Andrés de Urdaneta

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Andrés de Urdaneta (1508 - 1568) was a Spanish navigator and explorer. He embarked on an expedition with García Jofre de Loaysa in 1525. After being shipwrecked in the Moluccas, he returned to Spain in 1536. His skills in maritime navigation permitted him to discover viable routes that made positive impact on succeeding nautical explorations. [1]

Early Life Before the Voyage

Urdaneta was born in the town Ordizia in Guipúzcoa, Spain. His mother, Gracia de Cerain, maintained a noble stature and had influential connections to the ironworks sector. His father, Juan Ochoa de Urdaneta, served as the mayor in their municipality in 1511. He was fluent in speaking Basque and Spanish, and he was also adept in writing in both languages. However, there were instances that his writings were difficult to understand because of the incompatible usage of syntax and expressions and the confusing blend of multiple languages. [2][3]

He had the opportunity to study Latin and philosophy but there were limited resources that spoke about his educational background. When he became an orphan, he decided to enlist in the military. He served during the Italian wars where he rendered his services as captain. Upon his return to Spain, he studied mathematics and astronomy. There were records that showed that he excelled in math. These subject areas had deepened his interest in the field of seafaring and motivated him to take part in the Loaysa expedition. [3][2]

When he was 17 years old, he was immersed to the seafaring life for the first time. Despite being a novice, he already had a knack for maritime navigation. He had exemplary written his nautical observations and his exceptional memory permitted him to seamlessly chronicle his trip.[3][2]

His Maritime Expeditions

On 24 July 1525, there was a fleet of seven ships that sailed from La Coruña, Spain to the Spice Islands. Urdaneta was part of this voyage but some records said that he did not have specific job functions when he boarded the ship. However, there were also sources that refuted these claims and provided the basis that he also had significant contributions that aided in various nautical decisions of his superiors. In their expedition, they had experienced numerous obstacles that impeded their quest. They lost several officers and ship crew members because of health-related concerns and only one ship had survived. On 6 October 1526, they arrived in Mindanao under the leadership of Martin Iñiquez de Carquizano, who continued his voyage to the Moluccas thereafter.[3][2]

On 22 April 1528, King Carlos V bestowed the jurisdiction of The Moluccas to Portugal. When the Spaniards who settled in the Spice Islands knew about this, they ironed out their differences with the Portuguese and appealed to them about their return voyage to Spain. Urdaneta had sailed out of the island on 15 February 1535. He docked and arrived in Lisbon on 26 June 1536. Upon his entry, the Portuguese authorities confiscated his possessions and documents, including important scripts and records about their expedition. He was able to escape on 26 February 1537. When he reached the city of Valladolid in Spain, he began to rewrite all the important details and maritime observations that happened during their quest.[3][2]

In 1553, he entered the Augustinian order in Mexico City. He was then asked by Philip II of Spain to guide an expedition from Mexico to the Philippines and to find a return route. Prior to this, several expeditions to the Philippines had already failed. On 21 November 1564, they left the port of La Navidad in New Spain and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was the chief navigator of the expedition. Urdaneta had immense contributions on the nautical routes that were taken and his precise calculations showcased his extensive knowledge about maritime exploration. They reached the Philippines on 13 February 1565. A couple of months after, Urdaneta reached the island of Cebu, where he established a mission. On 01 June 1565, he embarked on the return voyage back to Spain. [4][2]

By sailing at high latitudes, around 42° N, he took advantage of favorable winds, avoided typhoons, and reached the Isthmus of Panama in 123 days. His “Manila Galleon route" helped the Spaniards to colonize the Philippines, and to gain Eastern markets for the products of Peru and Mexico. The return voyage from the Philippines to Mexico was a remarkable feat because it was deemed as the longest successful voyage in the navigation history. [4]

Monuments and Legacy in the Philippines

In the Anda Circle near Intramuros, there is a bronze statue erected in remembrance of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Andrés de Urdaneta. There is an inscription that reads: “he is the unparalleled cosmographer, pioneer of the Christian and Spanish civilization in the Philippines.” [5]

Coinciding with the National Arts Month in February 2009, a monument in memory of Urdaneta was revealed in Pangasinan. Four of the country's National Artists worked hard to build the monument: Napoleon Abueva (sculptor), Abdulmari Asia Imao (sculptor), Ildefonso Santos (landscape artist), and Alejandro Roses (writer). [6]


  1. "Andrés de Urdaneta." Encyclopedia Website, Accessed on January 14, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Crivelli, Camillus. "Andrés Urdaneta." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. Retrieved from on 05 February 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bosch, José Ramón de Miguel. [ "Andres De Urdaneta and the Return Voyage."] "Andres De Urdaneta Website." (Accessed on 05 February 2021).
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Andrés de Urdaneta ." Britannica Website, Accessed on January 14, 2021.
  5. Uckung, Peter. “The Voyage of Fray Andres de Urdaneta.” National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Accessed on January 14, 2021.
  6. Tacason, Joanna. "Fray Urdaneta's monument: A culmination of rediscovery and birth." ABS-CBN News, December 26, 2008,



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