jack tan Aug 2005
upon a time, not so long ago, man first achieved the feat of going around his
own planet. And the circuit was completed in a place definitely not so far away
Most history and reference
books list Juan Sebastian del Cano of Magellan’s expedition as the first
circumnavigator of the world. Historians
now are contesting that claim. Many believe it was Magellan. Filipino historians are getting into the act
and claiming that a Filipino (geo-ethnically, not geopolitically), Enrique de
Malacca, was the first around the world.
Still others say it was both Magellan and Enrique.
Enrique, a.k.a. Trapobana, is
also being claimed as their own by Indonesians and Malaysians. Harun Aminurashid of Malaysia names him Panglima Awang in his novels. So Enrique might be Malaysian since he was
found in a slave market in Malacca (Melaka).
He might also be Indonesian as he was reportedly kidnapped by slavers in
Sumatra (Zamatra) – though we do not know if he was born
there or merely captured there. Or he might be a Filipino from Cebu
because he easily conversed with Cebuanos as interpreter for Magellan. Some
dispute this “nationality by language” theory arguing that he may have merely
used a Malay trade language and not necessarily a Philippine tongue. But at that time “speakers of this language
(Malay) could be found in all the trading ports in the Philippines from
Sarangani to Manila, either (as) professional interpreters or members of the
ruling families” -- and it seems Enrique fluently conversed not only with
rulers but also with the common people.
Tropabana was in his teens
when he was bought from Muslim slavers in the recently Portuguese-conquered
city of Malacca by Fernao Magalhaes of the Portuguese navy. Trapobana was a smart kid with a talent to
learn and speak many languages, a valuable asset to explorer-adventurer
types. Magalhaes had him christened
after Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator, brought him to Europe
and made him his trusted companion.
Enrique was faithfully at Magalhaes’ side during his battles against
Moors in Africa, during his heartbreaking rebuff at the Portuguese royal court
of King Manuel, during his (now as Spanish citizen Fernan Magallanes)
successful raising of a Spanish fleet for his expedition, during his dangerous
and troublesome voyage of discovery saddled with mutinous officers and crew
while crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and during his end at the Battle
Both Magellan and Enrique
made the circumnavigation in a series of on and off travels, not in one
continuous loop. Magellan had been to
the Indonesian Spice Islands (the Moluccas - not to be
confused with Malacca) in 1510. As far
as I know there is no record of Enrique having been to the Mollucas (about 127
degrees east longitude). Remember, from
0 degree longitude in England, the numbers rise going east until they reach 180
degrees. Enrique is recorded as having
been to Cebu (about 123 degrees east) and Malacca (about 102
degrees east). In other words, Magellan had traveled farther east than
From the Mollucas in the
east, Magellan over a decade started going ever west, to Malacca taking Enrique
along, to Africa, to Europe, later
across the Atlantic to America, across the Pacific sailing past 127 east
longitude in 1521 at a higher latitude than previously -- but hey, Magellan had
already rounded the planet! – toward the
Philippines. Upon reaching Cebu,
it was Enriquez’s turn to have rounded the world ... if he was from there. Whether he subsequently traveled to Malacca
or Sumatra, I know of no record.
I hope he did, to chalk one up for the Malay race, just in case he was
Indonesian or Malaysian and not Cebuano.
After Magellan was killed in
Mactan, Enrique and some other survivors managed to flee to their ships and
hightailed it back to Cebu. With
Magellan gone, the Spaniards unjustly mistreated Enrique. Instead of being
manumitted and given money as per Magellan’s will, he was told that he was to
become a slave to Magellan’s wife. That
was a huge mistake. Enrique’s loyalty
was to his master and friend, not to the envious Spaniards who repeatedly
plotted and mutinied against their Portuguese captain and never bothered to aid
their comrades in peril at Mactan but just sat in their boats offshore.
Soon however, Enrique got the
chance to avenge himself and Magellan.
He decided to defect when he was ordered to palaver with Rajah
Humabon. He convinced Humabon the
Spaniards treacherously planned to sail away after stealing goods from his
warehouse. So Humabon did it unto the
Spaniards before they could do it unto him.
A banquet for the Spaniards was held where, except for the kindly Fr.
Valderrama who was spared (and those safely on duty aboard the ships), the
unsuspecting Europeans were massacred and some of the survivors made into
slaves. And so Enrique was free again and among people of his race.
And what about Juan Sebastian
del Cano who supposedly circumnavigated the globe first? Well, after some more misadventures, he would
return to Spain aboard the decrepit Victoria with 17 men and complete his circumnavigation --.more
than a year and four months later after Enrique had done a circumglobal