Miguel Lopéz de Legaspi

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Miguel Lopez de Legazpi

Miguel López de Legazpi (1502 - August 20, 1572, Manila), also known as Adelantado|El Adelantado (The Governor) and El Viejo (The Elder), was a Spanish conquistador who established the first colony in the Philippine Islands in 1565.


Early years

Born in 1502, Miguel López de Legazpi was the youngest son of Don Juan Martínez López de Legazpi and Elvira Gurruchategui. He was born to a nobility|noble family and lived in the small town of Zumárraga, Basque Country|Zumárraga, in the Basque Country (autonomous community)|Basque province of Guipúzcoa in Spain.

Between 1526 and 1527, López de Legazpi worked as a councilor in the municipal government of his home town. In 1528, after Hernán Cortés had established settlements in Mexico, López de Legazpi went to Mexico (New Spain) to start a new life. This was due to the death of his parents and his dissatisfaction with his eldest sibling, who inherited all of the family fortune. In Tlaxcala, he worked with Juan Garcés and Juan's sister, Isabel Garcés. López de Legazpi would go on to marry Isabel and have nine children with her. Isabel died in the mid 1550s.

Between the periods of 1528 and 1559, he worked as a leader of the financial department council and as the civil governor of Mexico City. He was later commissioned by the viceroy, Luis de Velasco, in early 1564, to lead an expedition in the Pacific Ocean, to find the Spice Islands where the previous explorers Ferdinand Magellan and Ruy López de Villalobos had landed in 1521 and 1543, respectively. The expedition was ordered by King Philip II, after whom the islands were eventually named. The viceroy died in July of that year, but the Audiencia and Legazpi completed the preparations for the expedition. On the early morning of November 21, 1564, armed with five ships and 500 soldiers, he sailed from the port of Barra de Navidad, New Spain, in what is now Jalisco state, Mexico.

Arrival in the Philippine Islands

Statue of López de Legazpi with Datu Sikatuna in Tagbilaran, Bohol, marks the spot where the Blood compact alliance took place.

López de Legazpi and his men sailed the Pacific Ocean for 93 days. In early 1565, they landed in the Mariana Islands, where they briefly anchored and replenished their supplies. They fought with Chamorros|Chamorro tribes and left several huts burned to the ground.

López de Legazpi's troops arrived in the Philippine archipelago and landed in the shores of Cebu on February 13, 1565. After a brief struggle with the natives, they left the island for the nearby islands of Leyte and Camiguin. His ships drifted to the coast of Bohol on March 16,1565. There, he and his crew obtained spices and gold after convincing the natives that they were not Portuguese. He made a blood compact with the chieftain, Datu Sikatuna, as a sign of friendship between the two peoples.

On April 27, 1565, López de Legazpi and his men went back to Cebu, attacking and destroying the village of Rajah Tupas. There, he founded the first Spanish settlements, naming it Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesús (Town of the Most Holy Name of Jesus) and Villa de San Miguel (Saint Michael's Town).

In 1567, 2100 Spanish, Mexican soldiers and labourers arrived in Cebu under orders of the Spanish King. They established a city and build the port of Fuerza de San Pedro which became their outpost for trade with Mexico and protection from hostile native revolts.

In 1568, López de Legazpi sent one of his men back to Spain to report on his progress. He himself remained in Cebu and did not accompany his men during the conquest of Manila because of health problems and advanced age. Having heard of the rich resources of Manila, he dispatched two of his Lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo, to explore the northern region.

Conquest of Manila

A late 17th century manuscript shows López de Legazpi (right) and Andrés de Urdaneta (left) during the Spanish conquest of the Philippines in 1565.

In late 1569, a force of 300 Spanish soldiers, cavalrymen, and several local natives, led by Martín de Goiti, left Cebu and began exploring the Northern regions of the Visayas. They found the islands of Panay and Mindoro, where they encountered Chinese sea-traders in the area. Goiti and Salcedo fought with Chinese pirates on the Eastern coastline of Mindoro and defeated them off the island. The Spaniards later established settlements in the area.

On May 8, 1570, they arrived in Manila and entered Manila Bay. The Spaniards were overwhelmed by the size of the harbour. There, they were welcomed by the Muslim natives. Goiti's soldiers camped there for a few weeks, while pretending to form an alliance with the Muslim king, Rajah Suliman. However, the Spaniards had other plans. They tricked the natives into believing that they were only visiting and staying for a short period.

On May 24, 1570, after quarrels had erupted between the two groups, they marched to the Muslim settlements in Tondo and the city of Manila, where a battle was fought against Suliman's warriors. The heavily armed Spanish soldiers defeated the natives and conquered the area.

In the same year, more reinforcements arrived in the Philippines, prompting López de Legazpi to leave Cebu. He took 250 soldiers and 600 native warriors to explore the regions of Leyte and Panay. He followed Goiti and Salcedo to Manila the following year, after hearing the city had been conquered.

In Manila, López de Legazpi formed a peace pact with the native Muslim councils, Rajahs Suliman, Matanda, and Lakandula. Both groups agreed to organize a city council, consisting of two mayors, twelve councilors and a secretary. López de Legazpi finally established a permanent settlement there on June 24, 1571, and he also ordered the construction of the walled city of Intramuros. He proclaimed the town as the island's capital and permanent seat of the Spanish colonial government in the western Pacific Ocean.

With the help of Augustinian and Franciscan friars, he established a government on the islands. He became the first Spanish governor of the Philippines and worked to convert the natives to the Catholic religion. Those who opposed his rule were tortured and executed, while those who supported him were awarded with encomiendas.

Last years

Statue of López de Legazpi in Zumárraga, Spain.

López de Legazpi governed the colony for a year before dying of heart failure in Manila in 1572. He died poor and bankrupt, leaving only a few pesos behind, due to having spent most of his personal fortune during the conquest. He was later laid to rest in San Agustin Church, Intramuros. He did not live to see the commemoration of Manila in 1574, where the city was given the title Distinguished and ever loyal city of Spain (Insigne y Siempre Leal Ciudad de España) by the king of Spain.

By the time of López de Legazpi's death, the regions of Luzon, Visayas and parts of northern Mindanao had already passed to Spanish rule. For the next 256 years, the Philippines was administered by New Spain as a Spanish colony.

Letters to the Spanish King

During his last years, López de Legazpi wrote several letters to Philip II about his journey to the East Indies and the conquest he had achieved. These were collectively known as the Cartas al Rey Don Felipe II: sobre la expedicion, conquistas y progresos de las islas Felipinas (Letters to the King Philip II: on the expedition, conquests and progress of the Philippine Islands). The letters are still preserved today at the archives of the indies in Seville, Spain.

See also


  • De Morga , Antonio. (2004). The Project Gutenberg Edition Book : History of the Philippine Islands - 1521 to the Beginning of the XVII century. Volume 1 and 2.
  • López de Legazpi , Don Miguel. (1564 - 1572). Cartas al Rey Don Felipe II : sobre la expedicion, conquistas y progresos de las islas Felipinas. Sevilla , España.

Related Resource

Preceded by
Newly Established
Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines
Succeeded by
Guido de Lavezaris

Original Source

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