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A History of the Philippines by David P. Barrows

When they reached the Ladrones


Westward on the Pacific Ocean.--But we must not make the mistake of supposing that Magellan and his followers imagined that a great ocean confronted them. They expected that simply sailing northward to the latitude of the Spice Islands would bring them to these desired places. This they did, and then turned westward, expecting each day to find the Indies; but no land appeared. The days lengthened into weeks, the weeks into months, and still they went forward, carried by the trade winds over a sea so smooth and free from tempests that Magellan named it the "Pacific."

But they suffered horribly from lack of food, even eating in their starvation the leather slings on the masts. It was a terrible trial of their courage. Twenty of their number died. The South Pacific is studded with islands, but curiously their route lay just too far north to behold them. From November 28, when they emerged from the Straits of Magellan, until March 7, when they reached the Ladrones, they encountered only two islands, and these were small uninhabited rocks, without water or food, which in their bitter disappointment they named las Desventuradas (the Unfortunate Islands).

The Ladrone Islands.--Their relief must have been inexpressible when, on coming up to land on March the 7th, they found inhabitants and food, yams, cocoanuts, and rice. At these islands the Spaniards first saw the prao, with its light outrigger, and pointed sail. So numerous were these craft that they named the group las Islas de las Velas (the Islands of Sails); but the loss of a ship's boat and other annoying thefts led the sailors to designate the islands Los Ladrones (the Thieves), a name which they still retain.

The Philippine Islands.--Samar.--Leaving the Ladrones Magellan sailed on westward looking for the Moluccas, and the first land that he sighted was the eastern coast of Samar. Pigafetta says: "Saturday, the 16th of March, we sighted an island which has very lofty mountains. Soon after we learned that it was Zamal, distant three hundred leagues from the islands of the Ladrones." [5]

Homonhon.--On the following day the sea-worn expedition, landed on a little uninhabited island south of Samar which Pigafetta called Humunu, and which is still known as Homonhon or Jomonjol.

It was while staying at this little island that the Spaniards first saw the people of the Philippines. A prao which contained nine men approached their ship. They saw other boats fishing near and learned that all of these people came from the island of Suluan, which lies off to the eastward from Jomonjol about twenty kilometres. In their life and appearance these fishing people were much like the present Samal laut of southern Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

Limasaua.--Pigafetta says that they stayed on the island of Jomonjol eight days but had great difficulty in securing food. The natives brought them a few cocoanuts and oranges, palm wine, and a chicken or two, but this was all that could be spared, so, on the 25th, the Spaniards sailed again, and near the south end of Leyte landed on the little island of Limasaua. Here there was a village, where they met two chieftains, whom Pigafetta calls "kings," and whose names were Raja Calambu and Raja Ciagu. These two chieftains were visiting Limasaua and had their residences one at Butuan and one at Cagayan on the island of Mindanao. Some histories have stated that the Spaniards accompanied one of these chieftains to Butuan, but this does not appear to have been the case.


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