Ruy Lopez de Villalobos

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Ruy López de Villalobos (b. 1500 - d. 1544]) was a Spanish explorer who sailed the Pacific from Mexico (New Spain) to establish a permanent foothold for Spain in the East Indies, which in 1543 were near to the [Line of Demarcation of Portugal.


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" (present-day Philippines). His fleet of six ships, the Santiago (the flagship), Jorge, San Antonio, San Cristobal, San Martin and San Juan de Letran left Barra de Navidad, New Spain with 370 to 400 men on October 25, 1542. On December 25, the fleet headed towards Revilla Gigedo Islands off the west coast of Mexico. They sighted low islands thought to be Saavedra's "Los Reyes." The following day they saw a group of islands at 9° or 10°N which they named "Corrales". They anchored at one of these. On January 6, 1543, ten islets on the same latitude were seen and looked so beautiful that they named them "Los Jardines" (The Gardens). According to historian Martin J. Noone, this was probably Eniwetok. Between Eniwetok and Ulithi], and during the period between January 6 and 23, the galleon San Cristobal piloted by Gines de Mafra (a member of the crew of the Ferdinand Magellanexpedition in 1519-1522) was separated from the fleet during a severe storm. This ship ultimately reached the island of Mazaua, anchorage of the Magellan expedition in March-April 1521. This was the second visit of Gines de Mafra to this island which is mistakenly identified today as Limasawa in southern Leyte.

On February 29, they entered Baganga Bay (which they named Malaga) on east Mindanao. López de Villalobos named Mindanao Caesaria Karoli after the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, ]] of Spain, because it looked so majestic. The fleet stayed there 32 days; the entire crew suffered extreme hunger. On March 31, the fleet left in search of Mazaua for food. This isle had become famous for its friendly and generous reception to the Magellan fleet. Because of northerlies, they could not make any headway. After a ten-day struggle, they dropped down and reached Saranggani. Around the first week of July San Cristobal, to the delight and relief of everyone, came out of nowhere bringing food from Mazaua. On August 4, San Juan and San Cristobal left for Leyte. 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 perfectly within the Demarcation Line of the Crown of Castile

The San Juan left for Mexico on August 27, 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 with the same message as his first. He quit Sarranggani to go to Abuyog, Leyte with his remaining ships, the San Juan and the San Cristobal. The fleet could not make headway because of unfavorable winds. In April 1544, he left for Amboyna in the Moluccas. He and his crew members then made their way to the islands of Samar and Leyte, where he named them Las Islas Felipinas (The Philippine Islands) in honour of 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 crewmembers sought refuge in the Moluccas where they quarrelled with the Portugal|Portuguese], who imprisoned them.

Ruy López de Villalobos died on April 4 in his prison cell on the island of Ambon Island or Amboyna. Some 117 remaining crew members survived, among them Gines de Mafra and Guido de Lavezaris. De Mafra produced several manuscripts on the Magellan circumnavigation and had his manuscripts delivered back to Spain by a close , where the Portuguese put them on a ship bound for Lisbon. Thirty elected to remain, including de Mafra, who was 53 years of age, an ancient mariner by then too old to withstand the rigors of ocean crossing. His manuscript remained unrecognized for many centuries. It was discovered only in the twentieth century, and published in 1920]].


  • De la Costa', Horacio. 1958. "The Villalobos Expedition 1542-1546." In: The Bulletin of the Philippine Historical Association, No. 5, September.
  • Escalante Alvarado, García de. 1546. Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquesta y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas en América y Oceania (42 v., Madrid, 1864-1884), tomo v, pp. 117-209.
  • Howgego, Ramond John. 2002. Encyclopedia of Exploration. Sydney: Hordern House.
  • Lach, Donald. 1965. Asia in the Making of Europe. Vol. 1, Chicago, p. 643.
  • Noone, Martín J. The Discovery and Conquest of the Philippines 1521-1581. Ireland, 1983.
  • Rebelo, Gabriel. 1561. Historia das ilhas de Maluco. In: Documentação para a História das Missões do Padroado Português do Oriente: Insulíndia. Lisboã: Agencia Geral do Ultramar. 1955. Cited by José Manuel Garcia in As Filipinas na historiografía portuguesa do século XVI,Centro Portugués de Estudos do Sudeste Asiático, Porto: 2003.
  • Santisteban, Fray Geronimo de. 1546. Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquesta y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas en América y Oceania (42 v., Madrid, 1864-1884), tomo v., pp. 151-165.
  • Sharp, Andrew. 1960. The Discovery of the Pacific Islands. London: Osford University Press.

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