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Magellan Did Not Discover the Philippines

According to Wow Philippines, the official Philippine tourism website, Limasawa Island was "the site of the celebration of the first Christian mass in the Orient, following the discovery of the Philippines by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521." There may be some doubt whether the first mass was held in Limasawa or Masawa, but there can be no doubt that Magellan did not discover the Philippines.

As Teodoro Agoncillo wrote almost fifty years ago in "A Reinterpretation of Our History Under Spain" (Sunday Times Magazine, 21 September 1958),

There are misconceptions in the treatment of our history that should be exposed and corrected for the intellectual health of our students and general readers. Foremost among them is the belief, so current even today, that Magellan discovered the Philippines. This belief originated from the Spaniard chroniclers whose purpose was to put into as wide a circulation as possible the greatness of Spain. This is natural and should not be counted against Spain or Spaniards, for indeed Spain was great and wealthy at the time Magellan reached the Philippines. The statement, however, becomes funny when Filipinos repeat such obvious prevarication of truth, for our country already had commercial relations with her Asian neighbors hundreds of years before Magellan was born.
So who discovered the Philippines? As far as I'm concerned, it's an irrelevant question to Filipinos because it is essentially a foreigner's question. I suppose someone before Magellan could lay claim to have discovered the Philippines, but from the point of view of the Filipino who was already there, s/he would not have thought that the foreigner discovered her/him. If s/he had a diary, it would probably have said something about foreigners arriving; no mention would have been made of being "discovered." And that's what looking at Philippine history from the Filipino point of view is all about.

Then there's the fact that references are made to the Philippines and Filipinos as if what exists today has been around since time immemorial. But that will have to wait for another post =)

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