Miguel López de Legazpi

Miguel López de Legazpi
El Adelantado
Miguel López de Legazpi
1st Governor-General of the Philippines
In office
April 27, 1565 – August 20, 1572
Monarch Philip II of Spain
Succeeded by Guido de Lavezaris
Personal details
Born Miguel López de Legazpi
Zumárraga, Spain,
Died August 20, 1572 (aged 69–70)
Manila, Spanish East Indies (now Manila, Philippines)

Miguel López de Legazpi[1] (1502 – August 20, 1572), also known as El Adelantado and El Viejo (The Elder), was a Spanish conquistador who established one of the first European settlements in the East Indies and the Pacific Islands in 1565. He is the first Governor-General in the Philippines (formerly known as Spanish East Indies). After obtaining peace with various indigenous tribes, López de Legazpi made the Philippines the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571.[1]


Voyage of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (1564)

Birth place of Legazpi in Zumárraga, Guipúzcoa

King Felipe II ordered an expedition to the Philippines when he was the king of Spain in 1556. Adelanto (Governor) Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, a member of the city council in Mexico was the one who led the expedition. This was formed by four ships and 380 men. Fr. Andres de Uraneta, the chief sailor and spiritual advisor of the expedition, Melchor de Legazpi (son of Adelanto de Legazpi),Felipe de Salcedo (grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi), and Guido de Lavezarez (one of the people who survived in the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan) were the ones included in the said voyage. The expedition started at Navidad, Mexico on November 1, 1564. Their expedition was based on the route taken by Magellan. They reached Cebu on February 13,1565. Their expedition succeeded and they were able to establishe a settlement in the Philippines.


In 1528, Hernán Cortés established settlements in North America and López de Legazpi traveled to Mexico (New Spain) to start a new life. This was due to the death of his parents and his dissatisfaction with his eldest sibling, who inherited the family fortune. In Tlaxcala, he worked with Juan Garcés and Juan's sister, Isabel Garcés. López de Legazpi would go on to marry Isabel and have nine children with her. Isabel died in the mid 1550s. Between the periods of 1528 and 1559, he worked as a leader of the financial department council and as the civil governor of Mexico City. He was commissioned by the viceroy, Luis de Velasco, in 1564, to lead an expedition in the Pacific Ocean, to find the Spice Islands where the previous explorers Ferdinand Magellan and Ruy López de Villalobos had landed in 1521 and 1543, respectively. The expedition was ordered by king Philip II of Spain, after whom the islands were named. The viceroy died in July of that year, but the Audiencia and López de Legazpi completed the preparations for the expedition. On November 21, 1564, five ships and 500 soldiers, sailed from the port of Barra de Navidad, New Spain, in what is now Jalisco state, Mexico.

Expedition to the Philippines

Statue of López de Legazpi with Datu Sikatuna in Tagbilaran, Bohol, marks the location where the Blood compact alliance took place.

López de Legazpi and his men sailed the Pacific Ocean for 93 days. They were accompanied by six Augustinian missionaries in addition to Andrés de Urdaneta who served as navigator and spiritual adviser.[2] In 1565, they landed in the Mariana Islands, where they briefly anchored and replenished their supplies. They fought with Chamorro tribes and burned several huts.

López de Legazpi's troops arrived in the Philippines and landed in the shores of Cebu on February 13, 1565. After a brief struggle with hostile natives, they left the island in search of food, water, supplies and other resources. On February 22, 1565 they reached the island of Samar guided by Datu Urrao. The Spaniards and their native allies left the island for the nearby islands of Mazaua and Leyte, guided by Datu Bankaw. Their ships drifted to the coast of Bohol on March 16, 1565 where they befriended with Datu Sikatuna and Rajah Sigala. López de Legazpi made a blood compact with the native chieftain, Datu Sikatuna, as a sign of friendship between the two people. There, the Spaniards obtained spices and gold after convincing the natives that they were not Portuguese.

On April 27, 1565, the Spaniards and their native allies sailed back to Cebu and attacked the villages of Rajah Tupas, which led to the surrender of the settlements. There, the Spaniards established their colony, naming it "Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesús" (Town of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), and "Villa de San Miguel" (Saint Michael's Town). In 1568, López de Legazpi sent one of his men back to Spain to report on his progress. He remained in Cebu and did not accompany his men during their colonization of Manila because of health problems and advanced age. Having heard of the rich resources in Luzon, he dispatched two of his Lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo, to explore the northern region.

A route of the Spanish expeditions in the Philippines.

Trade with Mexico

In 1567, about 2,100 Spaniards and Mexicans arrived in Cebu under orders of the Spanish king. They built the Fuerza de San Pedro (Fortress of Saint Peter) , which provided a haven for arriving Mexican ships and protection from hostile natives.


In late 1569, a force of 300 Spaniards and several of their native allies, left Cebu and began exploring the Northern regions of the Visayas. The Spaniards discovered the islands of Panay and Mindoro, where they encountered Chinese sea pirates in the area. Goiti and Salcedo fought with sea pirates on the eastern coastline of Mindoro and defeated them on the island and established their settlements in the region.


The tribes of the Philippines practiced ancestor and nature worship and part of the motivation of the Spaniards was to convert the natives to the Roman Catholic religion. Aside from baptizing the natives and giving them Christian names, the islands were renamed to "Filipinas" in honor of King Philip II (Felipe in Spanish).

On May 8, 1570, they arrived in Manila Bay. There, they were welcomed by the natives. Goiti's soldiers camped there for a few weeks, while forming an alliance with the Muslim tribal chief, Rajah Sulaiman III. On May 24, 1570, after disputes and hostility had erupted between the two groups, the Spaniards occupied the villages of Tondo and Manila, where a battle was fought.

In the same year, more reinforcements arrived in the Philippines, prompting López de Legazpi to leave Cebu. He recruited 250 Spanish soldiers and 600 native warriors to explore the regions of Leyte and Panay. He followed Goiti and Salcedo to Manila the following year, after hearing the villages had been conquered.

In Manila, López de Legazpi formed a peace pact with the native councils, Rajah Sulaiman III, Rajah Sulaiman II and Rajah Lakan Dula. Both groups agreed to organize a city council, consisting of two mayors, twelve councilors and a secretary. López de Legazpi established a settlement there on June 24, 1571 and he also ordered the construction of the walled city of Intramuros. He proclaimed the town as the island's capital, and the seat of the Spanish government in the East Indies.[1]

With the help of Augustinian and Franciscan friars, he established a government on the islands. He became the first Spanish governor of the Philippines, and worked to convert the natives to the Christian religion. In 1609, Antonio de Morga, Alcalde of Criminal Causes, in the Royal Audiencia of New Spain wrote:

"After the islands had been conquered by the sovereign light of the holy gospel which entered therein, the heathen were baptized, the darkness of their paganism was banished and they changed their own for Christian names. The islands also, losing their former name, took--with the change of religion and the baptism of their inhabitants--that of Filipinas Islands, in recognition of the great favors received at the hands of his Majesty Filipe the Second, our sovereign, in whose fortunate time and reign they were conquered, protected and encouraged, as a work and achievement of his royal hands." [3]

Last years

Statue of López de Legazpi in Zumárraga, Spain.

López de Legazpi governed the Philippines for a year before dying of heart failure in Manila in 1572. He died poor and bankrupt, leaving a few pesos behind, due to having spent most of his personal fortune during the conquest. He was laid to rest in San Agustin Church, Intramuros. Manila was honoured in 1574, where the city was given the title "Distinguished, and ever loyal city of Spain" (Insigne y Siempre Leal Ciudad de España) by the king of Spain.

By the time of López de Legazpi's death, the regions of Luzon, Visayas and parts of northern Mindanao had passed to Spanish rule. For the next 256 years, the Philippines became a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and was administered as a Spanish colony.

Letters to the King of Spain

During his last years, López de Legazpi wrote several letters to Philip II of Spain about his journey to the East Indies, and the conquest he had achieved. These were collectively known as the "Cartas al Rey Don Felipe II: sobre la expedicion, conquistas y progresos de las islas Felipinas" (Letters to the King Sir Philip II: on the expedition, conquests and progress of the Philippine Islands). The letters are still preserved today at the General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain.


Legazpi and Urdaneta's expedition to the Philippines effectively created the trans-Pacific Manila galleon trade, in which silver mined from Mexico and Potosí was exchanged for Chinese silk, porcelain, spices and other good precious to Europe at the time. The trade route formed an important commercial link between Europe and East Asia, while heavily financing the expansion of the Spanish Empire.[4]

See also


  • De Morga , Antonio. (2004). "History of the Philippine Islands". Volume 1 and 2. The Project Gutenberg.
  • López de Legazpi , Don Miguel. (1564–1572). "Cartas al Rey Don Felipe II : sobre la expedicion, conquistas y progresos de las islas Felipinas". Sevilla , España.


  1. ^ a b c Karnow, Stanley. "Miguel López de Legazpi". In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines. Random House (1989). ISBN 0394594759. - On Miguel Lopez de Legazpi vs Manuel de Legazpi: Stanley Karnow erroneously used the name "Manuel de Legazpi" to refer to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi at the Cast of Principal Characters, The Spanish section of his book on page 446, however the Index and the entirety of the book solely used the name "Miguel Lopez de Legazpi"; Karnow also mistakenly used the year "1871" (as the founding year of Manila as a capital) at the Cast of Principal Characters, The Spanish section, but the rest of the book used "1571", specifically on pages 43-47, 49, and 485
  2. ^ "Blood Compact", Bohol Philippines History website
  3. ^ Antonio de Morga. "History of the Philippine Islands". Project Gutenburg. http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/7phip10.txt. Retrieved 2004-12-01. 
  4. ^ Charles C. Mann (2011), 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Random House Digital, p. 19-25, ISBN 9780307596727, http://books.google.com/books?id=IqaMEWNvsJQC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false 

External links

Political offices
New office Governor and Captain-General of the Philippines
Succeeded by
Guido de Lavezaris
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
El adelantado
Honorary disestablished

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