On October 24, 1593, a soldier called Gil Perez was on guard duty outside the Governor’s palace in Manila.
Extra vigilance was required, as it had been learned just the day before that Governor Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas had been hacked to death by Chinese pirates.
The soldier began to feel dizzy and exhausted. He leaned against the wall and rested for a moment with his eyes closed.
When he opened his eyes a few seconds later he found himself in unfamiliar surroundings. What he couldn’t know at that time was he was standing in Mexico City’s Plaza Mejor, thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.
He was soon noticed by some local guardsmen who spotted his unusual uniform and strange behaviour.
He was taken to the local authorities and, under questioning, he told his captors that just moments before he had been guarding the governor’s palace in Manila. He admitted that he had no idea where he was or what had happened to him.
A different set of officers then questioned Perez, attempting to trip him up, but the soldier clung to his story.
Finally, the officers called in a religious expert, the Franciscan friar Gasper de San Augustin.
According to the friar’s written account, Perez told the following tale:
“My name is Gil Perez. As to standing sentry here I am doing as nearly as possible what I was ordered to do. I was ordered this morning to mount guard at the doors of the governor’s palace in Manila. I know very well that this is not the governor’s palace and evidently I am not in Manila. Why or how that may be, I know not. But here I am, and this is a palace of some kind so I am doing my duty as nearly as possible. Last night the governor of the Phillipines, His Excellency Don Gomez Perez Dasmarinas, had his head cracked with an axe, and is dead of it.”
Totally baffled by this account, the friar did what any God-fearing 16th Century Catholic would do — he handed him into the loving embrace of the Spanish Inquisition.
Here the style of questioning was what today might be called ‘enhanced interrogation’. But whatever fearsome torture Perez was subjected to, he stuck to his story.
The soldier then languished in jail for two months, until a cargo ship arrived from the Philippines, carrying news that the Governor of Manila had been killed exactly in accordance with Perez’s report.
The sailors were then sent to the jail, on the off-chance that one of them might recognise Perez. As fate would have it, one of them did.
According to the sailor, Perez was indeed a soldier of the palace guard, and hadn’t been seen in Manila since the day he disappeared — October 24, 1593.
The Inquisition, concluding that Perez had been the innocent victim of some supernatural force, allowed him to return to Manila.
There he lived out the remainder of his life in quiet obscurity, apparently trying to put the strange events he had experienced behind him.
Ever since the tale has continued to prompt fascination and speculation.
It clearly influenced Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra, which includes the story Governor Manco and the Soldier.
It was also discussed by Philippine national hero José Rizal, a keen compiler of strange and mysterious stories of his country.
Other writers have suggested paranormal explantions for the story — ranging from alien abduction to spontaneous teleportation.
Whatever the truth of the matter, this well-documented mystery is not likely to be explained away any time soon.