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March 16, 1521, Magellan Saw the Island of Samar in the Easter Part of the Philippines.

Ferdinand Magellan after a painting by Velasquez (

On March 16, 1521, the Magellan expedition saw the island of Samar in the eastern part of the country, after almost two years of voyage and hardship at sea. Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese sailor defected to Spain after he was rejected and had some disagreement with the Portuguese king. He managed to convince King Charles of Spain to provide him with men and ships in his ambition to launch an expedition that would circumnavigate the world.

Antonio Pigafetta, photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

The record (diary, chronicle) of the expedition was written be Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian who was part of Magellan’s expedition. His work is entitled First Voyage Around the World. Magellan’s expedition is composed of a fleet of five ships and navigated around 250 men who were mostly Castillans.

Adetail of the Victoria, the only ship to survive the circumnavigation, in a late 16th century map of the Pacific ocean drawn by cartographer Abraham Ortelius (

Below is an excerpts from First Voyage Around the World By Antonio Pigafetta

At dawn on Saturday, March sixteen, 1521, we came upon a high land at a distance of three hundred leagues from the islands of Ladroni – an island named Zamal (i.e. Samar)…On Monday afternoon, we saw a boat coming toward us with nine men in it. Therefore, the captain-general ordered that no one should move or say a word without his permission. When those men reached the shore, their chief went immediately to the captain-general, giving signs of joy because of our arrival. Five of the most ornately adorned of them remained with us, while the rest went to get some others who were fishing, and so they all came. The captain-general, seeing that they were reasonable men, ordered food to be set forth before them, and gave them red caps, mirrors, combs, bells, ivory, bocasine, and other things. When they saw the captain’s courtesy, they presented fish, a jar of palm wine which they call uraca [i.e. arrack], figs more than one palm long [i.e., banana], and others which were smaller and more delicate, and two cocoanuts.

Those people became very familiar with us. They told us many things, their names and those of some of the islands that could be seen from that place. Their own island was called Zuluan and it is not very large. We took great pleasure with them, for they were very pleasant and conversable. In order to show them greater honor, the captain-general took them to his ship and showed them all his merchandise – cloves, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace, gold and all things in the ship. He had some mortars fired for them, whereat they exhibited great fear, and tried to jump out of the ship. They made signs to us that the abovesaid articles grew in that place where we were going…The said island where we were is called Humunu; (now Homonhon) but inasmuch as we found two springs there of the clearest water, we called it Acquada da li buoni Segnialli [i.e. “the Watering Place of Good Signs], for there were the first signs of gold which we found in those districts…There are many islands in that district, and therefore we called them the archipelago of San Lazaro, as they were discovered on the Sabbath of St. Lazarus.

The Philippine Islands 1493-1898, Vol. XXXIII (1519-1522)


Camagay, Maria Luis T., Ancheta Jpol Alvin C., Bernal, Michael S., Guiang, Francisco Jayme Paolo A., Malban, Francis Justine M., Ramos II, Dondy Pepito G. Unraveling the Past. Readings in Philippine History. Quezon City, Philippines: Vibal Group, Inc., 2018.

The Philippine Islands 1493-1898, Vol. XXXIII (1519-1522).

Wikimedia Commons


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