Manila Galleon & California

Filipinos Gone 2 California

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Spanish Explorations of California Coast by Ships from the Philippines
The March of Portola and the Discovery of the Bay of San Francisco, an e-book by Zoeth S. Eldredge, produced by David A. Schwan
Publications of the Historical Society of Southern California, Vol 11, Part 1, Los angeles, 1891, Sutro Collections, with translations by George Butler Griffin
Felipe Salcedo
commanded San Pedro, a flagship of his grandfather Legaspi, on 6/1/1565 from Cebu, Philippines sailed to Cape Mendocino, California  and to the Mexican port of Acapulco This route was followed for nealy 300 years by the Spanish Manila-Acapulco galleon trades.
Francisco de Galli
sailed for the Philippines in 1585 & directed to survey the Californian coast during his return voyage. Not much was accomplished by Capt. de Galli
Sebastian Cermenon
Orders similar to Capt de Galli was given to Capt. Cermenon in 1594. Unfortunately, he lost San Agustin, his ship that explorations by galleon ships from the Philippines came to an end.
Monterey, California was occupied in 1606 by order of Philip lll, King of Spain to succor & refit Philippine galleon ships.
Jose Gonzales Cabrera Bueno published in Manila in 1734 the Treatise in Navigation
Don Juan Manuel de Ayala was born 12/28/1745 in Osuna, Andalucia. He was the commander of Sonora {a schooner} Santiago & San Carlos {a paquebot}. He went to the Philippines in 8/1779 with San Carlos. He served Spanish interests in California from 1776 to 1778 after conducting exploration of San Francisco Bay.
Additional notes about San Carlos (also called "El Filipino") @
"San Carlos, a vessel built in the Philippines, arrived thence, at San Diego 12/9/1791, under the command of Juan Gonzales" said Fray Zepherin Englehardt in his book Missions and Missionaries of California


On October 18, 1587, the Manila Galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza commanded by Pedro de Unamuno entered Morro Bay. A landing party was sent to shore which included Luzon Indios, marking the first landing of Filipinos in the continental United States. The landing party took official possession of the area for Spain by putting up a cross made of branches. The group was attacked by native Indians two days later, and one of the Filipinos was killed. Unamuno and his crew gave up further exploration of this part of the coast.

Historical Landmark Declared by the
Filipino American National Historical
California Central Coast
Dedicated October 21, 1995


First Filipinos to set foot in California

By Rodel Rodis
First Posted 17:59:00 10/08/2009

CALIFORNIA, United States—Almost a century after Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the Bahamas Islands on October 12, 1492 and claimed for the king of Spain what would later be called “the Americas,” Spanish Captain Pedro De Unamuno “discovered” California on the other side of the continent.

Although Columbus’ discovery is celebrated as a national holiday in the United States, in Spain, and throughout South America, no such honor is bestowed on De Unamuno for his discovery of California on October 18, 1587.

In fact, De Unamuno’s historic voyage has been largely ignored by historians and is only commemorated by the Filipino American community and only because De Unamuno reported in his ship’s log that his crew was composed of “Luzon Indios.”

This historical fact was revealed in Henry R. Wagner’s Spanish Voyages to the Northwest Coast of America in the Sixteenth Century which was published by the California Historical Society in San Francisco in 1929. The book included an English translation of De Unamuno’s account of his voyage to California.

The Spanish interest in finding California stemmed from the development of the Manila-Acapulco trade route, through which Chinese goods were transported from Manila to Acapulco and ultimately delivered to Spain.

In 1565, with Father Andres Urdaneta at the helm, a return route to Acapulco was found that passed by what we now know as the California coast. On the way back, Urdaneta sighted land, but lost sight of it in the mist.

Over the next 20 years, Urdaneta’s route was used by more Spanish vessels—mostly Manila galleon ships made in Philippine islands—and staffed by crews of “Luzon Indios.”

In 1585, Archbishop of Mexico Pedro Moya De Contreras dispatched Spanish Captain Francisco Gali to proceed to Manila from Acapulco and, on his return voyage, “to reconnoiter down the coast” in hopes of finding the land that Urdaneta and others reported sighting.

Archbishop Contreras also instructed Gali not to stop by China, mindful of the intense interest by Acapulco merchants in establishing direct commercial trade with China instead of having to go through the Spanish “middle men” merchants in Manila.

The Acapulco merchants had given money to Gali’s second in command, Pedro De Unamuno, to make the trade connections with China. Fortuitously for the merchants, Gali died while in Manila, leaving command of his two ships to De Unamuno.

Before leaving Manila in 1586, the Spanish authorities reminded De Unamuno of the Archbishop’s order not to go to China under any circumstances. De Unamuno’s crew on his return trip to Acapulco was composed mostly of Luzon Indios who were conscripted by the Spanish authorities in Manila to build the galleon ships and to man the crews that would sail on those ships.

The church authorities in Manila were concerned that if the merchants in Acapulco established direct trade relations with China, they would not need to go to Manila to pick up Chinese goods and the Spanish colonial outpost in the Philippine islands would be effectively abandoned.

Once De Unamuno left Manila, he headed straight for China disregarding the instructions of the Acapulco Archbishop and the Manila authorities. He would later claim that his diversion to China was due to “bad weather and lack of supplies.”

The Portuguese authorities saw direct Spanish trade with China as inimical to their own trade interests so they confiscated De Unamuno’s ships and reported his China incursion to the Spanish authorities in Manila. The Royal Audiencia in Manila dispatched Captain Juan De Argumedo to Macao to arrest De Unamuno and his cohorts and to recover the two Spanish ships. The penalty for De Unamuno’s insubordination was death.

But De Unamuno and his men were able to elude capture and managed to connect with two Franciscan priests who wanted to return to Mexico. One of the priests, Father Martin Ignacio De Loyola (the nephew of the founder of the Jesuit order), loaned De Unamuno money to buy a small Portuguese-built ship in Macao, which De Unamuno christened “Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza”.

With his new ship loaded with Chinese goods purchased with the funds provided by the Acapulco merchants and with his crew of Luzon Indios, a few Spanish soldiers, and two priests, De Unamuno sailed for Acapulco from Macao on July 12, 1587.

En route to Acapulco, the mast of his ship broke which compelled De Unamuno to dock in the nearest land to replace the broken mast and to replenish his food supplies. When his crew sighted land on October 18, 1587, De Unamuno entered the bay of what he called “Port San Lucas.” He took possession of the port and the land in the name of the Spanish king much as Columbus did on the other side of the continent a century before.

De Unamuno dispatched his Luzon Indios to act as his scouts as he explored the new land. Two days later, on October 20, his crew encountered natives who attacked them. In the battle that ensued, a Spanish soldier and a Luzon Indio were killed, before De Unamuno's crew was able to safely return to their ship.

On October 21, De Unamuno decided to leave and continue on to Acapulco. About a month later, De Unamuno wrote: “We entered the port of Acapulco on November 22 whence we wrote to Your Excellency and reported at length on the events and hardships of our voyage.”

After researching navigational maps of California and the geographic descriptions provided in De Unamuno’s narrative, members of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) determined that De Unamuno’s “Port San Lucas” is the city of Morro Bay.

On October 18, 1995, Morro Bay City Mayor William Yates officially dedicated a historical marker to commemorate De Unamuno’s landing. In part, the marker reads: “ A landing party was sent to shore which included ‘Luzon Indios’ marking the first landing of Filipinos in the Continental United States.”

On September 25, 2009, the state of California officially declared October as “Filipino American History Month” to honor the first Filipinos to set foot in California.

This article, in its original form, first appeared in the Op-Ed page of the San Francisco Chronicle on October 17, 1997




The first motive for the settlement of California was the need for a way-station for these Manila Galleons….. The opening of the Philippine trade in 1566 not only increased the familiarity of the Spaniards with the coast to the southward of that promontory, but that very coast offered excellent places of refuge for the sea-worn galleons at this stage of their long voyage. Beaten by the winter storms of the north Pacific, and stricken with scurvy and famine, these vessels were in a distressful condition when they reached the shores of America. And a port between thirty and forty-two degrees—the higher the better—would have furnished a place for refitting and reprovisioning. Such ports actually existed in San Francisco and Monterey Bays.

One of the first to propose the exploration and occupation of California for this purpose was the Archbishop-Viceroy Moya de Contreras. It was he who commissioned Francisco Gali to explore the California coast with this end in view. Gali, who had already made the eastern passage from Macao, 16 crossed to Manila in the San Juan, and provided from the viceregal treasury with 10,000 pesos for the purchase of a new ship at Manila in case the San Juan should be considered unseaworthy for the further prosecution of the undertaking. On the return voyage to New Spain Gali was to chart the coast of Japan, the Island of the Armenian, and California. However, Gali died in Manila, and Pedro de Unamuno was selected to carry out the commission of Gali. Contrary to instructions Unamuno put into Macao, where he intended to make some investments for disposal at Acapulco. 17 In his voyage across the Pacific he could find neither the Island of the Armenian, nor the other fabulous isles, Rica de Oro and Rica de Plata, whose existence was then believed in. On October 16, 1587, two small islands were discovered lying close to the mainland of America, and two days later he found a large bay which he named San Lucas, but which was very probably that of Monterey. Passing Lower California shortly after Cavendish had taken the Santa Ana in that vicinity, Unamuno reached Acapulco on November 22. No attempt was made to follow up the results of the voyage, which he had so unsatisfactorily recorded.



Globalization in the Philippines 400 years ago

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

... an academic exchange commemorating the 400th anniversary of the rescue of the crew and passengers of the galleon San Francisco that originated in the Philippines and was shipwrecked in Onjuku, a town 120 kilometers east of Tokyo. Of its 373 passengers and crew, 317 were saved by Japanese fishermen, including Don Rodrigo de Vivero who was returning to Acapulco after completing his term in Manila as Spanish governor-general of the Philippines. This event is taken as the beginning of the relations between Japan and Mexico.

Siazon had arranged for the participation of two Filipino historians in a Tokyo seminar celebrating the “Onjuku 400” anniversary....words of Mexican origin in our everyday language that we all thought were Spanish. For example, the Spanish “caballo” spelled and pronounced by Filipinos as “kabayo” actually comes from the Mexican “cabaio.” The wonderful weed cannabis, also from the Spanish “caballo,” and is presumed to be a Spanish word when it is Mexican. When two Filipinos have the same name, they address each other as tocayo or tocaya not realizing the term came from the Aztec “tocaitl.”

There are other words in our language borrowed from Mexico: palengke, tiangge, cassava, zacate, tamales, chili and even mariguana. Perhaps a Mexican lexicographer can tell us of Philippine words in their language because there is an old family in Oaxaca whose surname is “Maganda.” Mexico exports mangoes to the United States known as “mangas de Manila.”

We celebrated our own Ano de Amistad Filipino-Mexicano in November 1964 to mark the 400th anniversary of the expedicion maritima Mexico-Filipinas headed by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, founder of Spanish Cebu and Manila, and the Augustinian friar Andres de Urdaneta, the pilot of the expedition who made possible the tornaviaje or return route used during the galleon trade between Mexico and Filipinas that lasted 250 years. .

On Oct. 8, 2009, the Philippines will celebrate the first “Dia del Galeon” ...establishing the annual commemoration of Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day. This year, Angara expanded Philippine-Spanish friendship to include the other Spanish-speaking countries with diplomatic missions in Manila. Naturally, the first partner in this endeavor is the Embassy of Mexico and it is providential that the new ambassador and his deputy are historians. Dia del Galeon will hopefully focus our attention on the long relationship with Mexico and provide context for the Manila visit of the president of Mexico scheduled this November. The last visit of a Mexican president to the Philippines was by Adolfo Lopez Mateos in 1962, during the term of President Diosdado Macapagal.

From 1962 to 1964, a series of cultural exchanges between Mexico and the Philippines was implemented to celebrate Ano de Amistad Filipinas-Mexico resulting in three Mexican landmarks in Manila: Avenida Mexico, the monument to the Mexican hero of liberation Padre Miguel Hidalgo on Bonifacio Drive fronting the Port Area, and the monument commemorating the Legazpi-Urdaneta expedition by the Pasig near the Bureau of Immigration.

Unfortunately, not much has been done since in terms of historical research. As a matter of fact, microfilm copies of historical documents on the Philippines from the National Archives of Mexico where presented as a gift to the then Records Management and Archive Office, but these were not fully utilized and deteriorated in storage.

On the bright side was the people-to-people exchange resulting from the Philippines-Mexico Joint Commission on Culture 2005-2008, specifically the visit of a group of Mexican historians to Manila and a reciprocal visit of Filipino historians to Mexico. While most of the participants were familiar old faces, like Cristina Barron and Benito Legarda, the involvement of younger scholars was expected to revive interest in our shared past.

History becomes relevant to our time when we realize that globalization is not new. We had it in the Galleon Trade between Mexico and the Philippines four centuries ago.


Additional info Re: Manila Acapulco Galleon Trade

Wala Lang: When we got caught in between: ‘La Navál de Manila’


By JAIME C. LAYA October 11, 2009, 12:59pm




Filipinos occasionally get dragged into others’ fights: Between the United States and Japan in World War II, Spain and the US in 1898, Spain and Great Britain in 1762, Spain and the Netherlands in the 1600s. 


The earliest was due to the Dutch War of Independence. The Netherlands had become Spanish territory in 1555 with the division of the Habsburg Empire after Emperor Charles V died.  Fed up with oppressive Viceroys and high taxes, the Dutch rose in revolt in 1568. 


Merchants had profitably traded in spices through Portuguese ports (then controlled by Spain) but Philip II closed these to the Dutch 1580.  The latter then began to look for alternative routes to Asia.  In October 1600, Dutch General Olivier van Noort and his ships reached Albay Bay.  They lingered, targeting incoming junks from China and Japan with goods for the Manila-Acapulco trade. 


Two months later, in December, Spanish ships under Antonio de Morga engaged the Dutch in battle just outside Manila Bay. The Spanish flagship sank but 19 Dutchmen were captured and executed.  (The wreck of Morga’s ship, the San Diego, was discovered off Fortune Island in 1992 and archaeological finds—mainly Chinese porcelain—are now at Manila’s Museum of the Filipino People and Museo Navál in Madrid.)


Continuing its struggle for independence and commercial dominance, the Dutch sought to damage Spanish trade by blocking Manila Bay, by gaining control of the Moluccas, and by capturing silver-loaded Galleons arriving from Acapulco.


Our indio ancestors were collared and forced to work felling trees and dragging logs to shipyards; constructing ships and military defenses; supplying foodstuff; crewing galleons and warships.  Uprooted from their families, forced to do work they had never done before, exposed to new diseases (e.g., smallpox), and leaving fields untended, the native population actually fell.


Decisive encounters occurred in 1646.  The outnumbered Spanish only had two decrepit ships vs. the far stronger Dutch fleet.  Defeat would have meant the end of Spain in the Philippines.  The desperate Spaniards put themselves into the hands of the Virgin, Nstra. Sra. Del Rosario, and with four Dominican friars, bravely sailed off to battle.


Against all odds, the Spanish — undoubtedly with indio sailors and crew — won in a series of encounters:  March 16, 1646 off Bolinao, Pangasinan as the Dutch waited to ambush an incoming galleon and in later cat-and-mouse battles — July 29 and July 31 in the seas between Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon (near Banton and Maestre de Campo); and September 15 northwest of Cape Calavite in Mindoro near Lubang.  The men had vowed to walk barefoot to the Virgin’s chapel at Sto. Domingo (then in Intramuros), which they did after winning the final October 4, 1646 battle near Corregidor.


The Archbishop of Manila declared the victories miraculous, thereby beginning the feast of “La Navál de Manila.”  Yesterday, October 11, thousands again gathered at Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City to celebrate the Virgin’s intercession.  For the 364th time, we remembered how long ago, the Spanish drove the Dutch away.


Comments are cordially invited, addressed to


International Conference on the Galleon and the making of the Pacific

November 8, 2009, 5:31pm

Historically, the Philippine economy was highly linked to the Manila Galleon trade during the Spanish era and with bilateral trade with the Americans during the American colonial period. During the term of President Carlos P. Garcia, pro-Filipino economic policies were first implemented. From the 1960’s up to the middle of the 1970’s, the Philippine economy was recognized as the second largest economy in Asia, next only to Japan.

During the Spanish era, which lasted 250 years, Spanish trading ships sailed the Pacific Ocean bringing goods to and from Manila and Acapulco, Mexico. The twice yearly trip of the Manila Galleons brought porcelain, silk, ivory, spices, and other exotic goods from the Philippines, China, and other countries to Mexico and then to Spain and silver from the New World and other goods to the Philippines. With the Spanish government carrying on trade relations with countries in the Pacific from 1565 to 1815, Manila became the center of commerce in the Far East.

The galleon trade served as the main income-generating business for the Spanish colonists living in Manila. So lucrative was the trade that merchants from Sevilla, Spain, petitioned King Philip of Spain to control the sailing of the Manila galleons. The limitations made it essential to build the largest possible galleons, built of Philippine hardwood which weighed from 1,700 to 2,000 tons, and could carry a thousand passengers. The wrecks of the Manila galleons are legends second only to the wrecks of the treasure ships in the Caribbean. Aside from the goods carried in the galleons, the trade allowed modern, liberal ideas to enter the Philippines, which inspired the movement for independence.

In an initiative to bring about greater understanding of the rich tradition of the galleon trade and its influence as one of the world’s great trading systems for 250 years, which saw the establishment of linkages between America and China and the Spanish-Japanese competition for the Chinese marketplace, the Intramuros Administration will hold the International Conference on the Galleon and the Making of the Pacific on November 9-11, 2009, at the Villa Immaculada on General Luna corner Anda St., Intramuros, Manila.

The three-day event will gather scholars from Spain, the People’s Republic of China, the United States, Mexico, and the Philippines who will look into the infrastructure and context of the galleon trade and its impact on regional trade and on change and cultural transformation. The Manila Galleon Trade contributed to the making of the Pacific trade and was a prototype of what is today known as the global economy.