Innocent passage?


    ‘Magellan and his merry men 500 years ago reached the Archipelago now known as the Republic of the Philippines and they had an encounter (friendly) with the residents…’

    HERE they come: “On the 16th (March) we saw land, and went towards it to the N.W., and we saw that the land trended north, and that there were many shoals near it, and we took another tack to the south, and we fell in with another small island, and there we anchored: and this was the same day, and this island is called Suluano, and the first one is named Yunuguan; and here we saw some canoes, and we went to them, and they fled; and this island is in 9⅔°N. latitude and in 189° longitude from the meridian. To these first islands, from the archipelago of St. Lazarus….” [Extracts From A Derrotero Or Log-Book Of The Voyage Of Fernando De Magallanes In Search Of The Strait, From The Cape Of St. Augustin. Francisco Albo, 1519;]

    Magellan and his merry men 500 years ago reached the Archipelago now known as the Republic of the Philippines and they had an encounter (friendly) with the residents:
    “Friday, the 22nd of March, the above-mentioned people, who had promised us to return, came about midday, with two boats laden with the said fruit cochi, sweet oranges, a vessel of palm wine, and a cock, to give us to understand that they had poultry in their country, so that we bought all that they brought. The lord of these people was old, and had his face painted, and had gold rings suspended to his ears, which they name Schione, and the others had many bracelets and rings of gold on their arms, with a wrapper of linen round their head.”

    The painted lord was a Pintado? Warrior? And where did they get the gold?

    “We remained at this place eight days: the captain went there every day to see his sick men, whom he had placed on this island to refresh them: and he gave them himself every day the water of this said fruit the cocho, which comforted them much. Near this isle is another where there are a kind of people who wear holes in their ears so large that they can pass their arms through them; these people are Caphre, that is to say, Gentiles, and they go naked, except that round their middles they wear cloth made of the bark of trees.

    But there are some of the more remarkable of them who wear cotton stuff, and at the end of it there is some work of silk done with a needle. These people are tawny, fat, and painted, and they anoint themselves with the oil of coco nuts and sesame, to preserve them from the sun and the wind. Their hair is very black and long, reaching to the waist, and they carry small daggers and knives, ornamented with gold, and many other things, such as darts, harpoons, and nets to fish…and their boats are like ours.” [Antonio Pigafetta. The First Voyage Round the World by Magellan. Translated by Lord Stanley of Alderley. 1874]

    Caphre = Kaffir? “At the heart of the origin of Kaffir is religious disagreement. The earliest evidence of its usage in English attests that it is used as a noun by Muslims as a pejorative term for a person who does not follow Islam – a use that is both considered offensive and intended to offend…the group in question is descended from the peoples of south-eastern Africa (the Nguni as well as some of the other Bantu-speaking peoples), a large number of whom were brought to the region (South and mainland South-East Asia) in the 16th century by both Arabs and Europeans, particularly the Portuguese, as either slaves or soldiers.” []
    Dark-haired, yes, and openly carrying bladed weapons. Brute? Ogre? Call us kapre, huh; smile when you say that, stranger.

    “At noon on Friday, March 22, those men came as they had promised us in two boats with cocoanuts, sweet oranges, a jar of palm-wine, and a cock in order to show us that there were fowls in that district. They exhibited great signs of pleasure at seeing us. We purchased all those articles from them. Their seignior was an old man who was painted. He wore two gold earrings in his ears, and the others many gold armlets on their arms and kerchiefs about their heads…There are people living near that island who have holes in their ears so large that they can pass their arms through them. Those people are caphri, that is to say, heathen. They go naked, with a cloth woven from the bark of a tree about their privies, except some of the chiefs who wear cotton cloth embroidered with silk at the ends by means of a needle. They are dark, fat, and painted. They anoint themselves with cocoanut and with beneseed oil, as a protection against sun and wind. They have very black hair that falls to the waist, and use daggers, knives, and spears ornamented with gold, large shields, fascines, javelins, and fishing nets that resemble rizali; and their boats are like ours.” [The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898, Volume XXXIII, 1519-1522, by Antonio Pigafetta. Editor: Emma Helen Blair. Translator: James Alexander Robertson]

    Two groups then: one was hospitable bringing fruits and liquor and a pet and the other was armed and had bling. Thus, the Magellan Expedition at this point should have considered their good fortune, being fed and entertained. True, these Europeans were more visitors than traders at the moment. The fatal flow would be revealed in a month. But for now, their passage seemed innocent.

    Fast forward five centuries and we have the Philippine Secretary of National Defense noting the presence of alien seacraft last 21 March 2021: “We view with grave concern the presence of 220 Chinese militia boats in the Julian Felipe Reef (Union Reef) in the West Philippine Sea. This is a clear provocative action of militarizing the area. These are territories well within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS) where Filipinos have the sole right to resources under international law and the 2016 arbitral ruling.”

    “We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory. We are committed to uphold our sovereign rights over the WPS.”


    Not so innocent. The DND Statement on Chinese militia boats in the Julian Felipe Reef was issued in the same week as this one: “Asteroid passing by near Earth on March 21 poses no danger.” []

    Whoa! Near miss? Two disasters in the making. Meanwhile, the deadly SARS-CoV-2 (first reported in Chinese Wuhan) is still killing the descendants of Julian Felipe of the 1896 Revolution and Rajah Colambu of Limasawa.