Datus had sovereignty over people, not landmass, often with more than one datu ruling on an island over different adherents. There was a complex interlinking of loyalties and relationships. Humabon owed allegiance to the King of Borneo, indeed, there was a Bornean community on Cebu at the time. Making Humabon all-powerful threatned to disrupt those traditional links.

Humabon was getting a lot of power in return for his acquiescence to baptism. His gains were far from the merely spiritual.

Some 500 men, including the Moro trader, Kolambu, and other chiefs were baptised that day before Mass and the baptisms continued day after day. Resistance was firmly dealt with – “We burned one hamlet which was located in a neighbouring island, because it refused to obey the king or us. We set up the cross there for those people were heathen. Had they been Moros, we would have erected a column there as a token of greater hardness, for the Moros are much harder to convert than the heathen” says Pigafetta.

The burned village was Bulaia on Mactan island next to Cebu. It had two chiefs, Zula and Lapulapu.

Pigafetta does not mention that Lapulapu was attacked a second time, fifty houses around his royal residence sacked and burned. Magellan took loot consisting of food and furniture back to Cebu, where it was apparently stolen or otherwise taken by Humabon’s people.

This second attack was in response to a message from Lapulapu that he was willing to submit himself as a vassal of the King of Spain but would not accept Humabon as his master. Eight days later Magellan was to return for the last time.

On the afternoon of the Sunday baptisms Humabon’s wife arrived with forty other women. She was shown images of Mary, a crucifix and the Christ child. She asked to keep the image of the Christ child in place of her anitos – small wooden images of a variety of spirits which played key roles in religious observance, much as statues of saints do today. It may be she selected it because it resembled something she was familiar with.

That Santo Nino is believed to be the one found by Legaspi about 44 years later when the Spanish occupied the island, along with four copies.

Earlier, Magellan had erected a crucifix in the Cebu village square, told people how to show it reverence it and instructed them to burn their anitos. Days later, still no anitos had been burned. Asked why they hadn’t incinerated them and why they continued to make food offerings, Magellan was told that they were not doing it for themselves but for a sick man, Tupas’s brother, who had not spoken for four days and were hoping that the anitos would bring him health.

Says Pigafetta: The captain told them to burn their idols and to believe in Christ, and that if the sick man were baptized, he would quickly recover; and if that did not so happen they could behead him [i.e. the captain] then and there.”

“We made a procession from the square to the house of the sick man with as much pomp. There we found him in such condition that he could neither speak nor move. We baptized him and his two wives, and 10 girls. Then the captain had him asked how he felt. He spoke immediately and said that by the grace of our Lord he felt very well.”

Pigafetta refers to it as a ‘manifest miracle’ although those of a sceptical bent might notice Magellan’s absolute certainty and offer of beheadment and consider more earthly scenarios. It was five days before he could walk.

An orgy of anito burning followed. According to Pigafetta the recovered man found that some old women had concealed an anito in his house. He had it publicly burned in front of Humabon and the rest of the village. Along the seashore were a number of shrines where offering were made to the anitos and diwatas, which he had destroyed. A mob cried out “Castiglial! Castiglia!” and also destroyed shrines saying they would burn all the idols that they could find, even if theywere in the king’s house.

On Friday, April 26, Zula, a sub-chief to Lapulapu of Mactan, where Magellan’s men had destroyed a village for refusing to be baptised, sent one of his sons to Cebu with a pair of goats for tribute. With him, Zula sent a message that more would have been offered but Lapulapu refused to obey the King of Spain and asked Magellan to send a boatload of men to help him fight Lapulapu.

No-one in the expedition had actually spoken to Lapulapu so we don’t really know what he was thinking, except that he considered himself superior to Humabon, to whom he was expected to obey. It may be that Zula, seeing Humabon’s new-found power and protection, felt an alliance with Humabon and overthrowing Lapulapu would be in his own best interests.

Against the pleas of him own officers and crew, Magellan decided to dispatch sixty armed men in three boats to Mactan. Setting off at midnight the force lay off Mactan three hours before dawn.

Magellan sent an ultimatum to Lapulapu through the Moro trader – obey the King of Spain, accept Humabon as his sovereign, and pay tribute, or “…wait to see how our lances wounded.” The trader had previously done business with Lapulapu, providing the iron with which they tipped their lances.

The uncompromising message came back: “We also have lances, of bamboo and stakes hardened in fire.” It also asked Magellan not to attack immediately but wait until Lapulapu could gather more men. Lapulapu was not going to reveal just how strong he was.

At daybreak on April 27 Magellan launched what was to go down in history as an example of how not to conduct an amphibious assault.

Magellan had told Humabon and Zula to stay out of the fight. Three vessels had yet to arrive from Cebu so Magellan had no cannon to give covering fire. It was low tide so the three boats he had could not reach the shore because of rocks, so forty-nine men had to get into knee-deep water and wade about one mile to the shore, leaving eleven men to guard the boats, depleting the attack force.

Those forty-nine men found themselves facing 15,000 Lapulapu warriors, according to Pigafetta but probably about one tenth that number. Spanish muskets wre ineffective at the range, and the defenders would not stand still long enough for the musketeers to hit them.

For some strange reason Magellan thought sending men to burn twenty or thirty houses might subdue Lapulapu’s men. Instead it roused them to greater fury.

From the sidelines, Humabon would have watched the sad affray as Magellan was hit in the leg with a poisoned arrow and called for an orderly retreat. Most of the men took to their heels, leaving a little more than six or eight men to defend the wounded Magellan.

Accounts of the assault on Mactan, including several first hand memories, are contradictory and while Pigafetta would not have deliberately lied it may be that his memory was a fault. All that can be safely said is that the last anyone saw was a melee of warriors hiding the fallen Magellan.

What is certain is that Magellan was the main target of Lapulapu’s warriors. The poisoned arrow or lance that hit him was not fatal – others were hit with them, including Pigafetta, with not fatal result. He would have been a valuable prize if captured and one scholar, Richard J. Field suggests the possibility that Magellan was taken alive, if badly injured. Ransoming those captured in battle was common practice. If Lapulapu had returned a living Magellan he might have found himself facing a joint attack by Humabon, Magellan and possibly Zula, a joint force far greater than he could fight off. Ransoming Magellan was not an option.

That afternoon, Humabon sent a message to the people of Mactan, to the effect that if they would give us the captain and the other men who had been killed, “…we would give them as much merchandise as they wished. They answered that they would not give up such a man, as we imagined [they would do], and that they would not give him for all the riches in the world, but that they intended to keep him as a memorial.”

There was an accompanying message for Humabon’s ears only: If he did not ally with Lapulapu, the latter would come and destroy him. Humabon was a trader, Lapulapu was a famed warrior. The king of Cebu was about to lose his ace, protection by the Spanish. It may be that Humabon was, as Lapulapu implied, on of the latter’s subchiefs.

Lapulapu sweetened the threat by offering Humabon his daughter in marriage. Lapulapu was an old man, seemingly preparing for his own death, and if Humabon agreed, all that belonged to Lapulapu, his people, would belong to Humabon after death and there would be peace between them in the meantime.

Field brings attention to the Visayan principle of awod under which one was required to take action against the person who had wronged you, shamed you or embarrassed you, because if one did not, the spirits would punish you for cowardice. Lapulapu, then may have sacrificed Magellan to his spirits to avoid such punishment.

Note that Humabon had bet an apparently winning hand on Magellan’s success, which would have made Humabon invincible, so Humabon, too, had been shamed in the eyes of his people whom he have forcefully caused to be baptised to take advantage of Spanish power.

Enrique had been slightly injured in the fight and took to his bed, probably grieving for Magellan and considering his future, aboard the Trinidad while ashore it was decided that Dante Barbosa and Johan Serrano took over from Magellan. Things went from bad to worse.

Barbosa, master of the Trinidad, demanded Enrique get up and talk to Humabon, telling him that despite the death of his master, which should have made him a freeman, he would remain a slave and be given to Magellan’s wife. Dona Beatrice. He further threatened that if Enrique went ashore he would be flogged.

If Pigafetta is to be believed, Enrique went to Humabon and told him the fleet would soon leave, but suggested that the king could grab the ships and all their merchandise. Even if Enrique had made no such suggestion, Humabon, unwilling to face Lapulapu’s fury, had little choice left, the Spanish could no longer defend him.

So it was that, on the Wednesday, 1 May 1521, Humabon sent a message that the jewels he promised to send to the King of Spain were ready asnd begged the crew to come and dine with him. Twenty four men went ashore, Pigafetta remained on the ship nursing his poisoned wounds.

Joven Carvaio returned with another man, Gonzalo Gomez, said that they’d seen Tupas’s brother the man baptised and supposedly cured by Magellan, that the expedition’s priest, Fr Valderama to his house. They suspected something bad was going to happen.

Writes Pigafetta “Scarcely had they spoken those words when we heard loud cries and lamentations. We immediately weighed anchor and discharging many mortars into the houses, and drew in nearer to the shore. While thus discharging [our pieces] we saw Johan Serrano in his shirt bound and wounded, crying to us not to fire any more, for the natives would kill him. We asked him whether all the others and the interpreter were dead. He said that they were all dead except the interpreter. He begged us earnestly to redeem him with some of the merchandise; but Johan Carvaio, his boon companion, [and others] would not allow the boat to go ashore so that they might remain masters of the ships. But although Johan Serrano weeping asked us not to set sail so quickly, for they would kill him, and said that he prayed God to ask his soul of Johan Carvaio, his comrade, in the day of judgment, we immediately departed. I do not know whether he is dead or alive.”

There were eight survivors among those who went ashore, abandoned to their fate by the expedition. The cross that Magellan planted in the square was last seen burning.

Following an inquiry in Barcelona, Hernando Cortez, who ruled Mexico on behalf of the Spanish crown sent a letter of apology to Humabon apologising for the unpleasantness and asking for the captive Spaniards back. Everything was Magellan’s fault, well, he was Portuguese. The letter never reached it intended recipient.

So ended the brief, transactional introduction of Christianity into what would one day become the Philippines. In a way, Humabon was the first ‘rice Christian’. The faith had failed to deliver and was thus rejected. Both Lapulapu and Humabon invoked awod to appease their ancient spirits.

To add insult to fatality, following hearings in Spain following the return of the expedition a letter was sent to ‘The King of Cebu, apologising for Magellans actions, he had disobeyed the orders of King Charles V, and that he deserved everything he got.

Going back to the Mass at Limasawa on 24 March 1521, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines qualified it as the First Easter Sunday Mass in the Philippines. The reason for that qualification is to be found in the report of the Mijares Commission – there is a claim of an earlier Mass, and baptisms, nearly 200 years before Magellan’s event.

We’ll take a look at that claim next.

One thought on “Did Magellan Survive the Battle of Mactan?

  1. Bob, congrats to this synthesis and lots of insights…I like that word…sipsip…! w Chinese emperor…

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