Spanish ship ‘Elcano’ docks on March 16 for quincentennial


MANILA – The Spanish ship Juan Sebastián Elcano will drop anchor in Philippine waters on March 16 to reenact the Spaniards’ first contact with Filipinos and the first circumnavigation of the world led by Ferdinand Magellan and the ship’s namesake 500 years ago.

Spanish Ambassador to Manila Jorge Moragas said Tuesday the ship’s stop in the Philippines is a key part of the global voyage around the world to commemorate the quincentennial of the momentous circumnavigation.

The 93-year old training ship will arrive in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and stay in the waters off Suluan and Homonhon Islands until March 18 before sailing to Cebu on March 20, in the very places where the Magellan-Elcano expedition made the first visual contact, landing, and meeting with the Filipino people.

“The Juan Sebastián Elcano is doing the same world tour (as the expedition 500 years ago) and (on) March 16, it’s going to visit the very same place in the Philippines. So this coincidence in time and space is something very important that we have to underline,” Moragas said in an interview.

Due to coronavirus disease 2019 restrictions, he said the crew of the Elcano would be staying aboard the ship.

Before the pandemic, the plan was to include a tour inside the ship.

The Elcano is a four-mast brig-schooner built in 1928. Its length of 113 meters makes it the third-highest ship in the world.

A historic leap forward

Moragas said the Magellan-Elcano voyage from 1519 to 1522 was a historic leap forward and a technical challenge at that time.

“The objective of the expedition was commercial and was to search (for) an alternative route to the Maluku (for spice) and in that context, they reached the Philippines,” he said.

According to Fundación Elkano, it was in November 1520 when Magellan’s expedition sailed across the Pacific for 100 days, with no land in sight aside from a few atolls.

They finally saw dry land, having arrived in the Mariana Islands on March 6, 1521.

They sailed to the Philippines, initially naming the archipelago as “Islas de San Lazaro”, after docking off the waters of Homonhon in Eastern Samar on the feast day of Saint Lazarus of Bethany.

When the expedition reached Cebu on April 7, 1521, Magellan became embroiled in various local disputes and was killed on April 27.

Elcano eventually captained the ship Victoria.Initially, five ships and 238 men departed Spain as part of the expedition but only one ship and 18 men made it back three years later – the first time the globe was circumnavigated. (PNA)