Wednesday, 7 May 2008

A Filipino was FIRST to circumnavigate the earth?!?!?

We were taught in school that it was Ferdinand Magellan, discoverer of the Philippines, who first circumnavigate the earth. I was browsing through the Philippine Star website the other day and found an article by Carmen Guerrero Nakpil who would change that piece of history. The article was entitled "The first OFW" or the first overseas Filipino worker. It tells of the slave given the name Enrique, who was brought to Malaysia by Muslim pirates, then bought by Magellan and later on joined the exploration to find the route to the Spice Islands. In 1521, they land in Homonhon, Philippines were Enrique is reunited with his countrymen, completing the trip to make him the first circumnavigator of the world. Read more of the article here:

The First OFW

I decided to research more on Enrique and this is what I've found:

"On a previous voyage, Magellan had purchased a Filipino slave, Enrique, who traveled with him to Spain and Portugal and then sailed on this voyage, thereby earning an equal claim to the title of first to circumnavigate the earth. Magellan's will specified that Enrique was to be freed on Magellan's death, but Magellan's shipmates ignored the will. However, Enrique escaped and returned home." --Steven Dutch, University of Wisconsin

From the book "Magellan" by Tim Joyner:

His accomplishment was by mere circumstance. He was kidnapped from the Visayas, eventually ending up in Malacca (now part of Malaysia) in 1511 where he was acquired by a sailor named Hernando de Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan to many), who brought him back to Europe as a slave. He then accompanied Magellan on his voyage west to the Spice Islands, the Moluccas (Maluku in Indonesia), when wisdom of the day was that they were to the east. Thus he became Enrique de Malacca, first circumnavigator of the Earth.

"Here occurred an event that provided clear proof that Magellan's squadron, by travelling west across an uncharted ocean, had achieved the goal that had eluded Columbus. They had reached the eastern limit of the known world. A canoe bearing eight natives came out from Limasawa to inspect the ships. To his and everyone else's delight, Magellan's Malay slave, Enrique, understood the speech of their visitors.

"Magellan had acquired Enrique in Malacca in 1511. Pigafetta said that he was from Sumatra, but Philippine scholars have suggested that a native of Sumatra could not have understood the dialect spoken in the Central Philippines. They deem it more likely that Enrique had been raised in the Central Philippines, was captured, then sold into slavery in Sumatra before being taken to Malacca. If so, Enrique was the first human to have completed a full circuit of the Earth."

Ibang klase talaga ang Pinoy! OFWs keep the economy alive today. Little did I know, an OFW helped shape the discovery of our nation.


Vicente Calibo de Jesus said...

Enrique, Magellan’s slave, did not round the world

Magellan's slave's name was "Henrich" in the eyewitness account of Antonio Pigafetta. In the Last Will of Ferdinand Magellan, it is Hispanicized as "Enrique" which is also what appears in official documents of the Spanish official agency, the Casa de Contratacion de las Indias.

He was most definitely Malay although there's room for discussion as to exactly which place he comes from. Pigafetta states he was from Sumatra, Magellan states in his Will that Enrique was from Malacca. A non-eyewitness, Maximilian Transylvanus, who interviewed Enrique's mates who did round the world, wrote the slave came from the Moluccas, which would make him an Indonesian. Maximilian's statement, being not firsthand, would be what we'd call "hearsay" and therefore is the least credible among the three.
Did Enrique circumnavigate the globe? To be precise, let's define "circumnavigate." It means one sails from one longitude and goes around the world ending up in that same longitude where one started. If he's from Malacca, at longitude 112° 30 East, then Enrique would have rounded the world if he had sailed back to that same longitude never mind if not exactly Malacca itself. There is no record he reached that longitude ever. The last written document or even oral testimony puts the slave in Cebu the Philippines on May 31, 1521. Nothing more is said of Enrique beyond that date which is recorded by Pigafetta. Cebu is at longitude 123°13'E. It is 11° short of rounding the globe.
If Enrique was from Sumatra, at 107°55 East, he was short of circumnavigating the globe by 16°.
If he were from the Moluccas, at 127°24'E, he would have overshot, i.e., overcirumnavigated the globe by 4°. If!

Those who contend he is Malaysian (either from Malacca or Sumatra) argue Enrique was able to hop unto a ship sometime after May 1521 and reached his home before Victoria, the last ship of Magellan's Armada, sailed back to Spain in September 1521. The problem with such assertion is it is without support. It's as valid as claiming Enrique did end up somewhere in planet Mars. Both statements are products of imagination, one wild the other out of this world.
There's a very extensive discussion of this issue at Wikipedia which covers the equally popular claim that Enrique came from Cebu and therefore successfully circumnavigated earth on April 7, 1521 when Magellan's fleet arrived at the place. This claim involved the implied claim that all those who wrote Enrique was from some other place lied. That is, Pigafetta, Magellan, Maximilian, and other eyewitnesses such as Gines de Mafra, Bartolome de las Casas, including the official documents, falsified truth.

To know more about this outlandish notion, which victimized many famous authors like Laurence Bergreen, William Manchester, etc., click


Anonymous said...

Leche daming satsat! Calibo tangina mo! Panget

Gary said...

Well, my take is different. Enrique was a Filipino whom Magellan met in Malacca while on a scouting mission before he embarked on his planned voyage to find the Western route to the Moluccas. The story I know (read) is that Magellan headed as far east from Spain as he could so that he could scout the area and inquire as to what lay further east of Malacca. There was a thriving Filipino population in Malacca and that was where he met Enrique. Let's not be surprised to know that a Filipino community existed in what is now Malaysia just as there were Chinese in the Philippines in those times. There was much trade in the far east long before the Spaniards arrived from the east.

After finding Enrique who knew how to communicate in several Filipino languages and who was a pilot (a navigator), Magellan asked Enrique to come back with him. Presumably, to convince his financiers that the journey was feasible. (To bring back as a slave??? For what purpose? It doesn't make sense. What makes more sense of the fact that Enrique was in Magellan's will is that Magellan felt a debt of gratitude towards Enrique.)

My source is a 20 year recollection of reading some materials in the library of Carlos Quirino, a Filipino historian, including the article of Quirino mentioned in Wikipedia. The Wiki article however does not discuss what the article contains. A shame. Hmmm, a slave whose real name was "Henrich". Isn't that a German name? A German slave amongst the Malaysians. There's a disconnect there.

Gary Santos

Gary said...

There's a lot of room for debate on this issue, I have to add. However, one thing though I'd like to point out is that official history is not necessarily true. There was surely a motivation to obscure the identity of Enrique especially if he was relied on to ensure the success of the enterprise. It was a big thing then to publish one's stories in what was the Age of Exploration and then there was also Spanish pride.

Remember, Enrique was not just brought along as a pilot (a navigator) but also because Enrique was able to communicate with Cebuanos. This is what Pigafetta says in his journal.

No, I'm sorry, I can't accept that a person named Henrich who was a professional navigator and who could speak and translate was enslaved by Magellan in Malacca. Quirino's history makes more sense.

Gary said...

Vicente Calibo de Jesus wrote to Gary Santos to which Gary Santos replies:

You should have posted on the site for the benefit of the wondering girl. It would encourage her and the others to go to National Bookstore's Filipiniana section and read for themselves. (Better still, the U.P. Diliman library.) And, so armed with "facts" and "figures" to be able to . . . oh, nevermind.

Like I said, there's much room for debate precisely because the matter is under-researched or perhaps the records purposely obscured (of which I am a believer). When I read about "Henrich" from Pigafetta's chronicles, I had my doubts already. The name jumped out from the page and I wondered why Pigafetta didn't write more about this German slave. As a chronicler, Pigafetta stinks.

As you point out with your cites, the record is checkered. Who are we to believe?

Believe official history if you want, my friend. The record is so spotty that a conclusion on the matter is impossible. No one including those you cite are credible enough to settle the issue.

For me, I choose to look at it with a critical mind and am therefore quite open to the idea that Enrique, pilot and translator, able to speak with Cebuanos, betrayed by his so called friends, was the first man to circumnavigate the world. He likely didn't realize it as he landed in Spain nor of its ramifications but the others in the Court surely did.

History is not necessarily based on facts. History is always kind to those who write it. . .especially in those times. I will illustrate:

The Philippines was the last place on earth to be formally introduced formally to the Old World. The "discovery" of the Philippines ended the Age of Exploration and, sadly, Magellan failed in his mission of finding the Spice Islands which ironically was just a few latitudes to the south. (Stupid man.) Because of this, the Philippines can be said to be the youngest country of History whose natural development was interrupted by a series of invasions by foreigners backed by their military and who only exploited its resources and its peoples. The peaceful Chinese traders who settled in the Philippines and took on Malay wives were thrown out of the country 2 times or forced marched to the other provinces once because the 6,000 or so Spaniards in the walled city of Intramuros feared for their lives as the population (30,000?) in Binondo increased over the early centuries.

Addendum: If I recall correctly, Pigagetta did not publish long after he returned to Spain. 9 years or some ridiculously long delay), it took him. Someone even beat him to the punch. Was it Gines de Mafra? After how many years? Hmmm. I wonder how and why?

P.S. Vicente, I mean no malice by posting like this. My apologies if I offend. I just want to encourage these young minds to read for themselves and not to rely on 2 oldies' accounts of what they read. Perhaps, they would be interested to know that Lakan Dula had a cannon maker whose skill impressed the Spaniards enough to entice him to join their ranks. They promised not to kill him and would give him a nice salary if he made cannons for them.

I am trying to get a copy of Quirino's article. If I do, I will post it somehow.

Gary said...

And, oh, seem to recall that the surviving records of the voyage included salaries to the crew and had Enrique drawing one of the top wages. Maybe, I'm mistaken. This was 20 years ago that I browsed through the Quirino library. I'm not sure. But, indeed, the Spaniards did keep such records for these expensive, financed by some third party, voyages of exploration. The rich financiers would put their man onboard to keep such records. And, I do seem to recall reading that Enrique drew a wage. So, he couldn't be a slave by definition, could he?

Anonymous said...

Calibo panget! Gurang! Bakla ka ba?

Vicente Calibo de Jesus said...

List of crew of Magellan fleet can be found at my Facebook, go to

This list of 241 is not complete however. A number of men were recruited at Canary Islands but there names do not appear in the official record of the Casa Contratacion de las Indias.