The 16th century signified great progress in the geographical knowledge of the world. Expeditions promoted by the monarchs expanded knowledge about the shape and dimensions of the earth. The aim pursued was to find new sea routes providing access between Asia and America. Many Basques were part of these discoveries including the Zumarraga-born Miguel López de Legazpi.
21-11-1564 - Legazpi and his crew set sail from the port of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco. Mexico.
They sailed through the Mariana Archipelago.
22-01-1565 – They disembarked on the Island of Guam.
03-02-1565 – They set sail in the direction of the Islas de Poniente (Islands to the West).
13-02-1565 – They landed on the shores on the Island of Samar.
21-02-1565 – They reached Leite.
05-03-1565 – They reached the port of Cabalian.
They spread across the islands, except for Mindanao and the Sulu Islands.
16-03-1565 - They arrived in Bohol via Tagbilaran. There on that very day LEGAZPI made the first blood covenant with Chief SIKATUNA.
27-04-1565 – They reached Cebu Island.
1567 – The new possessions were organised under the name of the Philippine Islands.
Expansion continued across the Panay, Masbate, Mindoro and Luzon islands.
24-06-1571 - Legazpi founded Manila, The Distinguished and Ever Loyal city of Spain in the East.
A native of Zumarraga in the Philippines
Miguel López de Legazpi, born in Zumarraga, was the protagonist of the conquest of the Philippines.
His exact date of birth is not known, although it is known that he was born in Zumarraga at the start of the 16th century. He was born into a powerful family that owned the Legazpi tower house that can be visited today.
The tower house, also identified in documents as Jauregui Handia, is currently located in the Artiz neighbourhood (Artiz Auzategia), a stone’s throw away from the railway station.
Miguel López de Legazpi settled in New Spain (Mexico) in 1528. There he got married and served in various positions in the administration and became mayor of the capital.
In 1564 together with the Ordizia-born the cosmographer and navigator Andrés de Urdaneta, he led the expedition that culminated in the conquest of The Philippines.
Despite the dangers it was a risk worth taking
An expedition of five ships sailed from the port of Navidad in Jalisco, Mexico on 21 November, 1564. They were heading for The Philippines: 200 men-at-arms, 150 sailors, 5 priests and various other individuals, who were not registered, were part of the crew. Miguel López de Legazpi was appointed commander, while Andrés de Urdaneta was in charge of nautical and religious matters.
It was no easy undertaking. A voyage taking over three months exposed to the sea conditions, illnesses, pirate attacks and shortage of food.
But the rewards were huge. The yearning to discover, the possibility of becoming rich and the entrepreneurial spirit were sufficient stimulus to embark on the adventure.
In April 1565, the expedition reached the Island of Cebu and there the San Pedro Fortress was built and served as the base for the conquest of the Philippine archipelago.
Years later, in 1571, Miguel López de Legazpi founded Manila and turned it into the headquarters of the government of the archipelago. Not long afterwards, in August 1572, he passed away on the island.
At the end of the 19th century, the town of Zumarraga wanted to pay tribute to him by erecting a sculpture in his honour. The monument was built in 1897 in the centre of Euskadi Plaza, in the same spot where it can be seen today.
Zumarraga has a street called Islas Filipinas. The island of Samar in the Philippines has a municipality called Zumarraga.
Letters sent by Diego de Legazpi, nephew of Miguel López de Legazpi.
Manila, January 1574.
"… On occasions, my dear sister Ana, the sea is mad. The most recent voyage we made was absolute panic. The tempest howled and whistled; the waves reached everywhere; the sea became confused and frightening… It all passed. We survived, but not without remembering that little image of Our Lady we venerated so much on the slopes of Beloqui, at whose feet we buried our dear ancestors.
At one point, it seemed to me that she opened up her blanket to cover us beneath it. On the first visit you make to her, please convey the gratitude of this most ungrateful son".
Manila, May 1571,
"... At last my dear uncle Miguel has agreed to what I had been yearning for so long; and I bless the day that he allowed me to embark to see more of the world in this way, this hope that I had set myself when leaving that incomparable land in the absence of which I am remembering more and more. I have been appointed quartermaster or administrator of a merchant ship which is known as the longest-serving one between Manila and Cacao".
Manila, July 1572.
"…In recent days I have noticed a great improvement in the discomfort that has afflicted me recently, so I have had the opportunity more than once to visit and spend time with my dear uncle Miguel. The appreciation and estimation that my uncle professes for the indigenous people in this place increases day by day, so much so that he has made all his subordinates learn the language and customs of this place".
In the next letter written in August 1572 from Manila, Diego tells his father about his father’s brother:
"… my uncle Miguel has passed away this month. A heart problem ended his life all of a sudden. The day after he was buried in the Church of Saint Augustine, his grandson, Juan de Salcedo, and Captain Goñi arrived at Manila after having happily completed the mission that my uncle Miguel had entrusted to them: the submission and uniting of all the archipelagos through the establishing of peaceful agreements. Since his death I have felt like an orphan on these islands, far from your blessed shadow and that of my dear uncle who is now gone from here".