Homonhon: Where the First European Ships Landed
And Friendship Treaty Signed
By Rudy A. Arizala
Philippine history books in recording the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and his men in our part of the world simply states that Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese in the service of the Spanish crown, was looking for a westward route to the to the Spice Islands. On March 16, 1521, Magellan's expedition landed on Homonhon island in the Philippines. He was the first European to reach the islands.
However, if we shall delve deeper into that historical event based on available documents, Magellan and his men “landed” or disembarked on the island the next day, on 17 March and not on 16 March 1521. Also important events occurred in that tiny island in East Samar. Hereunder is what historians tell us about an unpublished document on said landing at Homonhon island.
According to a paper read by Ms. Charo Nabong Cabardo on 25 November 2004, the document was found sometime in 1867 among the civil archives in an old building on Calle Postigo in Intramuros. It was part of the documents of Governor General Alfonsus Faxardo and a Spaniard, Gil Piamontes de Alazerna had decided to decipher or translate them.
Said document narrates that on March 17, while still anchored, Magellan was visited by several boats or praus, carrying the chiefs of Suluan named Inaroyan, Limbas, Bucad, Layong, Calipay, Badiao, Cabuling and their datu, Garas-Garas. They boarded the ship of Magellan. Magellan explained to them through his interpreter, Enrique, that their King of Spain sent them to spread Christian Faith and convert them to the true religion. Magellan also told them of their sad experience at the island of the Ladrones. Datu Garas-Garas replied that the chief of that island was named Tilic-Mata and he was not a friend of theirs. Garas-Garas invited Magellan ashore and accept his hospitality.
Because of that invitation,the Spaniards disembarked, pitched their tents and Magellan’s men suffering from scurvy were fed with coconuts and other fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, Garas-Garas "having a number of fishing boats with nets, caught a great quantity of fish with dexterity and skill and provided the party of Magellan with the food.” Because of the hospitality of the natives, Magellan called Homonhon, Nueva Providencia.
The next day, Datu Garas-garas gave gifts to Magellan consisting of two large jars of rice, a bamboo tube full of honey, pigs, fowls, fruits, vegetables such as eggplants, and a gold headed truncheon. But Magellan refused to receive the truncheon, saying it was of too much value. In return Magellan gave Garas-Garas a pearly colored mantle of wool, a purple hat, some shirts of merino, Toledo knives, mirrors and silver buttons. Garas-garas divided the gifts among his people and brought out a jar of tuba in which they drank to each other’s health.
Magellan and Garas-Garas also agreed to celebrate a treaty of friendship. However, the day which followed was stormy and nothing was done until the 19th of March, when most of the Spaniards disembarked, leaving only enough men to guard the vessels. Mass was celebrated and after the ceremony a tall cross was installed near the shore. Garas-Garas, Inarayon, and the others chieftains entered into a treaty of friendship with Don Hernando Magallanes who represented his Majesty the king of Spain. Said treaty was drawn up by Leon de Espeleta.
From the foregoing narrative, we could see that Magellan and his men arrived on the island of Homonhon on 16 March 1521. However, he and his men did not land or disembark from their ships upon arrival but decided to do so the following day, that was on 17 March 1521. And on 19 March more Magellan’s crew members disembarked. That Magellan and his men were well-received by the native chieftains and provided with foods, water, and exchanged gifts with them. They also entered into a “friendship treaty.”
It may be asked what have we done to mark said historical event? Nothing much except the installation of a huge cross on the spot where Magellan expedition landed and the construction of a small church near Pagbabangnan shore where Magellan and his men landed.
The island of Homonhon is a fishing village and at present according to information there are illegal chromite mining in said island. The island of Homonhon aside from its historical significance could also be developed into a tourist spot as what the Chileans are doing in their port city of Punta Arenas located at the southernmost part of their country along the narrow water passage now called the “Straits of Magellan”.
What are the Chileans doing to develop the southernmost part of Chile as tourist spot?
According to newspaper report (Chilean national newspaper El Mercurio of 03 December 2010), Chile has recently engaged in a project to boost tourism by giving historical importance or significance to places - for example to the bi-oceanic narrow passage of water from the Atlantic to the Pacific at the southern tip of Chile utilized by Fernando Magallanes in 1520, to reach the Spice Islands but instead landed in the islands now called the Philippines.
The newspaper report added, (please see attached clipping / pictures), a Chilean businessman/tourist promoter has embarked on a job reconstructing a replica of Magellan’s ship “Victoria” which he and his men used in crossing through the narrow body of water from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean now called the “Straits of Magellan” in his honor.