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Miguel López de Legazpi

In office
April 27, 1565 – August 20, 1572
Succeeded by Guido de Lavezaris

Born 1502
Zumárraga, Guipúzcoa, Spain
Died August 20, 1572 (aged 69–70)
Manila, Philippines

Miguel López de Legazpi[1] (1502 — August 20, 1572), also known as El Adelantado (The Governor) and El Viejo (The Elder), was a Spanish conquistador who established one of the first European settlements in the East Indies and the Pacific Islands in 1565. After obtaining peace with various indigenous tribes, López de Legazpi made the Philippines the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571.[1]


Early years

Born in 1502, Miguel López de Legazpi was the youngest son of Don Juan Martínez López de Legazpi and Doña Elvira de Gurruchátegui. He was born to a noble family and lived in the town of Zumárraga, in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa in Spain. Between 1526 and 1527, López de Legazpi worked as a councilor in the municipal government of his town.


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 the periods of 1528 and 1559, he worked as a leader of the financial department council and as the civil governor of Mexico City. He was commissioned by the viceroy, Luis de Velasco, in 1564, to lead an expedition in the Pacific Ocean, to find the Spice Islands where the previous 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 islands were named. The viceroy died in July of that year, but the Audiencia and López de Legazpi completed the preparations for the expedition. On November 21, 1564, five ships and 500 soldiers, sailed from the port of Barra de Navidad, New Spain, in what is now Jalisco state, Mexico.

Expedition to the Philippines

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

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. They fought with Chamorro tribes and burned several huts.

López de Legazpi's troops arrived in the Philippines and landed in the shores of Cebu on February 13, 1565. After a brief struggle with hostile natives, they left the island in search of food, water, supplies and other resources. On February 22, 1565 they reached the island of Samar guided by Datu Urrao. The Spaniards and their native allies left the island for the nearby islands of Mazaua and Leyte, guided by Datu Bankaw. Their ships drifted to the coast of Bohol on March 16, 1565 where they befriended with Datu Sikatuna and Rajah Sigala. López de Legazpi made a blood compact with the native chieftain, Datu Sikatuna, as a sign of friendship between the two people. There, the Spaniards obtained spices and gold after convincing the natives that they were not Portuguese.

On April 27, 1565, the Spaniards and their native allies sailed back to Cebu and attacked the villages of Rajah Tupas, which led to the surrender of the settlements. There, the Spaniards established their colony, naming it "Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesús" (Town of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), and "Villa de San Miguel" (Saint Michael's Town). In 1568, López de Legazpi sent one of his men back to Spain to report on his progress. He remained in Cebu and did not accompany his men during their colonization of Manila because of health problems and advanced age. Having heard of the rich resources in Luzon, he dispatched two of his Lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo, to explore the northern region.

A route of the Spanish expeditions in the Philippines.

Trade with Mexico

In 1567, about 2,100 Spaniards and Mexicans arrived in Cebu under orders of the Spanish king. They established a city and built the port of Fuerza de San Pedro (Fortress of Saint Peter) which became their outpost for trade with Mexico, and protection from native revolts.


In late 1569, a force of 300 Spaniards and several of their native allies, left Cebu and began exploring the Northern regions of the Visayas. The Spaniards discovered the islands of Panay and Mindoro, where they encountered Chinese sea pirates in the area. Goiti and Salcedo fought with sea pirates on the eastern coastline of Mindoro and defeated them on the island and established their settlements in the region.


The Islamic tribes of the Philippines practiced ancestor and nature worship and part of the motivation of the Spaniards was to convert the natives to the Roman Catholic religion. Aside from baptizing the natives and giving them Christian names, the islands were renamed to "Filipinas" in honor of Felipe II de España (Philip II of Spain).

On May 8, 1570, 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 Sulaiman III. On May 24, 1570, after disputes and hostility had erupted between the two groups, the Spaniards occupied the villages of Tondo and Manila, where a battle was fought.

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

In Manila, López de Legazpi formed a peace pact with the native councils, Rajah Sulaiman III, Rajah Sulaiman II 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. He became the first Spanish governor of the Philippines, and 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." [2]

Last years

Statue of López de Legazpi in Zumárraga, Spain.

López de Legazpi governed the Philippines for a year before dying of heart failure in Manila in 1572. He died poor and bankrupt, leaving a few pesos behind, due to having spent most of his personal fortune during the conquest. He was laid to rest in San Agustin Church, Intramuros. Manila was honoured in 1574, where the city was given the title "Distinguished, and ever loyal city of Spain" (Insigne y Siempre Leal Ciudad de España) by the king of Spain.

By the time of López de Legazpi's death, the regions of Luzon, Visayas and parts of northern Mindanao had passed to Spanish rule. For the next 256 years, the Philippines became a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and was administered as a Spanish colony.

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 Sir Philip II: on the expedition, conquests and progress of the Philippine Islands). The letters are still preserved today at the archives of the indies in Seville, Spain.

See also


  • 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. ^ a b c Karnow, Stanley. "Miguel López de Legazpi". In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines. Random House (1989). ISBN 0394594759. - 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. ^ Antonio de Morga. "History of the Philippine Islands". Project Gutenburg. Retrieved 2004-12-01. 

External links

Political offices
New office Spanish Governor-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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