Under Portuguese Rule: The Philippines Without Spain

We always know the fact that Fernão de Magalhães "discovered" the Philippines in 1521 when left Spain two years earlier in search for an alternative passage to India. Although he really didn't completed the circumnavigation of the world, his expedition has started the first "space race" between age-old rivals Spain and Portugal.


We always know the fact that Fernão de Magalhães "discovered" the Philippines in 1521 when left Spain two years earlier in search of an alternative passage to India. Although he really didn't complete the circumnavigation of the world, his expedition has started the first "space race" between age-old rivals Spain and Portugal.

Have you asked yourself about the possibility of a failed Magellan expedition? If the mutiny at Puerto San Julian on March 30, 1520, succeeded then the expedition would have not reached the Philippines without Magellan at the helm. Even if they proceeded to cross the Pacific with a new leader Juan Sebastian Elcano, they would have failed to reach their intended destination in the vast ocean.

It would have been certain that the Portuguese will "discover" the Philippines sooner or later. By 1521, the year that the Philippines was "historically" discovered, the Portuguese has already explored, discovered, and ruled most of the islands and territories close to the Philippines. It is likely that they have known of the place by now. Spain would have sent another explorer should the Magellan expedition failed but it is not certain if they will follow the longer route towards South America and across the Pacific just to reach the Philippines.

Without Magellan, English navigator Sir Francis Drake would become the first to circumnavigate the Earth. There will be no Pacific crossing for Spain until 1598. The Portuguese would have a lot to gain by colonizing the Philippines. It has a very strategic position in Asia as it gives them a foothold near China, Japan, and the Spice Islands.


How will they rule the Philippines?

It would have been different as the Portuguese were more concerned about getting as much economic value from their colonies than proselytizing Christianity. It is likely that both Luzon and Visayas would be Christianized but the Portuguese prefer a vassal state still ruled by local chieftains and the islands would probably retain their local culture. However, it may bring in people from Africa to work on plantations and agricultural estates just like they did in Brazil. In order to increase productivity and trading power, the Portuguese may allow people from the region like the Indians, Chinese, and other Malay groups to settle so that the Philippines would probably be like multicultural Malaysia and Singapore that we know.

Portuguese would be the lingua franca of the Portuguese East Indies. Ilocano and Tagalog were minor languages before the Spanish came and they took advantage of the shift in population and the divide and conquer strategy by the Spanish. Had Kapampangan remained its dominance, the languages similar to it like the Ibanag of the Cagayan Valley and the Sambal of Zambales will flourish but they will be subject to Kapampangan influence and most likely Tagalog and Ilocano would be the ones endangered at this point.


Sugbu may have been made capital because of its strategic location. Places would have Portuguese names from Novo Lisboa to Novo Porto. If the Portuguese East Indies (including the Philippines) become an independent country then it would be part of a pan-Malay superstate that would encompass present-day Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: Under Portuguese Rule: The Philippines Without Spain
Under Portuguese Rule: The Philippines Without Spain
We always know the fact that Fernão de Magalhães "discovered" the Philippines in 1521 when left Spain two years earlier in search for an alternative passage to India. Although he really didn't completed the circumnavigation of the world, his expedition has started the first "space race" between age-old rivals Spain and Portugal.
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