You have been waiting, now here it is, Episode 13! In this episode, a second European nation, Spain, gets involved in Southeast Asia by discovering the Philippines, a part of Southeast Asia that had not gotten much attention previously. Then we will see Spain’s attempts to take Indonesia and its valuable spice trade from
And here is a map that explains the Portuguese-Spanish dispute in Southeast Asia. It shows three ideas on where to put the “Tordesillas antimeridian,” the line between the Portuguese and Spanish claims. Only the line on the right is in the correct place. The dotted line is where Ferdinand Magellan thought the Southeast Asian mainland was. Source: Stalemate at Bajadoz.
(Transcript, added 01/14/2020.)
Episode 13: Magellan’s Not-so-excellent Adventure
Greetings, dear listeners! Or perhaps I should say “Mabuhay!”, which is Tagalog for “Hello!”, since we are going to concentrate on the Philippines for at least two episodes.
Yes, the title you just heard was inspired by “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” a movie comedy with a history theme. Well, the science fiction writer Poul Anderson once defined an adventure as a hardship happening to someone else, and there sure was a lot of hardship on the expeditions we will hear about today. Along that line, I could have used a parody of another movie title, “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and it would have been just as relevant.
In the last episode, we met Portugal, the first European nation to send ships to the Far East in the Age of Exploration. Now we are going to meet Portugal’s neighbor and rival, Spain. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Europeans couldn’t get enough of spices, and Portugal and Spain were in a race to get to the source of those spices, a part of Indonesia that we now call the Moluccas, but were called the Spice Islands in those days. For a few years it looked like Spain had won, because in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. On the west side of the Atlantic, Christopher Columbus found some islands that he thought just had to be the East Indies, the islands ancient and medieval maps showed on the east side of India. Wrong-o! They were the islands of the Caribbean, which we now call the West Indies so that nobody else will confuse them with the real East Indies. Then when Columbus reached Cuba, he thought it was Japan, and wondered why he did not see scholars wearing silk robes, and samurai castles, like the ones Marco Polo had written about! It took Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian sailor hired by Spain, to straighten out the matter. Vespucci correctly guessed that Columbus had not visited any places Europeans had heard about previously; instead, he had discovered a “New World.” Then in 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa hiked across Panama and discovered the Pacific Ocean on the other side. That explained everything; if you sailed west from Europe, you had to get past America, and cross two oceans, not one, to reach Asia.
Meanwhile, as we saw last time, Portugal won the race, by sending an expedition from Malacca to explore eastern Indonesia in 1512. To the Indonesians the Portuguese must have been the strangest-looking people they had ever seen, what with their big Caucasian noses, pale skin, unslanted eyes that came in more than one color, and hair that came in several colors as well. Upon arrival at the Spice Islands, the Portuguese took on a valuable cargo of nutmeg, cloves and other spices, and returned to Malacca with physical proof that they had reached the goal.
It had taken nearly a hundred years for Portugal to find out where the Spice Islands were, and because the trip was so long, many people paid more attention to the hazards on the way, than they did to the rewards at the end of the journey. This is how Columbus got the idea that if he sailed west from Europe instead of east, he would find a “fast track” to the Orient. Another who felt that way was a Portuguese adventurer we met in the last episode, Fernão de Magalhães, better known to us by his Anglicized name, Ferdinand Magellan.
Born in 1480 as the son of a rural squire, Magellan got his start as a page at the court of Portugal’s Queen Leonora. No doubt he was inspired by the stories of Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama, because he studied mathematics and navigation, two useful skills to have when you are a member of a ship’s crew. In 1505 he got the lucky break to get started in a career on the seas, when he sailed to India in a squadron commanded by Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese viceroy of India. In the last episode we saw he played his part in the Portuguese adventure, by taking part in the expeditions to Malacca in 1509 and 1511, and then he was on the expedition that went to the Spice Islands in 1512. After that he returned to Portugal, was promoted to the minor nobility for his previous actions, sent on a military mission to Morocco, and got wounded in the leg, which caused him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
Upon his return from Morocco, Magellan was given a safer assignment, where all he had to do was supervise the loot that had been brought back to Portugal. With this job there was naturally a temptation to steal something, and Magellan was soon accused of doing this. Although he was cleared of the charges, he had become annoying at the court in the meantime, for frequently demanding that he should have been rewarded better for his services, so King Manuel I decided that in the future, he would use Magellan as little as possible.
Because of his experiences, Magellan had come to believe that Columbus had the right idea; if a passage could be found through or around the lands Columbus had discovered, it would be possible to sail west to Asia, and that would be quicker than the path Portugal had blazed around Africa and across the Indian Ocean. Of course he first proposed this to his king, but with Portugal fully committed to extending and defending the eastbound trade route it already had, King Manuel wasn’t interested. However, Spain had a new king, Charles V, and he was more receptive; his grandmother had sponsored the first expedition of Columbus, and Spain was starting to earn tremendous profits as a result. So when Magellan got five ships in 1519, to look for a westward passage to the Orient, he was now an employee of Spain.
I won’t be giving a detailed account of Magellan’s entire expedition, for two reasons. First, we are mainly interested in the Pacific phase of the voyage, so that is what we will concentrate on; most of what happened in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans is filler material. Second, the whole Magellan story was covered in early 2016 by another podcaster, Sebastian Major. For his version of the story, check out his attention-grabbing podcast, Our Fake History. Though I now have six months of experience at podcasting, I still don’t want to be compared with other podcasters while I am a beginner in this business.
Anyway, Magellan’s five ships were named the Trinidad, the San Antonio, the Concepcion, the Victoria, and the Santiago, and he started with 270 crewmen on them. It took a year and a half for Magellan to go from Spain to Southeast Asia. First, he had to find a “Southwest Passage” through the western hemisphere’s continents, and he did it by sailing down the South American coast to the strait that now bears his name. But it was by no means an easy cruise, like the one Columbus had from Spain to the Caribbean. Twice Magellan had to put down mutinies, because Spanish crewmen did not like serving under a foreigner, and before the expedition started Magellan was ordered to leave behind most of the Portuguese crewmen he had recruited. And the weather at the bottom of South America is notoriously bad most of the time; just ask any sailor. One ship, the Santiago, was wrecked in a storm before it could enter the Strait of Magellan. though fortunately the other four ships managed to rescue its crew. Then after entering the strait, some crew members on the San Antonio were spooked by the local conditions, mutinied, and took their ship back to Spain. This was especially bad for the expedition, because supplies were low to begin with, and most of what they had was on the largest ship, the San Antonio. When Magellan learned this, he called the officers to a meeting, made them swear to keep the food shortage secret, and declared the voyage would go on, even if they had to “eat the cowhide off the yard-arms.”
The three remaining ships reached the other side of the strait after seven weeks of fighting the weather and trying to find the right path through the strait’s many waterways. The ocean they now entered was a lot more peaceful than the South Atlantic, and Magellan optimistically named it the Pacific. He thought the Pacific was about the same size as the Atlantic, and that they would be able to cross it in a month. But while the tradewinds blew them westward at a good speed, the Pacific turned out to be much larger than any other ocean. What’s more, their course through the eastern and central Pacific did not take them near any land larger than a coral atoll; they missed the islands that would have been suitable places for rest and resupply, like Tahiti, Hawaii and Fiji. The result was that the next three months would be a time of perfect weather and perfect misery. By the third month the crew was chewing sawdust and eating the leather on the rigging — remember what Magellan said about that! They were also catching the rats in the cargo hold, which they sold to the hungriest among them for half a ducat each. We saw a couple episodes ago that a ducat was a gold coin from Venice, worth about $150 in today’s American dollars. Think about it, the next time you complain about food prices; Magellan’s crew paid 75 bucks for a stewing rat. I’m sure the rats sold in pet stores to feed snakes don’t cost that much!
The men were so sick from scurvy that it took six of them to do the work of one, and between rainstorms the water in their barrels became so foul that they had to hold their noses to get a drink.
At last, after 98 days at sea they came to Guam, where they resupplied. There was some trouble because the people of Guam, the Chamorros, didn’t have the Western concept of private property. When they saw the Spaniards taking food and water, they thought it was all right to board the ships and take whatever interested them, even a lifeboat on the Trinidad. Disgusted, Magellan drove them off, called Guam and the nearby islands the Islas de Ladrones, the Islands of Thieves, and continued on west.
A week later, in March 1521, the expedition sighted Leyte, the easternmost island of the Philippines, and Magellan felt like he had been raised from the dead, so he named the archipelago “San Lazaro,” the St. Lazarus Islands. No European had seen these islands before, but because both Indonesians and Filipinos are ethnic Malays, and speak closely related languages, Magellan’s personal Indonesian slave, Enrique, could understand some of the words spoken by the natives. This told Magellan that Indonesia must be nearby.
We need to interrupt the narrative at this point. Up until now, this podcast hasn’t had much to say about the Philippines. Though my wife is from there, she hasn’t offered to say anything in this podcast yet, because she doesn’t like talking about events that happened long before she was born. In Episode 1 I mentioned the Negritos settling in the Philippines during the ice age, and the controversy concerning the Tasaday, a tribe that wasn’t as primitive as it looked. Then in Episode 2 we talked about the Philippines when the great Malay migration passed through the islands, and in Episode 11 we talked about the introduction of Islam to Filipino communities in the southwest corner of the archipelago. In that episode I didn’t give the details on how Islam got a foothold here, so I’ll do it now; we hear that the first Islamic missionary to the Philippines was Makdum Karim, a merchant from Johore, Malaya, and he built a mosque in Tawi-Tawi province in 1380.
And that’s it — until now. No great empire arose in the Philippines, and the greatest achievement of the ancient Filipinos has already been mentioned, the Banawe rice terraces. And when it came to trade, the Philippines was too far off the beaten path for any merchants following the India-China trade route, so civilization came here later than it did in other parts of Southeast Asia. However, the Philippines does have some useful resources — rice, pearls, resins for lacquer, shells, rattan, and hemp — and eventually all surrounding lands, including China and Japan, became customers of these goods. And while the Indian merchants and missionaries mentioned in previous episodes did not come here, some aspects of Indian culture were brought here by the Indonesians.
In Episode 4 we learned that a prehistoric culture, the Sa Huynh culture, existed in South Vietnam between 1000 B.C. and 200 A.D., and the people behind that culture were probably the direct ancestors of the Chams, the southern rivals of the Vietnamese. Well, quite a few Sa Huynh artifacts, like pottery, have been found in the Philippines, especially on Palawan, the island farthest to the west. This means that either the founders of the Sa Huynh culture came from the Philippines, or more likely, that they did a lot of trading with the Filipinos, and they may have even colonized Palawan.
I said a minute ago that no empires got started in the Philippines. Before Magellan arrived, the most common political unit in the lowlands of the archipelago was a community called a barangay, which had a population of a few hundred at most, and was led by a chief called a datu. Below the datu, the people were divided into three social classes: nobles, freemen, and dependents; the dependents were mostly slaves and farmers who did not own the land they worked on. However, because marriage between the classes was permitted, and the manumission of slaves was commonplace, a person didn’t have to spend his whole life stuck in one class. Above the barangays were a handful of kingdoms that ruled some of the smaller islands completely, or parts of the two big islands, Luzon and Mindanao.
At least two kingdoms, Pangasinan in northern Luzon and Ma-i on the island of Mindoro, got most of their culture from China, to the point that Buddhism was their main religion. Most of the other kingdoms founded before 1400 resembled minor Indonesian states, because they copied Indonesian civilization for their own use. At some point in the 1400s, the Japanese established a trading post at Aparri, on the northern shore of Luzon. Because this fell within Pangasinan’s sphere of influence, the Spaniards would call Pangasinan the “Port of Japan” when they arrived on Luzon.
We now believe that Filipinos sailed across the South China Sea as early as 300 A.D., to trade the products of their homeland for the manufactured goods of other nations, especially China. Likewise, the first reported visit to the Philippines by Chinese merchants took place in 982, and after that the Chinese made fairly regular trips to Luzon and to Cebu, a medium-sized island in the middle of the archipelago. Luzon also happened to have Manila Bay, the best harbor in the whole Far East, and Manila was founded there to make the Chinese-Philippine trade easier. A kingdom called Tondo existed at Manila Bay from at least the years 900 to 1500.
We know Tondo was around in 900 because the oldest written inscription in the Philippines is on a thin copper plate that came from this kingdom, and the inscription has a date that works out to 900 on our calendar. Discovered in 1989, we call this the Laguna Copperplate Inscription; it is written in a Philippine language, but with an alphabet invented on Java, and it is a decree from the ruler of Tondo, cancelling a debt owed by two of his subjects. What a nice guy! Unfortunately we only have a few examples of Philippine writing from the pre-Spanish era, for two reasons:
1. If they wrote on wood, leaves or paper, it easily rotted in the tropical environment.
2. (Spoiler alert!) When the Spaniards took over, they burned most of the written records they found, because they thought these writings were useless pagan literature. They would; they did the same thing with Aztec and Mayan books in Mexico.
The trade with China made Tondo the richest early Philippine state, but ironically, today Tondo is the name of Manila’s largest slum. Around 1500, a naval expedition from Brunei, the Moslem state on Borneo, conquered Tondo, and after that from 1500 to 1571, the kingdom on the shores of Manila Bay was a vassal of Brunei, called either Kota Seludong or Maynila. Brunei also dominated Mindoro, the western tip of Mindanao, the Sulu Islands, and Palawan.
I just have a few words for the other early Filipino states. Around 1200, ten leaders from the declining Indonesian empire of Srivijaya fled to the island of Panay and formed a confederation, the Kedatuan of Madja-as. Another Indianized state that got started at the same time was the Rajahnate of Cebu. Local tradition asserts the Cebu state was founded by a descendant of the Chola dynasty, the south Indian rulers who devasted Srivijaya in the eleventh century. We will be coming back to Cebu very soon, because Magellan will make contact with this state. The Rajahnate of Butuan, an Indianized state on the northeast coast of Mindanao, was founded no later than the year 1001, practiced Hinduism and Buddhism, and made a good living from mining gold and trading with places as far away as China, Japan and Persia. Finally, the arrival of Islam led to the establishment of Moslem states: the Sultanate of Sulu in the islands by that name, the Sultanate of Maguindanao on southern Mindanao, and the four Sultanates of Lanao, also on Mindanao. On that note, we will end the time-out, and resume the narrative.
The Fate of Magellan
Magellan did not stay on Leyte for long, and after a quick look at Samar to the north and Mindanao to the south, the expedition continued into the archipelago. Their next stop was at Cebu, which we just saw was home to one of the more advanced Philippine states. At this point Magellan should have recruited some native guides to direct him to the Spice Islands, using Enrique as a translator. Instead, it seems he forgot the original goal of the expedition. Now he suddenly got the urge to convert some Filipinos to Christianity. He felt that if he succeeded as a missionary, the new Christians would willingly become subjects of the Spanish crown, and Spain would have its first outpost in Asia. At Cebu he put on a show of Spain’s superior technology and fighting ability, by firing the cannons on the ships; then when he offered to baptize the natives, the local ruler, Humabon, accepted baptism, and so did two thousand of his followers.
The price of Humabon’s conversion was aid in fighting an enemy chief, Lapu-Lapu of Mactan Island. I visited Cebu and Mactan in 1985; Mactan is a small island, separated from Cebu by one mile of water. Today the airport of Cebu City is on Mactan, and a bridge connects the two islands. Anyway, Magellan went to fight on the morning of April 27, 1521. He was so confident of victory that he only took sixty men to Mactan. Humabon brought 600 warriors to help, but Magellan told him to stay behind and watch. His crew could do the job by themselves.
Lapu-Lapu heard they were coming and assembled 1,500 warriors of his own to meet them, armed mainly with bamboo spears and poisoned arrows. The resulting battle was one-sided, and fought entirely in the water; the Spaniards never got to Mactan’s shore. Moreover, they were hopelessly outnumbered, to the point that even having cannon, muskets, crossbows, steel swords and steel armor could not win the battle for them. Only eight of Magellan’s sixty men survived; Magellan was not among them. Our sources disagree on exactly how Magellan was killed; one account says that several native warriors ganged up on him, while another account, the one today’s Filipinos prefer, asserts that Lapu-Lapu cut him down in a one-on-one fight. Nowadays both Magellan and Lapu-Lapu are venerated in the Philippines, Magellan for discovering their islands, and Lapu-Lapu because he was the first Filipino to resist colonialism.
Magellan’s death gave Humabon second thoughts about the alliance. Maybe it would be better to get along with Lapu-Lapu. Humabon invited 24 Spanish officers to a farewell banquet, gave the officers palm wine and women, and then attacked them, killing all but two or three. And that wasn’t the only loss, for the crew’s translator now jumped ship. Enrique had seen Magellan’s last will & testament, which called for Enrique to be set free when Magellan died, so legally he was now a free man. Instead of continuing with the expedition, Enrique chose to join the Cebu community, and stay here with Humabon. He wasn’t born in the Philippines, but it looked a lot like home, so what the heck! For that reason, modern-day Filipinos consider Enrique to be one of themselves, and they call him Enrique of Malacca or Henry the Black. We don’t hear any more from Enrique after this, so we don’t know how long he lived, or if he ever saw his Indonesian homeland again; if he did, this ex-slave would have been the first person to go all the way around the world.
After the battle of Mactan and Humabon’s treachery, only 120 of the original 270 crewmen were left to the expedition. This was not enough to man all three ships, so they burned the ship in worst shape, the Concepcion, and divided her crew and provisions between the other two, the Trinidad and the Victoria. The Philippines and the Moluccas are a thousand miles apart, as the monkey-eating eagle flies, so it does not take too many days to sail between them, and because there are plenty of islands along the way, you don’t even have to travel out of sight of land for long. However, the crew had no idea where to go, so they wandered aimlessly around Palawan, Borneo and the Sulu Sea for six months. Finally they reached the Spice Islands. Because the Portuguese had a base on Ternate, they went to the rival island of Tidore, and loaded a cargo of cloves. In fact, they overloaded, for the Trinidad sprang a leak and could go no farther.
Fortunately for the crew, no Portuguese ships were in the Moluccas while they were there; getting captured by the Portuguese would have ended the expedition for sure. Still, Juan Sebastian del Cano, the expedition’s new commander, did not want to press their luck, and decided to reduce the risk by having the ships go home by different paths. He would leave immediately with the Victoria and continue to go west, while the Trinidad, after it was repaired, would head east across the Pacific, going back the way it came. Once the Trinidad got moving again, it reached the Mariana Islands and turned north, but failed to catch the west wind needed for an eastbound course. The Trinidad’s captain claimed he sailed as far as latitude 42o N., which I’m skeptical of, because such a course would have put him near northern Japan. Then the ship limped back to the Moluccas, and this time the Portuguese caught her. Meanwhile the Victoria and eighteen of its crew members, including del Cano, made it to Spain in September 1522, almost three years to the day after they had left. Add to that seventeen men captured and later released by the Portuguese, and you have 35 survivors for the whole expedition. Because the Victoria also brought back 26 tons of cloves, King Charles saw the expedition as a success, despite all the losses.
Who Owns the Islands of Southeast Asia?
When it came to spices, the Philippines only had cinnamon, so at first Spain was more interested in Indonesia. But in the early 1520s it was unclear which country could have either place. Back in 1494 Pope Alexander VI tried to prevent future wars between Spain and Portugal by issuing the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the whole non-Christian world between those two nations. Sure, you may think the Pope had no business getting involved in foreign policy, but this was before the Reformation, and the typical medieval Pope thought that because he was God’s agent on earth, he outranked every king, so he could draw the frontiers between nations wherever he liked.
The Pope’s dividing line was drawn from north to south, and declared to be “370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands.” On a map this works out to a longitude of 46 degrees West, give or take a few miles; the most exact figure I could find was 46o 37′ West. According to the 1494 treaty, everything discovered west of that line belonged to Spain, and all new discoveries east of the line belonged to Portugal.
That was good enough while the Iberian nations were restricted to Europe, Africa and the Americas, but when they got to the Pacific, it became necessary to draw a similar property line on the opposite side of the world. It seemed logical to simply continue the Tordesillas line over the North Pole to the other side, where it becomes longitude 134 degrees East or 133o 23′ East, depending on who you are reading. The problem was that nobody knew where this so-called “antimeridian” actually ran. While it was easy for a navigator to determine the latitude of his location, by measuring how high the sun or certain stars were in the sky, before the invention of the chronometer in the 1760s, there was no accurate way to determine longitude. When a navigator was in unfamiliar territory, all he could do was guess how far he traveled each day, and use that to figure how far east or west he was, a process called “dead reckoning.”
As you might expect, with dead reckoning it is dreadfully easy to make a wrong guess, and this meant maps of the Pacific were full of errors, causing explorers to discover the same islands more than once. That was the case here. Look at the map on the Blubrry.com page hosting this episode, to see for yourself the errors I will describe. Because a ship had sailed around the world, Spanish cartographers now knew how big the world was, but they overestimated the size of Asia, and underestimated the size of the recently discovered Pacific. Thus, they drew maps that put the antimeridian west of its correct position, usually running through the Malay peninsula. The vertical line in the middle of the map shows this, and the dotted line shows where Magellan placed the Southeast Asian mainland. This led Europeans to believe that both the Philippines and the Spice Islands were east of the line, in the Spanish half of the world. One Spanish navigator, Martín Fernández de Enciso, drew the crucial line so far west that it intersected with the mouth of the Ganges River. If this was true, it would have meant that everything east of India, including all of Southeast Asia, belonged to Spain. Actually, both the Philippines and the Spice Islands are on the Portuguese side of the line; the antimeridian really runs through Japan and New Guinea.
On this evidence, Spain sent two naval expeditions to conquer the Moluccas. The first expedition had seven ships and two captains, García Jofre de Loaísa and the previously mentioned Juan Sebastian del Cano, since he had been there before. This expedition left in 1525, and initially they looked for the Trinidad in the Atlantic, since Spain did not know the fate of Magellan’s flagship at that time. Then when they didn’t find the Trinidad, they retraced Magellan’s route down the South American coast, and the ships suffered very similar fates. Two ships were wrecked before they could enter the Strait of Magellan, while a third deserted and returned to Spain. The other four ships passed through the strait, only to be scattered by a fierce storm soon after entering the Pacific. One ship simply disappeared for the next four hundred years; wreckage from it was found in 1929, on the Amanu atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago of Polynesia. The second ship was carried north instead of west by the winds and currents, all the way to the Pacific coast of Mexico. The third ship was wrecked on Mindanao in the Philippines, and only the flagship, the Santa Maria del Victoria, made it to the Spice Islands, after stopping at Guam and Mindanao. Both de Loaísa and del Cano died of scurvy during the Pacific crossing, so the surviving crew members were leaderless. Still, the crew received a warm welcome from the sultan of Tidore. He had given spices to Magellan’s crew five years earlier, and the Portuguese had punished him for that gift; now he wanted revenge on both the Portuguese and their local ally, the sultan of Ternate. Soon after that, the Portuguese returned and put Tidore under siege; the Spaniards helped in the defense, but the crew of a single ship can only do so much.
By now a Spanish conquistador, Hernando Cortez, had conquered Mexico and renamed it New Spain. In 1527 the Spanish crown ordered Cortez to send a second follow-up expedition across the Pacific, to find out what happened to the first follow-up expedition AND the Trinidad. This time three ships sailed from Mexico’s Pacific coast, commanded by a cousin of Cortez, Álvaro de Saavedra Cerón. While launching ships from Mexico instead of Europe to cross the Pacific meant less hardship, it was still a risky trip. Again, a storm separated the ships, and two of them were never seen again. One of my sources floated a theory that the missing ships were carried to Hawaii, some 250 years before Captain Cook discovered those islands, and the crew chose to spend the rest of their lives there, instead of trying to leave. Who wouldn’t?
As was the case before, one ship made it all the way to its destination. This ship, the La Florida, made landfall on Mindanao, where Saavedra found and rescued a few survivors from the previous expedition; then he continued on to the Spice Islands. Though the Spaniards got only a handful of reinforcements from the ship, their arrival encouraged them greatly. However, Saavedra’s luck ran out when he tried to go back to Mexico with a cargo of spices; like the Trinidad, he could not find winds that would carry him across the Pacific from west to east. On the first two attempts, he managed to explore the northern coast of New Guinea and discovered the Admiralty Islands and the Marshall Islands, but the trade winds kept blowing him back to Indonesia. On the third attempt, the ship was wrecked in a storm, and Saavedra was killed. The survivors of the expedition gave themselves up to the Portuguese, who detained them for years before allowing them to return to Spain.
Because of the poor quality of the maps, King Charles V thought Spain had the legal advantage in Southeast Asia, but by now it was clear that Portugal had the logistical advantage; the Spanish route from Europe to the Spice Islands was 5,500 miles longer than the Portuguese one around Africa. What’s more, Portugal now had outposts on the African coast and in the Indian Ocean, where its ships could stop on the way. For these reasons, Portugal was losing just one ship out of every ten that it sent to Southeast Asia, while Spain was losing two out of every three ships. In 1529 Portugal’s King John III made this proposal: if Spain would drop its claim to the Spice Islands, Portugal would pay 350,000 ducats — that’s about $52 and a half million in today’s American dollars — and Portugal give free passage back to Europe for any Spaniards left in Indonesia. Charles accepted, and this agreement was put down in writing as the Treaty of Sarragosa.
Spain may have abandoned Indonesia, but it wasn’t done with the Philippines yet. The Spaniards felt they still had a claim here, because they had gotten to the Philippines first. And for the rest of the sixteenth century, Spain would publish maps that showed the Philippines a few hundred miles east of their correct position, as if the Spaniards were trying to make sure the archipelago was east of the Tordesillas antimeridian, so that nobody could dispute their claim. On that note, we will end today’s episode here, but this isn’t the end of our story about the Spanish Empire. On the contrary, we are only done with the first act. Next time we will see what happened when the Spaniards came back to the Philippines, this time with plans to stay.
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