Overshadowed by the bad news on hostilities in Zamboanga and the pork barrel scandal is this bit of sunshine. In the coming Miss Universe Pageant in the United States, we have not one but three Filipino beauties competing for the crown. We have Miss Philippines, of course; but Miss Canada and Miss Gabon are also Filipinos by blood if not by citizenship.
Filipinos are all over the world such that every time there is a disaster or terrorist attack somewhere, our Department of Foreign Affairs has to verify if we have any of our countrymen among the dead or wounded. Jessica Zafra said it long before that the Filipino diaspora is part of our secret plot toward world domination because many children all over the world are being raised by Filipino nannies and are imbibing Philippine values. Remember, two front-line heirs to the British throne, the princes William and Harry, were raised by a Filipino woman who has since retired in Bacolod.
In 2005, during a Malacañang state dinner for visiting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, I sat across a middle-aged, fully coiffed Filipino woman whose place card, partly hidden by the floral arrangement, identified her as “Mrs. Musharraf.” Curious, I asked why she was not on the presidential table. She replied that she was not the wife of the Pakistani president, rather she was married to the president’s brother.
Filipino wanderlust goes a long way back, long before we came up with the familiar tags “balikbayan” and “OFW.”
In 1417, a large group of people from Sulu, led by Paduka Pahala visited China, to pay tribute to Chinese emperor Zhu Di. On their way home Pahala died in Dezhou, Shandong province where the emperor ordered a tomb erected for him. Part of the Sulu sultan’s 300-strong entourage stayed on, thus their descendants are a mix of Chinese and Filipino blood though the Philippines, as we know it today, did not exist yet in 1417. National Artist Eddie Romero collaborated with Chinese director Lili Chou on a historical film based on this tale that was shown as “Hari sa Hari” (1987).
In 1993, National Artist F. Sionil Jose published a novel, “Viajero.” The book deals with Filipino wanderlust and includes the fascinating story of Enrique, the slave of Ferdinand Magellan. Enrique completed the circumnavigation of the world, returning to Spain, after his master was killed in Mactan, in 1521. It is rather amusing that schoolchildren are still taught that Magellan “discovered” the Philippines when there were people here ahead of him. Filipino children should be taught that Magellan did not know where he was, that he arrived or landed in what-was-yet-to-become the Philippines, in 1521.
Filipino schoolchildren should also be given their first lesson in viewpoint by being taught that in Spanish history books, the title of “first man to circumnavigate the globe” is given to Sebastian Elcano (Del Cano or De Elcano in other books), not Magellan. Elcano, the captain of the Victoria, led what was left of the Magellan expedition back to Spain. He and the 17 survivors of the expedition started and ended in Spain, unlike Magellan who never made it back. Elcano was honored by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Carlos I of Spain, who is better remembered in the Philippines by a brandy called “Carlos Primero”) who gave him a coat-of-arms with a globe and the Latin inscription, “Primus circumdidisti me” (To the first who circumnavigated me). Anti-Elcano history books will argue that Magellan had previously been to the Moluccas and the Philippines, before he was commissioned to head his own expedition. Therefore, putting together Magellan’s voyages and charting these on a map will show that he completed a full-circle.
If we are to understand our history from a Filipino viewpoint, then we go back to Carlos Quirino, National Artist for Historical Literature, who declared that the first man to circumnavigate the world was not the Portuguese-born Magellan or the Spanish Elcano but a Filipino, Magellan’s slave, whose name has come down to us in Antonio Pigafetta’s eyewitness account as “Enrique” or “Henry.” He is also referred to as “Enrique el negro” or “Black Henry” for either of two reasons: His dark skin, or his alleged involvement in the massacre of Magellan’s men in Cebu, in the Battle of Mactan.
My favorite nephew made the mistake of letting me hear an oral report he was going to present in school on the man who discovered Brazil. He began by asking, “Have you ever asked yourself who discovered Brazil?” I answered that I would never ask that question. Then I asked him, how can that guy “discover” Brazil when there were people there already? He replied, he discovered it for the Europeans. Thus, he learned his first lesson in historiography from me, and I hope he doesn’t flunk the course because it does not conform with their textbook.
Enrique is but part of a long history of Filipino wanderlust that requires more research because he probably came or was part of a large “Filipino” community based in Mjmjam (now Dinding) in Malacca, and knew enough Malay or Visayan to translate for the Magellan expedition. Now that we have the possibility of the first “Pinoy” in space, let’s look back at our evolving history to realize it is slightly different from that taught our parents and grandparents.
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