This Day in History: Ferdinand Magellan Arrived in the Philippines

     On March 16, 1521 Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition landed on Homonhon Island in the Philippines. He was the first European to reach the islands.
Ferdinand Magellan
     Magellan’s expedition started when he proposed to the King of Spain Charles I that he will search for westward route to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. With 5 ships under his command (Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Victoria and Santiago), he left Seville Spain and started the journey to the Spice Island. Magellan had survived 18 months at the sea but was unfortunately killed in the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines.
     Magellan’s expedition has contributed to the world’s field of navigation. His expedition was the first to circumnavigate the world and was also the first to navigate the strait in South America connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But here in the Philippines, his expedition paved the way for Spanish colonization that leaved important influences in the lives of the Filipinos.

1. Religion – Christianity arrived in the country with the landing of Magellan. Soldiers and missionaries firmly planted the seeds of conversion when they officially claimed the archipelago for Spain. Missionary activities during the country’s long colonial rule by Spain transformed the Philippines into the first and predominantly Christian nation in East Asia.

2. Language – Various Filipino dialects have significantly assimilated aspects of the Spanish language and contain thousands of loan words. Numerous words and some grammatical concepts of the Spanish vocabulary are used in Chavacano, Cebuano, Tagalog, Bicolano and Ilocano.

3. Name of the Philippines – The name of the Philippines comes from the King of Spain, Philip II. It was given by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos who named the islands of Samar and Leyte, Las Islas de Felipinas. Throughout the colonial period, the name Felipinas was used and became the official name of the Philippines.

4. Spanish Surnames – A decree on the systematic distribution of surnames and implementation of the Spanish naming system resulted in the Spanish surnames of the Filipinos like Rivera, Cordova, Legazpi etc. Many Christianized Filipinos assumed religious-instrument and saint names such as del Rosario, dela Cruz, de los Santos, etc.

5. Culture – The Spanish missionaries introduced to the Filipinos religious festivals, stone houses, manner of clothing and fashion. They also taught the Filipinos to use the Gregorian calendar, the Latin script and the use of Theocentric Art, Music and Literature.

6. Cuisine – Spanish culinary specialties like paella, arroz valenciana and lengua became special part of the local table

7. Political System – The King of Spain governed the Philippines through his sole representative, the Gobernador y Heneral with the seat of power in Intramuros, Manila.The earliest system used during the Spanish period was the Encomienda System. It was then replaced by administrative provinces (alcadia) each headed by alcalde mayor while the pueblo (town) was headed by the gobernadorcillo. 

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