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Ruy López de Villalobos

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ruy López de Villalobos
Bornc. 1500
DiedApril 23, 1546 (aged 45–46)
Known forSometimes credited with naming the Philippines

Ruy López de Villalobos (Spanish pronunciation: [ruj ˈlopeθ ðe βiʝaˈloβos]; c. 1500 – 23 April 1546) was a Spanish explorer who led a failed attempt to colonize the Philippines in 1543, attempting to assert Spanish control there under the terms of the treaties of Tordesillas and Zaragoza. Unable to feed his men through barter, raiding, or farming and unable to request resupply from Mexico due to poor knowledge of the Pacific's winds and currents, López de Villalobos abandoned his mission and fled to the Portuguese-held Moluccas, where he died in prison. He is chiefly remembered for some sources crediting him with naming Leyte the "Philippine Island" in honor of the Spanish crown prince Philip (later King Philip II). The name was later extended across the entire Philippine Archipelago and its nation. (Other sources credit the name to one of his captains, Bernardo de la Torre.)

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  • Las Hawai las descubrió un español, no el inglés Cook


Philippine Expedition

The plaque in Málaga, Spain, López de Villalobos's home town, commemorating his naming of the Philippines. (Some sources credit his captain Bernardo de la Torre for the name instead.)
The plaque in Málaga, Spain, López de Villalobos's home town, commemorating his naming of the Philippines. (Some sources credit his captain Bernardo de la Torre for the name instead.)

López de Villalobos was commissioned in 1541 by Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain and first colonial administrator in the New World, to send an expedition to the Philippines, then known to the Spanish as the "Islands of the West" (Islas del Poniente). They lay at the far western frontier of the division of the world between Spain and Portugal established by the treaties of Tordesillas and Zaragoza—in fact they lay over the line within the Portuguese area—and there was a need to establish a larger Spanish presence there as a base for trade with the Spice Islands and China. If possible, the goal was to extend Spanish control over the Moluccas in the Portuguese East Indies.[1][2] López de Villalobos was chosen for the command because he was related to De Mendoza by marriage.[1]

López de Villalobos's fleet of six ships left Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, in New Spain (now Mexico) with 370–400 men on 1 November 1542.[1] His flagship (capitana) was the Santiago of 150–200 toneladas, formerly owned by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. He chose Gaspar Rico as the expedition's chief pilot (piloto mayor).[3] The second ship—the fleet's almiranta—was the 120-tonelada galleon San Jorge, equipt with a cutwater (espolón) and under the command of Bernardo de la Torre and his pilot Alonso Fernández Tarifeño.[3] The third ship of 90–100 toneladas is variously referenced as the San Anton, the San Antonio, the San Felipe, and the Siete Galigos ("Seven Greyhounds"). It was captained by Francisco Merino and piloted by Francisco Ruiz.[3] The fourth ship of 70 toneladas was the San Juan de Letrán under Alonso Manrique, piloted by Ginés de Mafra,[3] who had been a member of the 1519–1522 Magellan expedition. The fifth was the galley San Cristóbal under Pedro Ortíz de Rueda, piloted by Antonio Corço and powered by sails and 20 pairs of oars.[3] The last was the fusta San Martín under Juan Martel, piloted by Cristóbal de Pareja and powered by sails and 14 pairs of oars.[3][a] The large number of passengers included a unit of soldiers and a number of gentlemen, who brought black slaves and about 40 [[Indigenous peoples of the Americas |Indian]] men and women as servants.[3] Martín de Islares acted as factor and interpreter; Guido de Lavezaris, later governor of the Philippines, as treasurer; Maestre Anes ("Master Hans"), previously part of both the Magellan and Loaísa expeditions, as chief gunner; and Gerónimo de Santisteban as head of the voyage's clergy, which included 3 other Augustinian priests and 4 or 5 deacons.[3]

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 the Corals (Corales), which most probably are those of the Wotje Atoll. They thought these to be the Islands of the Kings (Los Reyes) previously charted by Álvaro de Saavedra in his 1528 expedition. They anchored at one of the islets, which they named San or Santo Esteban ("St. Stephen").[1] They left on 6 January 1543 and that same day they sighted several small islands on the same latitude as the Corals, which they named the Garden Islands (Los Jardines),[1] now the Kwajalein Atoll. On 23 January 1543,[1] the expedition found Fais in the Carolines, which they charted as the Sailors (Matelotes).[b] On 26 January 1543, they charted some new islands as the Reefs (Los Arrecifes) which have since been identified as the Yaps, also part of the Carolines.[4][5]

According to Spate, Villalobos's crew included the pilot Juan Gaetan, credited by La Perouse for the discovery of Hawaii.[6] Gaetan's voyage was described in similar terms in 1753 with the same sequence of islands and no identification of any others known by the time of the account.[7] In 1825, the Portuguese geographer Casado Giraldes stated that the "Sandwich Islands"—i.e. the Hawaiian Islands—were discovered by Gaetan in 1542 and did not even mention James Cook.[8]

From 6–23 January 1543, the galley San Cristóbal—now piloted by De Mafra—was separated from the other ships after a severe storm. It eventually reached the island of Mazaua, where Magellan had anchored in 1521. The area has since been identified as Limasawa in southern Leyte. Its history was subsequently recorded in 1667 by the Jesuit priest Francisco Combés.[9]

Although he was attempting to reach Cebu, López de Villalobos ignored the advice of his pilot to lead the ships north of Mindanao.[2] Instead, on February 2nd, the fleet reached northeastern Mindanao, exposed to the weather coming from the open ocean and separated from any Chinese or Malay traders.[10] Stuck in place, they repaired their ships after the voyage.[1] Bernardo de la Torre[11] or López de Villalobos[10] named Mindanao Cesarea Karoli (Latin: Caesarea Caroli) in honor of the Habsburg emperor Charles V, who was also king of Spain as Carlos I. The fleet stayed there for 32 days while suffering extreme hunger and attempting to find supplies.[citation needed] They resorted to eating grubs, unknown plants, land crabs that sickened the crew, and a phosphorescent gray lizard which killed most of those who ate it.[10] Villalobos ordered his men to plant corn[which?] but it failed.[citation needed] On March 31st, the fleet left for Mazaua in search of food but could not make progress due to the lack of wind.[citation needed] After several days, they reached Sarangani, where they lost six men while raiding a local village for supplies. During this period, either Bernardo de la Torre[12][13] or López de Villalobos[10] named Leyte and Samar the Philippines (Felipinas) in honor of Charles's son the crown prince Philip (later King Philip II).

On August 7th, a Portuguese ship arrived with a letter from Jorge de Castro, governor of the Moluccas. De Castro demanded an explanation for the presence of the Spaniards in Portuguese territory, in response to which López de Villalobos drafted a letter dated August 9th. His letter repeated the Spanish claims to the islands, saying they were within the Demarcation Line of the Crown of Castile under the relevant treaties.[14]

On August 27th, the San Juan left for New Spain under De la Torre, directed to explain the expedition's difficulties and request additional supplies and reinforcements. A second letter from De Castro arrived in the first week of September; López de Villalobos's reply dated September 12th repeated the same claims as before. The San Juan—having passed the Volcano Islands and possibly the Bonins without being able to replenish its water—returned in mid-October without completing its mission.[c] (No attempt to cross the Pacific from west to east would be successful for another two decades.) López de Villalobos again attempted to depart for Cebu[10] or Abuyog on Leyte[citation needed] with the San Juan and San Cristóbal, his two remaining ships,[citation needed] but again failed to make headway against unfavorable winds. The natives refused to provide any supplies even for sail, fearing Portuguese retribution.[10]

In April of 1544,[citation needed] he sailed for Ambon Island and then Samar and Leyte. De la Torre having died, the San Juan was refitted for another attempt to reach New Spain under Yñigo Ortiz de Retez using a southernly route instead.[10] This left on 16 May 1545 and hugged the coast of New Guinea—which Ortiz de Retez named—until August 12th, when the ship was forced to turn back once again.[10] It reached Tidore in October.[10] Repulsed by hunger, hostile natives, and further shipwreck, López de Villalobos finally abandoned the remaining goals of the expedition. He and his crew members sought refuge in the Moluccas but, quarrelling with the Portuguese, were imprisoned.

López de Villalobos died of a tropical fever on Good Friday 23 April 1546,[10] in his prison cell on Ambon Island. The Portuguese described him dying "of a broken heart".[17] Popular legend made his deathbed nurse the Jesuit missionary and later saint Francis Xavier.[1][10]

Some 117 of the crew survived, including De Mafra, Juan Gaetan, and Guido de Lavezaris. Juan Gaetan's account of the Villalobos voyage was published in 1550–1559 by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, an Italian historian, in his Navigations and Travels (Navigationi et Viaggi).[18] De Mafra produced a manuscript on Magellan's voyage and had this delivered to Spain by a friend. They[who?] sailed for Malacca, where the Portuguese put them on a ship for Lisbon. Thirty—including De Mafra—elected to remain instead. His manuscript remained unrecognized for many centuries until being rediscovered in the early 20th century. It was published in 1920.[citation needed] The survivors who had left Spain or Portugal and returned home were individually circumnavigators of the world, although the expedition itself did not accomplish that.

The inaccurate accounts of López de Villalobos and his men led Spain to believe that the Pacific was much smaller than it actually was for the rest of the 16th century.[19]


  1. ^ At some places in the surviving accounts, the name Santiago is also used for both the San Cristóbal and the San Martín. Similarly, the San Martín is sometimes confused with the San Cristóbal.[3]
  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!" ("Good day, sailors!") in Spanish or Portuguese, probably due to missionaries sent by António Galvão.[2]
  3. ^ López de Villalobos is sometimes—entirely incorrectly—credited with the discovery of Iwo Jima, the other Volcano Islands, and/or the Bonin Islands[15][16] but was not part of the San Juan's voyage.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Dunmore (1991), s.v. "Villalobos".
  2. ^ a b c Spate (1979), p. 97.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kelsey (2016), p. 63.
  4. ^ Coello (1885), pp. 82–87.
  5. ^ Sharp (1960), pp. 26 & 29.
  6. ^ Spate (1979).
  7. ^ De Hondt (1753).
  8. ^ Giraldes (1825), p. 26.
  9. ^ Bernad (2004).
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Spate (1979), p. 98.
  11. ^ Villamor & al. (1920), p. 260.
  12. ^ Agoncillo & al. (1975), p. 78.
  13. ^ Nuval & al. (1986), p. 18.
  14. ^ Scott (1985), p. 51.
  15. ^ Cholmondeley (1915), p. 5.
  16. ^ Dobson (1998).
  17. ^ Scott (1985), p. 54.
  18. ^ Quanchi (2005), p. 247.
  19. ^ Spate (1979), p. 100.


  • Agoncillo, Teodoro A.; et al. (1975), History of the Filipino People, Quezon City: R.P. Garcia.
  • Bernad, Miguel Anselmo (2004), The Great Island—Studies in the Exploration and Evangelization of Mindanao, ISBN 9789715504690.
  • Cholmondeley, Lionel Berners (1915), The History of the Bonin Islands..., London: Constable & Co.
  • Coello, Francisco (1885), La Cuestión de las Carolinas: Discursos Pronunciados en la Sociedad Geográfica de Madrid... (in Spanish), Madrid: Imprenta Fontanet.
  • De Hondt, Peter (1753), Histoire Generale des Voyages... (in French), vol. 16.
  • Dobson, Sebastian (June 1998), "A Chronology of the Bonin Islands", Nihongo Kenkyu Sentaa Hokoku [Reports of the Japanese Language Research Center], vol. 6, p. 21.
  • Dunmore, John (1991), Who's Who in Pacific Navigation, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, ISBN 9780824883942.
  • Giraldes, Joaquim Casado (1825), Tratado Completo de Cosmographia e Geographia (in Portuguese), vol. 1.
  • Kelsey, Harry (2016), The First Circumnavigators: Unsung Heroes of the Age of Discovery, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Nuval, Leonard Q.; et al. (1986), The Claretians in the Philippines, 1946–1986, Claret Seminary Foundation.
  • Quanchi, Max (2005), Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Pacific Islands, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0810853957.
  • Scott, William Henry (1985), Cracks in the Parchment Curtain, ISBN 971-10-0073-3.
  • Sharp, Andrew (1960), The Discovery of the Pacific Islands, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Spate, Oskar Hermann Khristian (1979), The Pacific Since Magellan, Vol. I: The Spanish Lake, Canberra: Australian National University Press, ISBN 9781920942168.
  • Villamor, Ignacio; et al., eds. (1920), Census of the Philippine Islands..., Vol. I: Geography, History, and Climatology, Manila: Census Office of the Philippine Islands.

External links

This page was last edited on 30 January 2023, at 07:47
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