History, Arrival of Europeans
In 1521 a Spanish expedition led by explorer and navigator Ferdinand Magellan made the first recorded European contact with the Philippine Islands. Magellan was on a mission for Spanish king Charles I (also Holy Roman emperor as Charles V) to establish a westward route to the Moluccas, also known as the Spice Islands. Located south of the Philippines in present-day Indonesia, these islands were prized for their spices in the trade rivalry between Spain and Portugal, the foremost maritime powers of the time. Magellan’s ships reached the Philippine Islands on an intermediate leg of the voyage, which ultimately accomplished the first circumnavigation of the world. On the Philippine island of Zugbo (now Cebu), Magellan secured the baptism of the local chieftain, Humabon, and then supported Humabon in waging a battle against a rival chieftain, Lapulapu of Mactan. Lapulapu’s warriors, in defending their island, killed Magellan. Lapulapu is remembered as a national hero for successfully resisting the first European invasion of the Philippines.
Other expeditions followed as Spain sought to establish trade routes across the Pacific from its new colonies in the Americas. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, the commander of an expedition that sailed from New Spain (now Mexico) in 1542, claimed the islands for Spain and named them Islas Filipinas, in honor of Charles I’s son and heir Philip, who reigned as Philip II of Spain from 1556 to 1598.
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