November 1542: Ruy Lopez de Villalobos begins his expedition to the Philippines

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Ruy Lopez de Villalobos

The month of November marks the expedition of Sir Ruy Lopez de Villalobos as he headed off from Nueva Espana (New Spain) or Mexico as most of us know it today.

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Villalobos was the brother-in-law of Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain at the time. His brother-in-law appointed him commander of the expedition.

The first island Villalobos landed on was Mindanao, which he reached four months later – making him the first Spaniard to explore this particular island.

Ruy Lopez de Villalobos
Ruy Lopez de Villalobos

Villalobos is famous for something far more then his exposition in 1542, he was the first to give the name ‘Felipinas’ in honor of the Spanish crown prince Don Felipe, later to be King Felipe II.

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National hero Jose Rizal once noted that Villalobos initially gave the name ‘Felipinas’ to an island known at the time as Tandaya (today’s Leyte). This name was then ascribed to the entire archipelago with a decree dated September 24, 1559.

Villalobos’s expedition was not as formidable, as he was considered an enemy by the Portuguese after he tried to settle in several neighboring islands near them. After two difficult years he gave in, and he and a crew parted for Spain in one of their ships.

Ruy Lopez de Villalobos never saw Spain again, he died of malignant fever in Amboina (Maluku) Indonesia on Good Friday, 1546.

Ruy Lopez de Villalobos

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