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Re-enacting the circumnavigation 500 years later

Juan Sebastián Elcano — ARMADA.DEFENSA.GOB.ES

IN SERVICE to the King of Spain, five ships were sent on an expedition in 1519 in search of the Spice Island. Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan commanded the Trinidad, the lead ship, and four other vessels: the San Antonio, Conception, Santiago, and Victoria.

In 1521, the expedition was completed with only the Victoria returning to Spain carrying 18 surviving sailors out of the original 270. It was the Castilian navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano who took command and completed the expedition after Mr. Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan. Mr. Elcano completed the first recorded circumnavigation of the globe, covering a distance of 14,000 leagues.

During an on-ground and Zoom press conference on Mar. 9 at his residence, Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Moragas said that the circumnavigation “was a leap forward” in areas of communication and geography such as the discovery of the Pacific Ocean.

“The objective of the expedition was commercial — to search an alternative route to Moluccas through the west route. Through that they reached the Philippines,” Mr. Moragas said.

“It was not about conquering a mission but to trade with a nation,” Mr. Moragas said. It was about finding and trading for spices such as cinnamon, nuts, and white pepper which, the ambassador said, were “very valuable in Europe at that time.”

On Mar. 16, the Spanish training ship Juan Sebastián Elcano, carrying navy trainees and students, will arrive in the Philippines — one stop in its reenactment celebrating the 500th anniversary of the circumnavigation of the globe.

The third tallest ship in the world, the Elcano is a 113-meters long four-mast brig-schooner. Since it was built in 1928, the training ship has completed 77 training voyages, and has covered more than 3.7 million kilometers. This trip marks the 10th time the ship has circumnavigated the world.

The visit of the Spanish vessel was organized by the National Defense and Foreign Affairs departments, the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the Guiuan Municipal Local Government, and the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

The Elcano will arrive in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, on Mar. 16 and will be anchored in Suluan and Homonhon islands until Mar. 18. Then, it will dock in Cebu from Mar. 20 to 22 in the exact spots where the expedition made the first visual contact.

“The vessel is doing the tour with strict COVID-19 (health and safety) regulations,” Mr. Moragas said, noting that staff from the ship are prohibited from leaving the ship or no guests are allowed to enter it.

Aside from the ship’s visit, historical markers will be unveiled in the specific areas where Mr. Magellan’s expedition made first visual contact with the islands. Between Mar. 16 and Oct. 28, 34 historical markers will be unveiled in the Visayas, Palawan, and Mindanao, marking the 34 sites of the Philippine route of the Magellan-Elcano expedition.

In line with the commemorative event, the Embassy of Spain has programmed a full series of activities from April to June, organized by the Instituto Cervantes in Manila and Casa Asia in Spain.

On Apr. 8 and 13, Casa Asia will hold a webinar called “From the second half of XIX century to the Independence of the Philippines.” A streaming concert on  guitarras del mundo” will be held on Apr. 30.

Casa Asia will hold a webinar on May 12 and 13 called “Current bilateral relations and future perspectives.” Meanwhile, the National Museum of the Philippines will open the exhibit The Longest Journey on May 24. And on May 26, 6 p.m., Instituto Cervantes will hold a webinar called “The Origins of the Santo Niño image.”

Instituto Cervantes will hold a webinar, “A long standing friendship. The first blood pledges,” on Jun. 23.

For more information on the quincentennial commemorative activities, visit — MAPS

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