May 1 Massacre

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The May 1 Massacre refers to the killing of some officers of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan by men of Rajah Humabon of Cebu during a feast after the Battle of Mactan in 1521.


Following Ferdinand Magellan’s death in the Battle of Mactan on 27 April 1521, the remaining men held an election to select a new leader for the expedition. Duarte Barbosa, Magellan’s brother-in-law, and Juan Serrano, were chosen as co-commanders. In his will, Magellan called for the liberation of his slave Enrique. He was a Malay member of the Magellan-Elcano expedition who serve as its interpreter. Magellan acquired Enrique as a slave in 1511 at the age of 14. However, Barbosa and Serrano demanded that Enrique continue his duties as an interpreter for them. Enrique secretly had communication with Rajah Humabon which caused him to betray the Spaniards.

Invitation for a Feast

On 1 May 1521, Humabon invited the Spaniards for a great feast. Thirty officers, including Serrano and Barbosa, attended it. Toward the end of the meal, armed Cebuanos came and murdered the men. Twenty-seven were killed. Serrano, who was left alive and brought to the shore facing their ships, begged the men on board to pay a ransom to the Cebuanos. However, the Spanish ships left the port and Serrano was presumably killed. Antonio Pigafetta speculated in his account that João Carvalho, who became first in command in the absence of Barbosa and Serrano, left Serrano so that he could be in command of the fleet.

According to Italian historian Pietro Martire d’Anghiera who interviewed Concepcion pilot Martin de Genoa, the violation of women made Cebuanos antagonistic toward the Spaniards. According to professor and scholar of Global Hispanic Literature Jorge Mojarro, the reason behind the so-called massacre was survival. He said that after the defeat of the Europeans in Mactan, Cebuanos lost their initial fears. He added that as Enrique was refused to be freed, he plotted the ambush with the Rajah of Cebu.


  • Cameron, Ian (1974). Magellan and the first circumnavigation of the world. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 029776568X. OCLC 842695
  • Mojarro, Jorge.“Reflections on the massacre of Cebu”.The Manila Times.(Accessed on 10 February 2021).
  • “Did you know?”.facebook.(Accessed on 10 February 2021).



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