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Magellan reaches the Philippines

This Day in World History

March 16, 1521

Magellan Reaches the Philippines

On March 16, 1521, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, attempting to sail around the world for Spain, reached the Philippine archipelago. Magellan and his expedition were the first Europeans to reach the Philippines, a stop on the first circumnavigation of the globe, though Magellan’s portion of that journey would soon end.

The expedition of five ships and 250 men had left Spain on September 20, 1519. Magellan sought a western route — avoiding the southern tip of Africa, which Portugal controlled — to the Spice Islands (the Moluccas) of Southeast Asia. Magellan survived two mutinies before sailing around the southern tip of South America, finding the strait named for him, in November of 1520. Reaching calm waters after a dangerous passage, Magellan named the ocean west of South America “the Pacific Ocean.”

As the ships continued sailing west, supplies dwindled, the crew was forced to eat leather and drink a mixture of salt and freshwater, and men began dying of scurvy. Fortified by provisions secured at island stops along the way, the ships reached the Philippines in March 1521.

Magellan spent more than a month in the area, trading with local leaders and trying to convert them to Christianity. He grew angry at one chief who refused to cooperate, however, and ordered an attack on his village. Wounded in the fighting, Magellan bravely held his ground while the rest of his men escaped back to the ship, but then received more wounds and died on the beach.

It took until September of 1522 for the remains of the expedition, 17 survivors under the command of Juan Sebastián de Elcano, to reach Spain. Though he did not complete this voyage, Magellan is considered the first person to circumnavigate the globe because earlier in his career he had sailed an eastern route from Portugal to Southeast Asia, the same region he had reached on his last, fatal voyage by sailing west.

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Recent Comments

  1. Dan

    Would it have been too much trouble to name the local chief Lapu-Lapu, the Philippines’ first hero against European aggression? Also, the article makes it sound like Magellan died valiantly, when in reality he manipulated one chieftain against another, and died because he underestimated the strength of Lapu-Lapu’s forces.

  2. Roberto B. D. Veneracion, Jr.

    When shall we celebrate Lapulapu day and when shall we declare Lapulapu a hero? Wait till Rodrigo Roa will become president ‘coz he was born in Maasin?

  3. Edward Dean Macandog

    Conquerors always record their exploits in their favor. They project the good side of their conquest but the means n ways are kept under wraps. History belongs to those victorious in their mission . My interpretation of magellan’s encounter with Lapu-lapu is that of a typical conquistador forcing his way to the locals feeling God almighty. Imagine some alien walking straight to your backyard and claiming outright ownership using religion as platform to gain support and sympathy. Too bad , Lapu-lapu was one bad ass chief that cant be fooled.

  4. Geno

    when did Magellan first shared food with cebuanos? much like native americans, I’m curious as to when are filipinos will celebrate thanksgiving day.

  5. Avonna Wilkes

    What did he find though I need to do a project for school and I’ve learned nothing about what I searched

  6. Johnathan


  7. Reyes

    This is how historians recorded/ presented documents. It is still covering it’s true details. Blinded the efforts of true heroes


    Philippines called The Kingdom of Maharlika before the Spanish claimed it under by King Philip. It was Civilized before they discover it. The history are wrote in the “Ang Aklatan” Discovered by Elisha M. Enoc and he is an Archeology

  9. Josie tolero

    Why did magellan come to mactan?

  10. Mario Sabas Lumar

    Thank you for the knowledge about the PHILIPPINES history during spanish regim long time ago

  11. Florence Nagase

    I’m reading Genghis Khan and the making of the Modern World this was the reason I ended up on this sight. Should the Mongols were successful in occupying Japan and Java, the Mongols would have been 300 years earlier from Magellan as what historians put it into word discovered. They also claimed to the reasons of Magellan’s expedition to the Pacific is to proved that the world is round as Christians they should have known that. The Bible says it in Noah’s Ark. Well not explicitly, though.

  12. Kaycee Rosado

    Why did Magellan sailed west not east to reach the Philippines?

  13. Reyan Elaine Ragual

    Magellan “accidentally” went to the Philippines but their main goal is to trade with the people in Moluccas or the Spice Islands. The product that the Spaniards are aiming for is the spices like nutmeg.

  14. Ericka Cervantes

    That’s Lapu-Lapu, the chief who did not cooperate and fight for the Philippines’ religious freedom, one of the Philippines bravest heroes. I just dont understand why people are greedy and does’nt have contentment on what they have and wanting to colonized other country. Its not like you’re going to bring all the lands,money, and power to the afterlife when you die.

  15. Jenny

    Why is he said to be ‘brave’ in standing ground after he attacked a village? I hope those people celebrate how they victoriously defended their village from the Spanish invaders. #decolonisenow

  16. Aguam Hana

    Also remember that even Magellan died because of what he do in native people he always the person who introduced the Christianity that until know our beloved brother and sister christian believe .

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