Ruy López de Villalobos

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Ruy López de Villalobos
Bornca. 1500
DiedApril 4, 1544 (aged 4344)
Ambon, Moluccas Islands, Indonesia
Known forHe gave the name Las Islas Filipinas to the Philippines to honor Philip II of Spain

Ruy López de Villalobos (Spanish pronunciation:  [rui̯ ˈlopeθ ðe βiʝaˈloβos] ; ca. 1500 – April 4, 1544) was a Spanish explorer who sailed the Pacific from Mexico to establish a permanent foothold for Spain in the East Indies, which was near the Line of Demarcation between Spain and Portugal according to the Treaty of Zaragoza in 1529. Villalobos gave the Philippines their name, after calling them Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip of Austria, the Prince of Asturias at the time, who later became Philip II of Spain. In 1542 he also discovered a Pacific group of islands, most likely Hawaii, but the Spaniard kept the discovery secret. [1]

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a European country located in Southwestern Europe with some pockets of Spanish territory across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 129 million people, Mexico is the tenth most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states plus Mexico City (CDMX), which is the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the country include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León.

East Indies region encompassing South (Indian subcontinent) and Southeast Asia

The East Indies or the Indies are the lands of South and Southeast Asia. In a more restricted sense, the Indies can be used to refer to the islands of Southeast Asia, especially the Indonesian Archipelago and the Philippine Archipelago. The name "Indies" is used to connote parts of Asia that came under the Indian cultural sphere.


Expedition to the Philippine Islands

López de Villalobos was commissioned in 1541 by the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, who was the first colonial administrator in the New World, to send an expedition to the Islas del Poniente, meaning Islands of the West, now known as the Philippines. His fleet of six galleon ships, the Santiago, San Jorge, San Antonio, San Cristóbal, San Martín, and San Juan, left Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico with 370 to 400 men on November 1, 1542. The fleet first encountered the Revilla Gigedo Islands off the west coast of Mexico, among which the sighting of Roca Partida was reported for the first time. On 26 December 1542 they sighted a group of islands in the Marshalls that they called Corales (Corals in Spanish), which most probably are those of the Wotje Atoll. They thought these to be the Los Reyes islands previously charted by Álvaro de Saavedra in his 1528 expedition. They anchored at one of the islets that they named San Esteban (St. Stephen). They left on 6 January 1543 and that same day they sighted several small islands on the same latitude as the Corales, which they named Los Jardines (The Gardens), which were those of Kwajalein. On 23 January 1543 the expedition found Fais in the Carolines that they charted as Matelotes. [2] On 26 January 1543 they charted some new islands as Los Arrecifes (The Reefs) which have been identified as the Yaps also in the Carolines. [3] [4]

Antonio de Mendoza Spanish colonial administrator

Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco was the first Viceroy of New Spain, serving from November 14, 1535 to November 25, 1550, and the third Viceroy of Peru, from September 23, 1551, until his death on July 21, 1552.

New World Collectively, the Americas and Oceania

The New World is one of the names used for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas, and Oceania.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.

According to Oskar Spate with Villalobos there was the pilot Juan Gaetan, credited for the discovery of Hawaii by La Perouse. [1] Gaetan's voyage is described in similar terms, with the same sequence of islands in 1753, with no identification to any others known at the time, which is an a posteriori conjecture. [5] In 1825, Casado Giraldes, a Portuguese geographer states that the Sandwich Islands were discovered by Gaetan in 1542, and does not even mention James Cook. [6]

Oskar Hermann Khristian Spate was a geographer best known for his role in strengthening geography as a discipline in Australia and the Pacific.

Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse French Navy officer and explorer

Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse was a French Naval officer and explorer whose expedition vanished in Oceania.

James Cook 18th-century British explorer

Captain James Cook was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. He made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Between January 6 to 23, 1543, the galleon San Cristóbal piloted by Gines de Mafra, who was a member of the crew of the Magellan expedition in 1519-1522, was separated from the fleet during a severe storm. This ship eventually reached the island of Mazaua, a place were Magellan anchored in 1521. This was the second visit of de Mafra to the Philippines, which is identified today as Limasawa in the southern island of Leyte. The story of Limasawa was written in 1667 by a Jesuit priest, Friar Francisco Combés. His documents on "Limasawa" has been translated by historians. [7]

Ferdinand Magellan Portuguese explorer in the service of Spain

Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who organised the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth, completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano.

Limasawa Municipality in Eastern Visayas, Philippines

Limasawa, officially the Municipality of Limasawa, is a 6th class municipality in the province of Southern Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 6,061 people.

Francisco Combés was a Spanish priest who established Christian monasteries in the Philippines in the 17th century.

On February 29, 1543, they entered Baganga Bay, which they named Malaga on the eastern coast of Mindanao. López de Villalobos named Mindanao "Caesarea Karoli" after the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V of Spain. The fleet stayed there for 32 days; the entire crew suffered extreme hunger. He ordered his men to plant corn but it failed. On March 31, 1543, the fleet left in search of Mazaua for food. Because of low-winds they could not sail on. After several days of struggle, they reached Sarangani.

Mindanao second largest island of the Philippines

Mindanao or still commonly known as Southern Philippines, is the second-largest island in the Philippines. Mindanao and the smaller islands surrounding it make up the island group of the same name. Located in the southern region of the archipelago, as of the 2010 census, the main island was inhabited by 20,281,545 people, while the entire Mindanao island group had an estimated total of 25,537,691 (2018) residents.

Holy Roman Emperor Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Emperor, officially the Emperor of the Romans, and also the German-Roman Emperor, was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The title was, almost without interruption, held in conjunction with title of King of Germany throughout the 12th to 18th centuries.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 16th-century Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria from 1519, King of Spain from 1516, and Lord of the Netherlands as titular Duke of Burgundy from 1506. Head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over the Austrian hereditary lands and the burgundian Low Countries, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".

The galleon San Cristóbal, which had been driven ashore on Limasawa Island 2 months before, appeared unexpectedly with a load of rice and other foodstuffs for the commander. On August 4, 1543, the San Juan, and San Cristóbal were sent back to Leyte and Samar for more food, with the San Juan to stock up for the Pacific crossing and to proceed to Mexico. [8] A Portuguese contingent arrived on August 7, and delivered a letter from Jorge de Castro, governor of the Moluccas, demanding an explanation for the presence of the fleet in Portuguese territory. López de Villalobos responded, in a letter dated August 9, that they were not trespassing, and were within the Demarcation Line of the Crown of Castile.

Crown of Castile Former country in the Iberian Peninsula

The Crown of Castile was a medieval state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and, some decades later, the parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then Castilian king, Ferdinand III, to the vacant Leonese throne. It continued to exist as a separate entity after the personal union in 1469 of the crowns of Castile and Aragon with the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs up to the promulgation of the Nueva Planta decrees by Philip V in 1715.

The San Juan left for Mexico on August 27, 1543, with Bernardo de la Torre as captain. Another letter from Castro arrived in the first week of September with the same protest, and López de Villalobos wrote a reply dated September 12, 1543, with the same message as his first. He departed to Abuyog, Leyte with his remaining ships, the San Juan, and the San Cristóbal. The fleet could not make headway because of unfavorable winds. In April 1544, he sailed for Island of Amboyna. He, and his crew members then made their way to the islands of Samar, and Leyte, which he named Las Islas Filipinas (The Philippine Islands) in honour of the Prince of Spain, Philip II. Driven away by hostile natives, hunger, and a shipwreck, López de Villalobos was forced to abandon his settlements in the islands, and the expedition. He, and his crew members sought refuge in the Moluccas, where they quarrelled with the Portuguese, who imprisoned them.

López de Villalobos died on April 4, 1544, in his prison cell on the island of Amboyna, of a tropical fever, or as the Portuguese said "of a broken heart". [9] Some 117 remaining crew members survived, among them were de Mafra, and Guido de Lavezaris. De Mafra produced one manuscript on the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation, and had this delivered to Spain by a friend on board. They sailed for Malacca, where the Portuguese put them on a ship bound for Lisbon. Thirty elected to remain, including de Mafra. His manuscript remained unrecognized for many centuries. It was discovered in the 20th century, and published in 1920.

An account of the voyage based on the recollections of a surviving Italian sailor, Juan Gaetano, was published in 1550-1559 by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, an Italian historian, in his Navigationi et Viaggi ("Navigations and Travels"); a collection of explorers' first-hand accounts of their travels which also included accounts of Marco Polo, Magellan, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and others. [10]


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  1. 1 2 Oskar Spate, "The Spanish Lake" (1979). Pages 108-109 (2004 edition): «On the maps of today the Hawaiian Islands lie so blatantly between the east and west-bound tracks of the Galleons, that it seems almost mandatory that some stray must have found them. The inference was first drawn by La Pérouse, who deduced from Spanish charts that islands named "La Mesa", "Los Majos", and "La Disgraciada", in the right latitude but too much far to the east were in fact the Hawaiian group, La Mesa ("the Table") in particular being the main island with the great table-massif of Mauna Loa; the error in longitude was put down to Spanish failure to allow for currents. On one such chart is a note saying that Juan Gaetan, who was with Villalobos in 1542, discovered the group, and named it Islas de Mesa, in 1555; unluckily this chart also gives Cook's name, the Sandwich Islands.»
  2. Quite surprisingly for the Spaniards, upon their arrival to Fais the local people approached the ships in canoes making the sign of the cross and saying "Buenos días, matelotes!" in perfect sixteenth century Spanish ("Good day, sailors!"), this being an evidence that one of the previous Spanish expeditions had been in the area
  3. Coello, Francisco (1885). La Cuestión de las Carolinas. Discursos pronunciados en la Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid por su presidente Don Francisco Coello con un mapa, notas y apuntes bibliográficos sobre los antiguos descubrimientos de los españoles en los archipielagos de la Micronesia y sus cercanias. Madrid: Imprenta Fontanet. pp. 82–87.
  4. Sharp, Andrew (1960). The discovery of the Pacific Islands. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 26.29.
  5. Histoire Generale des Voyages: ou nouvelle collection de toutes les relations de voyages par mer et par terre, qui ont été publiées jusqu'à présent dans les différentes langues de toutes les nations connues contenant ce qu'il y a de plus remarquable (French edition). Peter de Hondt. (1747-1768). Volume 16 (1753).
  6. Joaquim Casado Giraldes, Tratado completo de cosmographia e geographia (Volume 1), 1825 (p. 26) «SANDWICH - (ilhas e arquipélago de), compõem-se de 11 ilhas no oceano Pacífico, que foram descobertas em 1542, por Gaetan, espanhol, e terão 40 000 almas. O clima é assaz temperado, o terreno é fértil e fazem algum comércio.» (Sandwich, islands and archipelago, are composed of 11 islands in the Pacific Ocean, discovered in 1542, by Gaetan, spanish, and they will have 40 000 souls....)
  7. The Great Island - Studies in the exploration and Evangelization of Mindanao.
  8. William Henry Scott (1985) Cracks in the Parchment Curtain ISBN   971-10-0073-3 p51
  9. William Henry Scott (1985) Cracks in the Parchment Curtain ISBN   971-10-0073-3 p54
  10. Quanchi, Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Pacific Islands, page 247