#16: A Name in the History Books

A captain, a chieftain, a mutiny, a spicery, murder and suicide, colonizers and slaves, and an encounter from the "Age of Discovery"

Reproduction of a map by Antonio Pigafetta of the “Ladrones” (now known as the Mariana Islands and Guam) depicting the first encounter between Magellan’s crew and inhabited Pacific islands.

Five hundred years ago today — on April 27, 1521 — a Portuguese sea captain named Ferdinand Magellan stepped out of a banca into the surf surrounding a small island called Mactan, where a septuagenarian chieftain named Lapu-Lapu met and killed him.

It has sometimes been suggested that Magellan and his crew were set upon without warning by a bloodthirsty island tribe wielding bolos and spears: a nightmare colonial vision, Kurtz on the steamboat. The truth is more mercenary. Before their surprise attack on Mactan, Magellan and his men spent several weeks on the neighboring island of Cebu as the honored guests of a rival group of Cebuanos. Their host, a newly minted Spanish subject whom Magellan’s men had “reduced” (the Spanish term for conversion to Christianity), asked them to help with a local dispute. He wanted the Spanish to pacify his enemies across the strait.

At least fifteen separate chiefdoms resided in the archipelago immediately surrounding Mactan. Each settlement had between 30 and 100 families. Some were temporary, early Spanish visitors wrote, the Visayans being “like the Arabs” in their tendency to pick up stakes in search of better territory. Others were permanent and elaborate. On another island, Magellan’s men met locals traveling in large boats, armed with swords, daggers, spears, and bucklers, eating and drinking from porcelain dishes, and living in huge lofted houses “divided into rooms like ours.” Their rulers, tattooed and perfumed, dressed in embroidered silks. Others were “ornately adorned” with gold earrings and armlets, and “very pleasant and convertible.”

Datu Lapu-Lapu belonged, in other words, to a society that was complex, hierarchical, mercantile, and even, in a limited way, extractive. The Visayas were the center of a vast web of trade connecting the Malay world to China and beyond. At the time of the first encounters with the Spanish, Cebu was thriving. Fernandez de Oviedo gathered the following account from the men of the Loaísa expedition which followed Magellan’s:

The Indians gather so much gold… The men of Cebu are of tractable but warlike and possess weapons both for defense and aggression. Chinese junks, which are large ships, come annually to Cebu and Vendanao and other islands and bring so much quality of silk and porcelain and many metal works and little chests of perfumed wood, and many other things highly esteemed by the natives. In exchange for what they bring, the Chinese carry from these islands gold and pearls and shells of mother of pearls, and slaves…

The port village of Cebu lay across what is often described as a canal from the island that was variously called Mactan, Matan, or Mautha. In the middle of the nineteenth century, it took an hour to cross from one shore to the other. Today, the slowest ferry takes about 20 minutes, station to station. A probably apocryphal version of the genealogy of “Mactan” holds that it was derived from mangati or mangatang, a Visayan word for pirate. Stories of piracy and raiding are common in regional histories; indeed, pirates are still to be found to the south of Cebu, in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. Raiding sprees from the Visayas may have reached China and were understood to be part of a cultural system of social prestige and wealth redistribution. Lapu-Lapu’s raiding exploits were legendary. Through them, he attracted loyalty from some chieftains and envy from others. There were at least four or five separate settlements just on Mactan in Lapu-Lapu’s time, mostly allied with the chieftain, but at least one of which was allied with, or under the control of, a rival leader.

Into this complicated business entered another pirate, a sometimes-employed bum of Malacca’s markets practicing a new, grand, bloody, monarchical, gun-bearing form of piracy. As a page in Portugal’s royal court, Ferdinand Magellan grew up among men who called themselves hydrographers and cosmographers but carried swords that had lopped off the ears of native rulers. When the Portuguese king would not admit him as an explorer like the great Albuquerque — Magellan was a lower-class nobleman with no connections and no money — the young sailor renounced his citizenship and moved to Spain. When the Spanish also ignored him, he found a rich benefactor from Antwerp and convinced the court to pay attention. With the backing of Charles V, he set sail from Seville to find the Spice Islands, in 1519, leaving behind his wife and six-month-old son. His new family, spread across five ships, consisted of around two hundred and fifty men.

On his host’s behalf, Magellan made two attempts to land on Mactan before the battle of April 27. Both times, Lapu-Lapu’s men warned him away without violence. During these first encounters with Spanish missionaries, Lapu-Lapu declined to convert to Catholicism; he also prevented another Mactan leader from paying tribute to Spain. This offended the captain. Prompted by his new allies on Cebu and Mactan, Magellan ordered the chieftain to submit or he “would know how our lances wounded.” Lapu-Lapu sent a reply that if the stranger had iron lances, he had lances of bamboo that were more terrible. With an assembled army said to number 1,500 men, the chieftain dug foxholes into the beach and awaited Magellan’s arrival. 

For his third and final attempt to trespass on the island home of his hosts’ enemies, Magellan took sixty members of his crew. They were grotesquely outnumbered. Separated from his men, some of whom later recounted the battle, Magellan took a poison arrow to the arm and a bamboo spear to his face. He stumbled in the shallow water, weighed down by his armor with his boots filling with sand, his bad leg throbbing. Finally, a kampilan cut him down. The Spanish force was pulverized. At least twelve men were killed, four of them newly baptized Cebuanos. “The sea turned red.”


Atop the facts of this encounter lie the layers of sedimented argument and ideology. Magellan’s death (“at around 3:00 o’clock in the morning” according to a museum plaque I read inside a former Spanish prison on Cebu) left a delayed but irreversible trace on the landscape; the Visayan world was now trapped in the gridlines of Spanish imperial cartography.

The Spanish, like the Portuguese, were obsessed with spice, especially pepper, known in the sixteenth century as “the substance of the Indies.” Spice was not simply condiment. In the case of pepper, it was used, like pickling or salting, to preserve meat and fish, transforming the diet and the potential flows of energy in Europe. Pepper was easy to transport. Like gold, it was durable and divisible. You could count it. It made wealth legible. The state took notice. In parts of Europe, pepper was used as money and demanded in payment of taxes. 

The conquest of the world was expensive, however, and monarchs sometimes had to simplify their interests. During his reign, Charles V approved some 500 contracts worth 29 million ducats (something like 150,000 times a middle-class annual income in Spain), using gold and silver from the Americas as collateral. Debt made the Spanish gold-mad, and required the empire to focus its early colonizing efforts on known veins of the New World, giving the rulers of the so-called Indies, including those on Cebu and Mactan, a half-century of relative peace. Between gold and pepper, gold won.

The Spanish returned in 1565 under the leadership of an aging clerk named Miguel López de Legazpi. All the major players in Magellan’s encounter were long dead. The chieftain of Cebu who inadvertently orchestrated the rout, Rajah Humabon, was either killed in the fighting (as some tales claim) or continued to rule for another decade or two. Either way, he was gone when the Spanish came back to pardon and convert the survivors of the attack on behalf of Philip II. Lapu-Lapu, in his seventies during the stand against Magellan, was surely dead, too, and so was spared the destruction of his society under the first colonial settlements. He entered history as “a naked savage,” and his reputation has been only somewhat revised in the popular imagination by new historical discoveries, some of which suggest he may have been the Tibeto-Buddhist ruler of an advanced trading society. The Legazpi expedition found Mactan “swampy, largely inhospitable, and sparsely inhabited.”

The Filipina writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil asks: What would have happened to us had Magellan not arrived and the Spanish not colonized us? If the people of Cebu had been left to their weights and measures, their bamboo calendars, their gold and gems, their turtle eggs and palm wine sipped with reed pipes? Their mines, looms, farms, naval constructions, fishers, their civet, their horn and hide industries, and, as Magellan would discover, their efficient military? But if it hadn’t been the Spanish, she wrote, it might have been the Portuguese, Dutch, or English. Maybe the Islamic caliphates who ruled the southern Philippines would have expanded north, or an empire of modern-day China would have come south, or who knows—France? Germany? Or else, she dares to imagine, the islands might even have known “the uncolonized bliss of Siam…”


Magellan is a world-famous name but, outside of Spain, Portugal, and the Philippines, a largely forgotten figure. The single fact about him which is still taught to schoolchildren is vaingloriously wrong. He died without having circumnavigated anything. A handful of his crew members were luckier, but their names, to say nothing of their lives, are more obscure. One was an slave from Malacca named Enrique who served as translator throughout the “Spice Islands,” and who was probably the liaison between Magellan and the rulers of Cebu. Another was Antonio Pigafetta, the unofficial chronicler of the expedition. Pigafetta helps us to know Magellan, a man who does not seem to have been well-liked by his crew. There were communication difficulties from the start. He spoke little Spanish and once confessed to Charles V that he had to rely on his scribe to write his letters for him. (The King of Spain, who spoke no Spanish at all, could no doubt relate.)

King and captain alike feared what might happen with a large crew of idle and unproductive men on a spectacularly expensive voyage of indeterminate length. A strategy was formed. Each man under Magellan’s employ would receive a half gallon of wine a day, enough (as Magellan calculated before setting off) to last for five months and get them to the New World. It worked. Wine parties below decks produced camaraderie and entertainment on the high Atlantic. The first months of the voyage were good. Once the casks ran dry, however, cynicism set in; after a year and two months, still searching for a passage to the Pacific, food supplies were also low. The men ate ox hides and the leather coverings of cargo; rat became a coveted delicacy, hunted all over each ship and “sold for one-half ducado a piece.” Over time, even the ships’ drinking water, kept in huge casks, became putrid and yellow, and brackish from the sea. The men held their noses when they drank it. 

As they passed Rio de la Plata, near what is now Montevideo, the crewmen began to realize there might be no promised paso, no strait through the Americas. Some high-ranking members of the crew begged to return to Spain. Hadn’t they gone further than any men before them? Hadn’t they accomplished enough? Magellan was unyielding. He reduced daily rations of wine to half a cumbre, a mere liter, water to three quartz, and bread to one and a half pounds to conserve resources. The Spanish crewmen began to grumble about their captain, a Portuguese, who was perhaps deliberately leading the ships to destruction in a sinister plot that would turn out, according to an early historian, “glorious for his own country.” Magellan was aware of the growing sentiments against him, led by two of his ships’ captains, with support from other ranking officers, including a Basque navigator, Juan Sebastián Elcano (sometimes spelled Del Cano), who was master of the Concepcion. But his response was only to gather the captains together and ask their patience through the winter, promising in return to unveil for them “a new unknown world, rich in spices and gold.”

On Palm Sunday, 1520, the cork popped. Two captains—of the Concepcion and Victoria—led the nighttime mutiny. Elcano was charged with securing all weapons on board and preventing the ships from being reclaimed. Meanwhile, Magellan’s ship, the Trinidad, remained loyal, its drifting inhabitants, like those of another ship, the Santiago, unaware of the change in leadership.

Once he became aware of the mutiny, however, Magellan put it down with far more skill than he would display on Mactan, such that one is forced to revise one’s estimation of his intelligence based on that later encounter. He pretended to negotiate with the mutineers, sent a knife-wielding loyalist on an assassination mission under the guise of a fake letter, and formed a dragnet to catch the last remaining ship. Then, with victory in hand, he exacted brutal revenge. Forty men were tried and sentenced to death. Most were pardoned as the men were needed to operate the ships. Elcano survived. But the two captains were drawn and quartered on the shore, which may have involved an executioner burning their viscera while they were still alive, and other conspirators were tortured by strappado or abandoned on then-uncharted islands. In some accounts, one ship astrologer’s legs were severed as punishment for his disloyalty. (Legless or not, the astrologer later died at Cebu.)

Magellan was blamed for the mutiny in most early histories of the voyage, and for other conspiracies and desertions that took place over three miserable years at sea. One early historian accused him of racist motivations, inventing a scenario to implicate his enemies and seeking “under every pretext and on diverse occasions to kill a number of Castilians.” Whatever his motives, the expedition ultimately succeeded, it often seems, looking at the records, in spite of his leadership rather than because of it. The normally loquacious Pigafetta is strangely quiet on the events of the Palm Sunday mutiny. Yet his account is the famous one, the one that has lasted. It is largely thanks to Pigafetta that Magellan is called great. It is Pigafetta’s Magellan who, even as he fell upon the Mactan soil, and even as the chronicler and others scampered back to the retreating bancas, “turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats.”


Homesickness. Disease. Hunger. Lust. Boredom. Time. Each stretch of open water was worse than the one that preceded it, filled with greater privation and danger. To distract themselves, crewmen played cards and dice and gambled away their speculative wages. They made music and danced. (Across the expedition’s ships, according to inventory logbooks, were five drums and twenty tambourines.) Some learned passengers, like Pigafetta, probably brought books.

The language of administration defaulted to Castilian, but only 91 of the crewmen were Spanish, fewer than half the total, and of those only 12 were from Castille. Many others were Basque or Italian and a half dozen were French. There were three Germans, two Romanians, a Greek from Troy, a Norman, and one crewman each listed as “Negro,” “Asian,” and “Morisco” or converted Muslim.  The numbers are necessarily approximate; slaves and servants were not necessarily counted, and the king’s orders to keep the crew to 237 was flaunted in practice. Some historians think there were as many as 280 men on board. Magellan himself had at least five paid servants and a handful of slaves; other captains of individual ships had more.

Death was everywhere, scurvy and drowning being the most common killers. Scurvy crept slowly through the crew as the voyage dragged on. Not so, drowning. Even before the expedition left harbor in Spain, one crewman, Sancho de la Picca, drowned in the river of Seville. He was the expedition’s first casualty. Even Pigafetta nearly drowned one day while fishing off the side of a ship. He grabbed hold of a sail as he lost his footing, and we therefore know the remainder of the story.

We know, for example, that when the Victoria reached the Cape Verde Islands, near the end of its voyage, the eighteen surviving sailors noticed a discrepancy between the date of their calendar and the local residents, who informed them it was Thursday, not Wednesday, as the calendar showed. The men realized that they had lost one day at some point during their three-year journey. Had they forgotten the year following their departure, 1520, was a bissextile year, that Gregorian exception in which the month of February contains a twenty-ninth day? No, they decided they hadn’t. They had remembered to compensate in the usual way for the quarter-day annual difference between calendrical and astronomical reality. Instead, the men had revealed a problem never before recorded: the problem of global time. In De orbe Novo Decades, his chronicle of the court of King Charles, the Lombard Peter Martyr of Anghiera described the discovery as “a fact which will astonish my readers, especially those who suppose they have a perfect knowledge of celestial phenomena.” Yet, even as he wrote of their findings, Martyr remained somewhat skeptical, claiming that, no matter how unanimous and insistent, the men, mere sailors, were “mostly ignorant.”

Hidden within the ships’ logs is also a three-act tragedy about which little has been written. At the end of 1519, the Victoria’s cabin boy, Antonio Genovés was caught having sex with another man, Antonio Salamon, whom Magellan tried and hanged in the port of San Julian. The charge was sodomy. Four months later, in April, 1520, while again docked in the port of San Julian, Genovés threw himself overboard and drowned. The ship’s escribano records that an investigation revealed he, too, was now accused of sodomy by another crewmate. His body turned up in the harbor a month later. A third Antonio, surnamed Varela, also threw himself overboard around the same time, apparently for the same reason. Historians blamed the “catastrophic effect” of enforced abstinence on the ships, and some noted Magellan’s explicit refusal, unsurprising in those years, to grant the crewmen permission to bring their wives on the interminable voyage.

Almost exactly a year after Genovés’s suicide, the expedition reached Cebu.


Today, on the shoreline of Mactan, two monuments attest to the events of April 27, 1521, adjacent in space but opposed in meaning. The older monument, erected by the Spanish government, is a large stone obelisk that simply celebrates Magellan’s landing for “Glorious Españolas.” The other, erected in the 1950s, after the departure of a second colonial government—the United States’—is a squat plinth that tells a different story: “Here on 27 April 1521 Lapulapu and his men repulsed the Spanish invaders, killing their leader Ferdinand Magellan. Thus Lapulapu became the first Filipino to have repelled European aggression.”

In the years between the construction of the first and second monuments, Filipinos gained their independence—twice. Lapu-Lapu, who died years before there was a Philip II after which Spain’s longest-lasting colony could be named, was adopted into the cause as a founding Filipino.

When I arrived in Mactan, in January, 2020, the plaza where these monuments stand—symbols of a long struggle to memorialize an indigenous history tangled up with the Spanish Catholic and, much later, American empire—was wet and mostly empty. There was a market on the square with temporary stalls, each selling the same wares in different arrangements: colorful magnets, T-shirts, half-size guitars. To pass through the market, I walked through a large gate whose pediment is a giant kampilan, ready to hack unwanted tourists into chum. There were almost no tourists at all. Flights from China were grounded due to a viral outbreak.

A brand new statue, several yards nearer the water than the opposing monuments I had already read about, now dominated the plaza, somewhat flamboyantly: It was a taut, shirtless Lapu-Lapu, his hair flowing, his muscles hard and defined, a romance novel cover model rather than a seventysomething-year-old chieftain raised in an era of protein scarcity. He held his kampilan at the ready. In front of the statue, a group of high-school dancers in blue and green uniforms was practicing a pop routine for the quincentennial celebration, more than a year ahead of the event.

We are now more than a year removed from that January day. This week, despite the pandemic restrictions, the little island of Mactan is the object of national attention as the Philippines celebrates the quincentennial of the encounter between Magellan and Lapu-Lapu. There are new plaques and memorials to accompany those of previous administrations, all of whom had their reasons for marking the spot. The Catholic Church has prepared a glorifying celebration of the arrival of Christianity in the islands. Other groups celebrate Lapu-Lapu’s victory over the Christian missionaries. An executive order has established a secular National Quincentennial Committee to thread the needle of celebration for the “500th anniversary of the Victory at Mactan,” one that will “strengthen the Filipino people’s nationalism” by underscoring the bravery of Mactan’s warriors. (To my dismay, Covid-19 has required the committee to cancel the planned reenactment of the landing.) Within government departments, Magellan’s arrival is no longer referred to by the Eurocentric name, “the Discovery of the Philippines.” Yet the memory of Magellan still attracts a mixture of nationalist, Christian, and anti-colonial pride that may be unique to the Philippines, or to this very place and event.

At low tide on the day of my visit, in January, 2020, the landing site, or its probable location, was a field of muck, strewn with puddles and grounded boats. Erosion ate at the edges of a small marina by the muddy rocks on which the ontological stability between the West and the Orient (in Edward Said’s phrase) broke down. A straw and bamboo hut with anachronistic parquet construction on the beach mimicked the huts found, perhaps, by Magellan himself. A sudden downpour: I ducked into the shelter. The water was low and the mud was gray. Several canoes were upside down in it. When the rain stopped, I returned to the plaza. A busload of tourists had arrived. A woman approached. Her name was Maria. She was a model scout, she said, and wanted me to come for a photo shoot taking place that afternoon at the airport. She said it was for a “Hollywood show” and that they were looking for people who looked like me. Like how? “European.” I politely declined.


Magellan set out with five ships. Only the Victoria completed the circumnavigation. Pigafetta described the final approach to the Bay of San Luca, September, 1522. As the ship waded in, he said, of the 60 men who composed its crew when the armada left Maluco, “we were reduced to eighteen, and these for the most part sick. Of the others some died of hunger, some had run away at the island of Timor, and some were condemned to death for their crimes.”

A number of Magellan’s sailors were left behind in the Pacific. Some were held as slaves following misadventures; others joined local communities by choice. One was eventually discovered on a remote island of Guam, which became an important stopover for Spanish galleons, by the expedition that followed Magellan’s years later. The Spanish ship was met by a canoe whose pilot greeted them in Spanish: “En buenhora bengals, Señor Capitan, maestre y la compania!” The man turned out to be one of the crew of the armada of Captain Gonzalo Gomez de Espinosa. In Malacca he had deserted his post; later, he left his post with Magellan, too. He’d escaped disease and death, reaching this small island, where he lived peaceably with the locals. This easy-come, easy-go sailor, a Galician, then joined Loaísa’s ship and sailed out of history, for nothing more is known about him.

Together with the eighteen listed survivors of Magellan’s expedition who returned to Spain were four “natives” the crew had picked up. The court historian, Ferdinand de Oviedo, was impressed with one of them, a member of one of the ruling elites encountered by the crew, whom he found “knowledgeable and astute.” This unnamed man was apparently fixated on the exchange rate of Spanish real to the decade and to maravedis, and on the price of black pepper at markets in Seville, which he investigated himself, stall to stall.

He wasn’t the only one with such cares. Charles V rejoiced in the “discovery of the Spicery.” As the inheriting captain of the returning Victoria, the Basque mutineer Sebastian Elcano received from the monarch the most generous rewards: a waiver on the royal duties of their spice cargo, plus a quarter of the king’s own proceeds from the voyage, to be divided among Elcano and three other high-ranking survivors. There was also a perpetual royal grant amounting to five hundred ducats per annum, almost three times Magellan’s own salary. The impoverished navigator was suddenly rich. Elcano also became an international celebrity, with the royal conferment of the title of “first circumnavigator of the world.” He was knighted and awarded a coat-of-arms. Did he think of the captains in whose mutiny he’d taken part, and who he’d watched tortured and put to death under the law of Magellan—a man now also dead? What did he think of it all? Elcano’s escutcheon depicts a castle, spices, two Malay kings, a globe, and an inscription written from the perspective of Earth herself: Primus circumdedesti me.


An abandoned Sinulog float depicts Juan Camus, a Spanish mariner from Legazpi’s expedition, revered among Catholics for discovering Santo Niño de Cebú (a gift from Magellan believed to be destroyed) in a pine box. Cebu, 2020.

History moves strangely. Today, Elcano is a footnote to Magellan, who is himself, in some ways, despite his fame, obscure. His unfinished voyage brought together distant spheres of life and death on four continents, enclosing faraway corners in a coming storm of violence and possessiveness, our name for which—colonialism—feels inadequate to its size. Yet, in his lifetime, the facts were still being shaped. In one of the strangest documents in the history of colonization, none other than the blood-drenched, genocidal conquistador of the Aztecs, Hernán Cortés, wrote a servile and apologetic letter addressed to the indigenous “King of the Isle of Cebu,” in order to patch things over between Spain and the Visayas in the wake of Magellan’s attack. 

Written in 1527, a little more than six years after the event in question, the letter makes clear that royal officials in Spain were aware that some of Magellan’s crew members were still held prisoner in Cebu, where several had already been put to death following their failed raid on Mactan. Cortés, who introduced himself as “Capitan General e Gobernador desta Nueva-España,” attempts to secure their release and exculpate Spain by painting Magellan as a crazed rogue agent: 

in his desire to know the custom and manner of trading in those parts, the king sent there his captain named Hernando de Magallanes with five ships, which, owing to bad judgement and lack of caution of the said captain, they failed to return except for one which informed the king of the loss…It was because this captain [Magellan] had exceeded the royal decrees and instruction he carried, provoking war and discord with you and your men; because the intention with which his Majesty sent him, was not so, but only to establish friendship with you and to bring them to your submission, offering goodwill for your honor and person. For his disobedience, the Lord, the maker of everything, made him pay his act of irreverence, dying in the way he did by the wrong he intended against the will of the prince and God which did him no little good because if he returned alive, the payment for such imprudence would not have been light.

Steven Zweig, unlucky Viennese exile, lamented Magellan’s obscurity. “Columbus and Cortez and Francis Drake have had countless pages written to perpetuate their memory,” Zweig wrote, “but Magellan, whose achievements out shadow the others, has been but a name in the history books.” As for Lapu-Lapu, the details of his life are like Magellan’s: mixed together with myths, folktales, and nationalist discourses that would have been incomprehensible to either man. In paintings and other depictions, Lapu-Lapu is always muscular and young, poised with revolutionary purpose. He, too, is but a name in the history books, a portal to fantasy and metaphor. It is ultimately not clear whether Lapu-Lapu was actually present at the Battle of Mactan, what role his age permitted him to play in the fighting, or where his unusual name comes from. He is a gap in the record, an unquoted source, a cipher. Some legends hold that Lapu-Lapu sailed to Mactan from Borneo. It is a common point of origin for Visayan folk heroes. You might also say that he came from over the rainbow or beyond the horizon, so long as he came from somewhere. There is a cave in the hills of southern Cebu that has been known throughout recorded history as laposlapos, meaning, in the local dialect, “a hole that penetrates through and through.”

***


I’m mixing things up in the newsletter this time around, presenting some recently drafted writing that came out of the ongoing work on my book project. This particular area of research has ended up somewhat tangential to the main subject, so I’m not sure what form it might take in the end, but at some point I realized that I had a lot of text on my hands, and…more information about Ferdinand Magellan than you require. Consider this an early look at some material I’ve been working through.

This newsletter is my place to try things out and to drop different kinds of writing, from advice to behind-the-scenes stuff from reporting projects, to straight-up work-in-progress. It’s not particularly systematic or focused, but I’ve really liked hearing from readers: what you like, what you don’t. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop a line privately by replying to the email or at my site.

This is a bonus April newsletter to coincide with the quincentennial Lapu-Lapu/Magellan encounter. Next month will be different. In May, I’ll deliver on my promise to share some more behind-the-scenes material from the New Yorker V.R. documentary Reeducated I helped make, which premiered last month. Until then, stay healthy.

xo,

Ben

Some main sources:
Danilo Madrid Gerona, Ferdinand Magellan: The Armada de Maluco and the European Discovery of the Philippines
Jesuit House, Cebu
Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, “Magellan and Lapu-Lapu”
Sagbo Museum, Cebu
Various publications, National Quincentennial Committee, Republic of the Philippines
Eric Wolf, Europe and the People without History