HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 61 no. 1 (2015)

The Earliest (Spanish) History of the Philippines?

John N. Crossley | Clive Griffin



Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas of 1609 is usually regarded as the earliest Spanish history of the Philippines. However, there is an almost entirely neglected manuscript in the Lilly Library, Bloomington, Indiana, that predates de Morga significantly. (The present authors have transcribed it and are currently translating it into English with a view to publication.) The manuscript was noted by the Franciscan archivist, Fr. Lorenzo Pérez, in the 1930s, but passed over by Charles Boxer. It seems to be the earliest history of the Philippines, covering the period from 1564 to 1596. What is more remarkable is that, unlike all the other early histories except Morga’s, it appears it was written not by a priest, but by a layman, quite possibly a soldier. It is largely an eyewitness account. The first part is very much concerned with Legazpi’s arrival in Cebu, but after that, it is predominantly concerned with Northern Luzon and the surrounding countries. There are no unknown events recorded, but the author offers a different point of view, presents previously unknown details, and gives new insights in his writing. His concerns are more with soldiers than with priests, but he also goes out of his way to mention the women involved and more earthy aspects of the Spaniards’ behavior and interactions with the local people. So this manuscript gives us another, different, insight into the earliest years of the Spanish occupation of the Philippines.

All Comments (1)

nina padilla
6 months ago

Bakit di manlang sinabi na may bayad pala.