By Floro L. Mercene
April 5, 2009, 9:59pm
More than 40 years after Magellan set foot on the Philippines, Spain sent an expedition to formally settle the islands. The expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, a businessman who made a fortune in Mexico, was composed of about 300 men, mostly Mexicans. It left the small town of Barra de Navidad in Jalisco in 1565 and landed in Cebu three months later. Legaspi later moved to Manila and founded it as a city in 1570.
While in Cebu, Legaspi sent the galleon San Pablo back to Mexico to obtain supplies. It was commanded by his grandson, Felipe Salcedo, with a famous navigator, Andres de Urdaneta, as second in command.
Under Urdaneta’s expert guidance, the San Pablo was able to reach Acapulco in a record 100 days, the first successful crossing of the Pacific Ocean from east to west.
The eastward route pioneered by Urdaneta was to serve as the basis for the establishment of a trade monopoly by Spain in what we now know as the galleon trade.
It was the oldest shipping line that ever existed, traveling over the longest and most dangerous ocean route, from Manila to the Mexican seaport of Acapulco, and lasting for almost 250 years, from 1575 to 1815.
Almost every year, two galleons left Manila for Mexico loaded with exotic goods from Asia, mostly from China and Japan, to be sold in Mexico and Europe and countries in South America, such as Chile and Peru.