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Pigafetta’s Chronicle

Content and Contextual Analysis

historical sources
- primary tool in understanding and interpreting the past

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The account of Pigafetta is one
of the most important primary
sources in the study of
precolonial Philippines.
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The account of Pigafetta is
the single most important
source about the voyage of
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Magellan’s expedition overturned many of the
conventions of traditional geography
 provided a demonstration of the sphericity
of the Earth
 revolutionized the solid belief that the
Earth's surface was covered for the most
part by the continents.

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Although Pigafetta’s testimony
was meant for European
readers and was not entirely
free of bias and outright lies…

Since there are several curious

persons (very illustrious and very
reverend lord) who not only are
pleased to listen to and learn the
great and wonderful things which God
has permitted me to see and suffer in
the long and perilous navigation…
…it gave a detailed
account of the Battle
of Mactan, the first credible source for a
successful Filipino period
resistance against
foreign invaders.

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Locating Pigafetta’s
account in the context
of its writing warrants a
familiarity on the
dominant frame of
mind in the age of

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Shakespeare, Michael de Montaigne and
Giambattista referred to the book in their
interpretation of the New World.
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Who is Antonio Pigafetta?

• Famous Italian traveller

born in Vicenza around
1490 and died in the
same city in 1534
• known by the name of
Antonio Lombardo or
Francisco Antonio
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Who is Antonio Pigafetta?

• He studied navigation
• He joined the
Portuguese captain
Ferdinand Magellan
and his Spanish crew
on their trip to the
Maluku Island

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The First Voyage Around the
Antonio Pigafetta
When they reached Ladrones islands (Islands
of the Thieves)…

“These people have no arms, but

use sticks, which have a fish bone
at the end. They are poor, but
ingenious, and great thieves…”

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Ladrones Islands (Marianas Islands)
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• Ten days after they reached Ladrones
Islands, Pigafetta reported that they
reached what he called the isle of
Zamal, now Samar.

• But Magellan decided to land in

another island for greater security
where they could rest for a few days.
• After two days, March 18, nine men
came to them and showed eagerness in
seeing them.

• Magellan realized that the men were

reasonable and welcomed them with
food, drinks, and gifts.
• In turn, the natives gave them fish, palm
wine (uraca), figs, two cochos, rice
(umai), cocos and other food supplies.

What does this say about

the natives?
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“This palm produces a fruit named
cocho, which is as large as the
head, or thereabouts: its first husk is
green, and two fingers in thickness,
in it they find certain threads, with
which they make the cords for
fastening their boats. Under this
husk there is another very hard, and
thicker than that of a walnut.”
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“They burn this second rind, and
make with it a powder which is
useful to them. Under this rind there
is a white marrow of a finger’s
thickness, which they eat fresh with
meat and fish, as we bread, and it
has the taste of an almond, and if
anyone dried it he might make bread
of it.”
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• Pigafetta characterized the people as
“very familiar and friendly”.
• They willingly showed them different
islands and the names of these islands.
• The fleet went to
Humunu Island
(Homonhon) and
there they found
what Pigafetta
referred to as
“Watering Place of
Good Signs”

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• Here they found
the first signs of
• They named the
island with the
nearby islands as
the archipelago of
St. Lazarus.

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• They left the island, then on March
25th, they saw two ballanghai
(balangay), a long boat full of people
in Mazzava/Mazaua

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• The leader, Raia Siagu, sent his men to
the ship of Magellan.
• The Europeans entertained these men
and gave them gifts.
• When the king of the balangay offered to
give Magellan a bar of gold and a chest
ginger, Magellan declined.
• Magellan sent the interpreter to the king
and asked for money for the needs of
his ships and expressed that he came
into the islands as a friend.
• The king responded by giving Magellan
the needed provisions of food in

What does this say about the people

• Magellan exchanged gifts of robes in
Turkish fashion, red cap, and gave the
people knives and mirrors.
• He also boasted of his men in armor
who could not be struck with swords and

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• Magellan showed the king his other
weapons, helmets, and artilleries.
• He also shared with the king his charts
and maps and shared how they found
the islands.
• After a few days, Magellan was
introduced to the king’s brother, who
was also a king of another island.
• They went to this island and Pigafetta
reported they saw mines of gold.
• The king was Raia Calambu, king of
Zuluan and Calagan (Butuan and
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• Gold was abundant that parts of the ship
and of the house were made of gold.
• Pigafetta described the king as the most
handsome of all the men that he saw in
the place.
• He was adorned with silk and gold
accessories like a golden dagger, which
he carried with him in a wooden polished
• On March 31st, which happened to be
Easter Sunday, Magellan ordered the
chaplain to preside a Mass by the shore.
• The king heard of the plan and sent two
dead pigs and attended the Mass with
the other king.
• Pigafetta reported that both kings
participated in the mass.
“…when the offertory of the mass
came, the two kings, went to kiss the
cross like us, but they offered
nothing, and at the elevation of the
body of our Lord they were kneeling
like us, and adored our Lord with
joined hands.”

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• After the Mass, Magellan ordered that the
cross be brought with nails and crown in
• Magellan explained
that the cross, the nail,
and the crown were
signs of his emperor
and that he was
ordered to plant it in
the places that he
would preach.
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• Magellan further explained that the cross
would be beneficial for their people
because once other Spaniards saw this
cross, then they would know that they
had been in this land and would not
cause them troubles, and any person
who might be held captives by them
would be released.
• After seven days, Magellan and his men
decided to move and look for islands where
they could acquire more supplies and

• They learned of
the islands of
Ceylon (Leyte),
Bohol, and Zsubu
• The king of Cebu, through Magellan’s
interpreter, demanded that they pay tribute
as it was customary, but Magellan refused.

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• When the queen came to the Mass one day,
Magellan gave her an image of the Infant
Jesus made by Pigafetta himself.

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• On the 26th of April, Zula, a principal man
from the island of Matan (Mactan) went
to see Magellan and asked him for a boat
full of men so that he would be able to
fight the named Silapulapu (Lapulapu).
• Such chief, according to Zula, refused to
obey the king and was also preventing
him from doing so.
• Magellan died in that battle.
• The natives, perceiving that the bodies of
the enemies were protected with armors,
aimed for their legs instead.
• Magellan was hit with a lance in the face.
Magellan retaliated and pierced the same
native with his lance in the breast and
tried to draw his sword but could not lift it
because of his wounded arm.
• Seeing that the captain has already
deteriorated, more natives came to
attack him.
“Whilst the Indians were thus
overpowering him, several times he
turned round towards us to see if we
were all in safety, as though his
obstinate fight had no other object
than to give an opportunity for the
retreat of his men.”

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• The king of Cebu offered the people of
Mactan gifts of any value and amount in
exchange of Magellan’s body but the
chief refused.
• They wanted to keep Magellan’s body as
a memento of their victory.
• Pigafetta also told how Magellan’s slave
and interpreter named Henry betrayed
them and told the king of Cebu that they
intended to leave as quickly as possible.
• Pigafetta alleged that the slave told the
king that if he followed the slave’s advice,
then the king could acquire the ships and
the goods of Magellan’s fleet.
• The two conspired and betrayed what
was left of Magellan’s men.