Medieval Flat Earth Myth Busted, Part 2

Byzantine era coin showing a golbus

One comment on a Facebook thread in 2021 referred to “…Magellan who Lighted the Dark Medieval Flat mind of Ignorance & Superstition…”, a statement which shows that the myth that Magellan proved the Earth was round and that the common belief that in the ‘Dark Ages’ there was a common belief that the Earth was flat, is still in circulation.

Not only did Magellan ‘prove’ nothing of the sort, the Dark Ages of myth never existed and were an invention of 17th and 18th century writers. How did these myths arise?

It widely assumed, wrongly, that present day humans are more intelligent and resourceful than their ancestors of thousands of years ago. It is the sort of thinking that Erik Von Daniken depended upon for his popular books about aliens building the Egyptian pyramids, and which still produces fanciful History Channel series like Ancient Aliens.

Continue reading “Medieval Flat Earth Myth Busted, Part 2”

Medieval Flat Earth Myth Busted, Part 1

In 1523, Peter Martyr d’Anghiera wrote to Pope Adrian VI, the first non-Italian pope and the only one until the election of John Paul II in 1985, about the Magellan-Elcano Expedition, properly called the Armada de Malucco. He had been chaplain to the court of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, and was a historian of Spanish explorations, who became a member of Emperor Charles V’s Council of the Indies in 1518.

In his letter, he says: “Let us now try to explain how the Spaniards have completed the circuit of the globe, for the fact is difficult to believe. There, however, one proof: let Your Holiness have a terrestrial sphere marked with the different continents brought…” and proceeded to describe the journey of the Magellan expedition.

His surprise at the success of the journey had nothing to do with the shape of the Earth but the surmounting of the great odds against the success of the expedition.

There was no question that time that the Earth was considered a globe, and not a shred of evidence that any significant number of people believed to the contrary. The oldest terrestrial sphere in existence dates from 1492 and may have inspired the first expedition of Columbus that year. Maps of the period clearly show the lines of latitude and longitude, the latter curved to represent the spherical shape of the Earth.

Continue reading “Medieval Flat Earth Myth Busted, Part 1”

The Mystery of Jabidah and a Secret Trial

Oplan Merdeka  was the failed attempt by the disgraced President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines to conduct a terrorist campaign on the state of Sabah in the 1960s. It was a project that would have pitched the Philippines not just against Malaysia, but also Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. It was a foolhardy effort and Malaysia and its allies had seen off an attempted Communist takeover in the Malayan Emergency and an invasion by Indonesia during the Konfrontazi.

The scheme was shattered by the massacre of Muslims on Corregidor who were recruited to terrorise Sabah, known as the Jabidah Massacre. While revisionists like the notorious Roberto D. Tiglao of the pro-Marcos Manila Times claim the whole thing to be a hoax, the evidence for it is solid.

There were brief flash reports on radio broadcasts but the story was suppressed early enough to keep it out of print media. The incident became common knowledge. The suppressed story broke through when Senator Ninoy Aquino, former journalist, gave a privilege speech in the Senate.

After the embarrassing incident on Corregidor, there was a secret court martial of those involved, blood-money was paid to the families of those who were executed, and the prosecutor in that case is still alive.

The video below has technical issues, for which I apologise, but it demolishes the claim that the massacre never happened.

Continue reading “The Mystery of Jabidah and a Secret Trial”

Fake History and its Dangers – Must Listen

As those of us who study Philippine history know well, fake history, misinformation, and historical errors  are prevalent on social media and even in history textbooks. It is the underpinning of Fool’s Gold: Fake, Fallacy, and Fable in Philippine History.

The BBC has an excellent radio documentary on how these things happen, how they affect national identity, how they corrupt our knowledge of the past, and the dangers that it brings, including death threats to historians themselves.

Do listen to it.

When Greeks Flew Kites: Fake History

A Great New More-Than-History Book You’ll Really Want To Read

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well written” – National Historical Commission of the Philippines review.

You won’t just want this on your bookshelf, you’ll want to read it, and you’ll want your friends to read it, and if you’re a history teacher you’ll want your students to read it!

Even historians tell us it will be a best seller. Don’t take our word for it, click on the cover image and read what historians are saying!

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Check out this extract from the book, download and read for yourself.

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How Hawaii’s Last Princess Found Karma At The Bottom Of Cavite Habour

The Barque Kaiulani by John Stobart

Maritime history nerds will know the name Kaiulani , an historically important vessel which met a sad end on the bottom of Cavite harbour in the 1960s. Not only is she part of maritime history, but the diplomatic history of the Philippines and the United States, too, involving a gift to the United States by the government of the Philippines which might have led to international friction between the two countries.

Kaiulani was the last steel-hulled square-rigged clipper built in the United States, launched in 1899. It was the only one of 17,000 such ships to be built in the country, known to have survived, or would have been had it ended its days. as intended, on Maine Street Avenue Dock in Washington DC. She symbolises the close of the age of sail for American merchant shipping and plans were made to make her the cornerstone of the American bicentennial in 1976.

The best-laid plans oft go astray, and so it was with Kaiulani.

Continue reading “How Hawaii’s Last Princess Found Karma At The Bottom Of Cavite Habour”

It Isn’t Revisionism, It’s a Lie

A recent bill in the Philippine legislature to make 11 September a day to commemorate the supposed glories of the country’s disgraced former President, Ferdinand Marcos is getting a lot of push-back from historians. Over the past couple of years, we have seen more and more historians stepping up to the plate to challenge the Marcos ‘revisionism’ of the nation’s history under his disastrous reign, an example being the Philippine National Historical Society conference in October 2019, now the popular historian, Ambeth Ocampo has thrown down the gauntlet in his regular column in the Inquirer.newspaper.

Ambeth R. Ocampo

“Lies are not historical revisionism” says his headline in a forceful attack on the Marcos attempts to create a false reality.

Says Ocampo: “I wish people will call a spade a spade, and stop describing the whitewash of the Marcos dictatorship and the martial law years as “historical revisionism.” Historical revision means correcting what is wrong, erroneous, or false. The pro-Marcos narrative continually foisted on us, especially in social media, is nothing but barefaced lies and half-truths. This is not historical revisionism.”

Read his column here.

It is notable that not a single Philippine historian has published a peer-reviewed paper in a reputable journal or book extolling the alleged brilliance or visions or successes of the Marcos regime despite the undoubted financial rewards of doing so.

Many academic historians are well aware of the false histories and half-truths being peddled to disguise the failures of Marcos in order to promote the family’s political interests. Most, however, are happy to debate, often forcefully, among their peers but avoid public platforms. It will be up to those who engage the public, in the media, and on social platforms, to take up the cudgels for a fact-based history and expose the lies and half-truths now contaminating the public space.

It is time to fight back against falsehood.

Cubi’s Pointed Mystery

Place name origins present a deep pool of myth and urban legend and imagination often overtakes reality. There may be cultural significance in the frequent claim that some name is the result of a misunderstanding.

An example is a claim that the name of Limasawa emerged because the Spanish asked how many wives the local rajah had and was told “Lima y asawa“, which the Spanish assumed was the name of the place. If you want to have a shot at explaining why that notion doesn’t make sense, leave a comment below.

Cubi Point in Subic Bay has been provided with similar explanations for its name, which I came across while working as a volunteer for the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, SBMA in the mid-1990s. Those familiar with it will know the story of Radford’s Folly, more properly Radford Field and designated US Naval Air Station, built during the Korean War.

The story of how NAS Radford Field came to be built deserves a future post all to itself but for now, it involved the removal of an entire village, along with their carabao in great tar buckets floated across the bay to become New Banikayin in Olongapo, the flattening of a mountain almost to sea level and the creation of an airstrip modelled upon an aircraft carrier. It was a remarkable construction project.

For now, let’s look at the name, Cubi.

Popular legend has two explanations. One is that ut derived from Construction Unit Battalion 1, which is said to have built the airstrip; the second suggests that it comes from the notation “Can U build it?” on a piece of military documentation. Let’s take a look at those legends.

Certainly, it was built by the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion,  MCB, but it was built by MCB 3 and MCB 5, not MCB 1, and there is no “Construction Battalion Unit 1”. So that explanation does not work.

As for “Can U build it?”, we haven’t found such a notation but even if it did exist, it still could not explain the name Cubi Point because that name long predated any American presence in the area.

When the Americans claimed the Philippines, the famous Father  José María Algué, SJ, of the Manila Observatory was in the process of producing an atlas of the Philippines. This was published by the USGS in 1900, long predating NAS Cubi Point. If you click on the above picture you’ll see a larger version of the map, which shows that the promontory was already called Cuby Point.

To seal the deal, Camilo de Arana,’s Derrotero del Archipiélago Filipino of 1879  has an entry for Punto Cuby  at the entrance to the port of Olongapo.

In other words, the name has nothing to do with the Americans at all.

So, where did the name come from?  As it happenes we have a likely answer to that:

Cubi, cuby or kubi in Tagalog, is a tree found in mixed dipterocarp forests like that of Subic Bay, scientifically known as Artocarpus nitidus Trécul, which grows about 15 metres high and bears an edible, if not particularly tasty fruit.

Such a tree would be a useful aid to navigation “Go starboard when you see the point where the Kubi trees grow.”

So, Cubi Point was named after a tree, but maybe you have other explanations>