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Miguel López de Legazpi
Governor-General of Spanish East Indies

In office
April 27, 1565 – August 20, 1572
Monarch Phillip II
Succeeded by Guido de Lavezaris
Personal details
Born Miguel López de Legazpi
c. 1502
Zumarraga, Gipuzkoa
Crown of Castile
Died August 20, 1572 (aged 69–70)
Manila, Spanish East Indies, Spanish Empire

Birthplace of Legazpi in Zumarraga, Gipuzkoa

Miguel López de Legazpi[1] (c. 1502 – August 20, 1572), also known as El Adelantado and El Viejo (The Elder), was a Basque Spanish navigator and governor who established the first Spanish settlement in the East Indies when his expedition crossed the Pacific Ocean from the Viceroyalty of New Spain in modern-day Mexico, and founded Cebu on the Philippine Islands in 1565. He was the first Governor-General of Spanish East Indies which included the Philippines and other Pacific archipelagos, namely Guam and the Marianas Islands. After obtaining peace with various indigenous tribes, Miguel López de Legazpi made Manila the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571.[1] The capital of the province of Albay in the Philippines, Legazpi City bears his name.


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 1528 and 1559 he worked as a leader of the financial department council and as the civil governor of Mexico City.

Expedition to the Philippines[]

A route of the Spanish expeditions in the Philippines.

File:The Sandugo Shrine.jpg

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

Statue of López de Legazpi in Zumarraga, Spain.

In 1564, López de Legazpi was commissioned by the viceroy, Luis de Velasco, to lead an expedition in the Pacific Ocean, to find the Spice Islands where the earlier 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 Philippines had earlier been named by Ruy López de Villalobos. The viceroy died in July 1564, but the Audiencia and López de Legazpi completed the preparations for the expedition.

On November 19 or 20, 1564, five ships and 500 soldiers, sailed from the port of Barra de Navidad, New Spain, in what is now Jalisco state, Mexico (other sources give the date as November 1, 1564, and mention 'four ships and 380 men').[citation needed] Members of the expedition included six Augustinian missionaries, in addition to Fr. Andrés de Urdaneta, who served as navigator and spiritual adviser,[2] Melchor de Legazpi (son of Adelanto de Legazpi), Felipe de Salcedo (grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi), and Guido de Lavezarez (a survivor of the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan).

López de Legazpi and his men sailed the Pacific Ocean for 93 days. In 1565, they landed in the Mariana Islands, where they briefly anchored and replenished their supplies. There they fought with Chamorro tribes and burned several huts.

Arrival in the Philippines[]

López de Legazpi's expedition anchored off Cebu on February 13, 1565, but did not put ashore due to opposition from natives.[3]:77 On February 22, 1565 the expedition reached the island of Samar and made a blood compact with Datu Urrao. The Spaniards then proceeded to Limasawa and were received by Datu Bankaw, then to Bohol, where they befriended Datu Sikatuna and Rajah Sigala. On March 16, Legazpi made a blood compact with Datu Sikatuna.[3]:77

On April 27, 1565, the expedition returned to Cebu and landed there. Rajah Tupas challenged the Spaniards, but were overpowered by them. The Spaniards established a colony, naming the settlements "Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesús" (Town of the Most Holy Name of Jesus) after an image of Sto. Niño in one of the native houses.[3]:77

Panay and Mindoro[]

In 1569, due to scarcity of food provisions in Cebu, Legazpi transferred to Panay and founded a second settlement on the bank of the Panay River. In 1570, Legazpi sent his grandson, Juan de Salcedo, who had arrived from Mexico in 1567, to Mindoro to punish Moro pirates who had been plundering Panay villages. Salcedo also destroyed forts on the islands of Ilin and Lubang, respectively South and Northwest of Mindoro[3]:79[4]

Luzon and the capture of Manila[]

In 1570, having heard of the rich resources in Luzon, Legazpi dispatched Martín de Goiti to explore the northern region. Landing in Batangas with a force of 120 Spaniards and 600 Visayans, de Goiti explored the Pansipit River, which drains Taal Lake[3]:79 On May 8, 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 Sulayman. Legazpi wanted to use Manila's harbor as a base for trade with China, but Sulayman refused.[5] On May 24, 1570, after disputes and hostility had erupted between the two groups, the Spaniards occupied the villages of Tondo and Manila using scores of colonized Cebuanos as a bulk of the Spanish army.

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. The following year he followed Goiti and Salcedo to Manila, after hearing the villages had been conquered.

During the early phase of the exploration of the northern part of the Philippines López de Legazpi had remained in Cebu, and had not accompanied his men during their colonization of Manila, because of health problems and advanced age.

In Manila, López de Legazpi formed a peace pact with the native councils, Rajah Sulayman 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, and went on to become the first Spanish governor of the Philippines.

Last years[]

López de Legazpi governed the Philippines for a year before dying of heart failure in Manila in 1572.[citation needed] He died poor and bankrupt, leaving a few pesos behind[quantify], due to having spent most of his personal fortune during the conquest. He was laid to rest in San Agustin Church, Intramuros.

By the time of López de Legazpi's death, the parts of the Visayas had passed to Spanish rule. The Spanish met strong resistance from indigenous clans practising Islam on the island of Mindanao, and animist tribes of central and northern Luzon; particularly, the Zambal and Igorot Tribes of Zambales and the Mountainous regions of the Cordilleras[citation needed].

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 Lord 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.

Role of religion on the expedition[]

At the time of Legazpi's arrival, Filipinos practiced Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and various ancestor and nature worship practices. Part of the motivation of the Spaniards was to convert the natives to the Roman Catholic religion.

With the Augustinian, Franciscan and other friars, who had helped him established a government on the islands, López de Legazpi 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." [6]


His mortal remains are in the San Agustin Church, Manila.[7]

Tomb of Miguel López de Legazpi.[7]

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 goods precious to Europe at the time. The trade route formed an important commercial link between Europe and East Asia, while heavily financing the Spanish Empire.[8]

For the next 256 years, until the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Philippines was a Spanish colony.

See also[]

  • History of the Philippines


  • 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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Karnow, Stanley. "Miguel López de Legazpi". In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines. Random House (1989). ISBN 978-0-394-54975-0. – 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. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 M.c. Halili (2004). Philippine History' 2004 Ed.-halili. Rex Bookstore, Inc.. ISBN 978-971-23-3934-9. 
  4. Iloilo History Part 1 - Research Center for Iloilo
  5. Mann, Charles C. (2012). 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Random House Digital, Inc.. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-307-27824-1. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  6. Antonio de Morga. "History of the Philippine Islands". Project Gutenburg. Retrieved 2004-12-01. 
  7. 7.0 7.1,Manilajf0364_08.JPG
  8. Charles C. Mann (2011). "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created". Random House Digital. pp. 19–25. ISBN 978-0-307-59672-7. 

External links[]

Government 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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