First Europeans in the Philippines

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It is not known with certainty who the first Europeans were to visit any part of what is now known as the Philippines may have been. Books published in Europe before Ferdinand Magellan landed in the southern Philippines in 1521 show that some knowledge of the existence of the Philippines had reached Europe before Magellan's expedition reached the archipelago. What remains unclear is whether any European had reached what is now known as the Philippines, or whether these published mentions were the result of second or third hand reports of the existence of those islands.

Books or commentaries on books published before Ferdinand Magellan landed that refer or seem to refer to the Philippines

Tome Pires, 5 volumes published 1512-1515

The first European reference to the Philippine archipelago appears to have been made by Tomé Pires (1512-1515) who writes,

"The Luções are about ten days' sail beyond Borneo. They are nearly all heathen; they have no king, but they are ruled by a group of elders. They are a robust people, little thought of in Molucca. They have two or three junks at the most." [1]
"They take the merchandise to Borneo and from there they come to Molucca."[2]
"The Borneans go to the lands of the Luções to buy gold, and foodstuffs as well, and the gold which they bring to Molucca is from the Luções and from the surrounding islands which are countless; and they all have more or less trade with one another. And the gold of these islands where they trade is of low quality - indeed very low quality ... [3]

Contesão commentary

"This is the first European reference to the Philippine Archipelago, called Luções from its largest and north-westernmost island, Luzon ... Galvao (p.239) informs us that in June 1545 a Portuguese called Pero Fidalgo left the city of Borneo on a junk, and by contrary winds was driven towards the north, where he found an island in nine or ten degrees, which they called dos Luções, because its inhabitants were thus named ... Galvao gives the date of the first known Portuguese visit to Luzon, but it is quite likely that some other Portuguese ship on the China voyage had called before at the Luções, either on purpose or by accident. The Account of the Genoese Pilot (Leone Pancaldo) says that when, in March 1521, Magellan's expedition arrived at the small island of Malhou, in the south-eastern Philippine Islands, the natives informed them that 'they had already seen there other men like them', which suggests that possibly even before 1521 the Portuguese had visited the archipelago.[4][5]


  1. Fernao Mendes Pinto
  2. Tome Pires (1512-1515), p.133
  3. Tome Pires (1512-1515), p.134
  4. (Cordeal Saraiva edition 'Obras completas', vi,126)
  5. Tome Pires (1512-1515), footnote 2 p133
  • Fernao Mendes Pinto, The travels of Mendes Pinto, Rebecca D Catz (1989) ed., trans., University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-66951-3
  • Tome Pires (1512-1515), The Suma Oriental of Tome Pires, Armando Contesão (1990) ed., Laurien Books Ltd, ISBN 978-81-206-0535-0, Vol 4, pp133–134