By Vanette Colmenares
New York – My alarm was set for 2:30 a.m. but I was up before that and had turned on my computer. Normally, my waking time would be between 5 to 6 which starts with drinking coffee, doing tiny chores and then sitting on my desk for some writing.
But this was no ordinary day. Weeks earlier, I saw on FB that Dr. Jose Eleazar Bersales, a Cebuano historian and lecturer was to have an online lecture about Ferdinand Magellan’s journey to the Philippines. Titled ‘The Magellanic expedition from Spain to the Philippines’ on June 26, 2020, it was part of the Kabilin sa Sugbo series of lectures.
I would not miss it, since I took a whole semester collating for my thesis titled, ‘The Practice of Food and Religion in Cebu City, Philippines.’ It gave me a favorable review since the stories using food as a trading item and religion as a source of magical healing is sure to strike one’s curiosity.
Food and Religion have always been associated with Visayan tradition since the time of Magellan. The anecdotes that were written more than a month-long stay of Magellan in the Philippines was indeed an interesting one. Although the webinar would be an afternoon in the Philippines, or dawn in New York, it did not matter. I was interested to learn more and would not miss it.
Dr. Bersales’s lecture pinpointed that Magellan’s journey from Spain to the Philippines took about two years before landing in Limasawa. It was a pursuit for spices for the Spanish crown, and for dominion over more lands in the East.
Dr. Bersales gave his audience an outline for discussion, the source materials that he used, and showed illustrations of Magellan, Pigafetta and King Carlos I of Spain who approved of his voyage.
During the 1500s, funding of expeditions was costly and thus investors were needed. In return, a percentage of their global finds was promised back to them. Dr. Bersales said that Magellan had learned that the spices found in the East were a lucrative find as gold.
Magellan traded for pigs and cows, which he made into jerky. They traded food from the natives as they needed those as they sailed back to Spain.
The natives traded their gold with the nails of the Spaniards. Dr. Bersales said the datus or chieftains had so much gold.
Magellan’s journey was not without adversities. There were mutinies by disgruntled mates, storms to tackle, hunger days and sometimes, boredom when they would hit doldrums which caused the ships to stay still or travel with no direction as there were no wind nor oars.
Representing the Spanish conquest, Magellan travelled the southern route of the East as agreed in the Treaty of Tordesillas. He went to several places, mostly in Brazil and Guam, until they reached the Philippines in two years.
After the lecture, questions were raised and were easily answered by Dr. Bersales. Clarifications on dates was a point of consideration.
The timeline of Magellan’s Stay and Death in the Hands of Cilapulapu
In my research on the journey of Magellan, it is without doubt that Pigafetta used the Julian Calendar which has set March 16,1521 as a Saturday when the expedition first landed in the island of Humunu.
The Gregorian calendar came because of Pope Gregory XII and was only introduced in 1582. (That day would have been Wednesday in Gregorian) Therefore, for purposes of matching the timeline in its context as part of the addendum in the Preface of Pigafeta’s chronicles (PRIMO VIAGGIO INTORNO AL MONDO, translation: James Alexander Robertson 1906, The Guttenberg Project ) below is the summary of Magellan’s events:
March 16,1521 (Saturday) Magellan arrives Hummunu
March 18, 1521 (Monday) first time Europeans saw the natives who promised provisions for them
March 22,1521 (Friday) first acquaintance with the chieftain, Spaniards stayed a week before going to Limasawa Island
March 28,1521 (Thursday) Arrived Limasawa, and Enrique, the Mallaca servant interpreted for them
March 29,1521 (Good Friday) Pigafetta spent overnight with the King of Limasawa, his son took charge and accorded hospitality to them
March 31,1521 (Easter Sunday) first mass on the shore of Limasawa and placed a cross on the highest part of the island. Then stayed a week before moving on
April 7 ,1521 (Sunday) Arrived in Cebu
April 10,1521 (Wednesday) Two of Magellan’s crew were buried
April 12,1521 (Friday) Trading begins with the natives and Spaniards
April 14, 1521 (Sunday) Baptism of the natives and given European names. Queen was presented with the statue.
April 20,1521 (Saturday) A chief from a neigboring island goes to Cebu to asks Magellan to help him defeat Cilapulapu. Magellan prepares.
April 27,1521 (Saturday) Magellan engages which is now considered the ‘Battle of Mactan.’ Magellan suffers defeat and dies.
The afternoon (or dawn in New York) went so quick that it was time to wrap up the lecture. The moderator thanked Dr. Bersales and the viewers said their comments.
Later, I sent Dr. Bersales a private message regarding some inquiries and a congratulatory greeting on an enlightening and interesting lecture, till the next one! #