Saturday, February 21, 2009

Antonio Pigafetta - A Forgotten Memorial

I was in the Cebu Post Office today to check on a package that has been sent to me from the US. It was the sustain pedal I bought in eBay, and they shipped it using USPS. Good thing I researched on it, or else I would've thought my package got lost with my money gone in the air. That's how inefficient the Philippine Post Office is; they should've called me and notified me of my package but they didn't.

Anyway, it was only yesterday that I noticed the neglected statue in front of the Post Office. I thought it was Ferdinand Magellan, but I noticed the quill he was holding and concluded before I even got close that it was Antonio Pigafetta. I was right, it was him. Up close, i noticed how derelict the statue is, and I think it's sad. Here it was, supposedly part of a historical park but it's standing right beside a basketball court.

Perhaps you might wonder why I'm so affected by this, considering Pigafetta was an Italian and a foreigner. The people living or working in that part probably don't even know who the statue was nor care to know about it. Foreigners visiting Fort San Pedro might also overlook this statue, because it is not located where they can see it.

It's quite sad because, like it or not, Pigafetta is an important figure in both world and Philippine history. He may be part of the first Spanish colonizers, that's why most people probably don't care about him. However, it was because of Pigafetta that people of the world and the Filipinos themselves get the first look of how pre-Hispanic Philippines or Cebu was.

It was also because of Pigafetta that we get an account of how technologically advanced Philippines was for its time, although I'll bet most Filipinos have an image of pre-Hispanic Philippines as backward and primitive. Nobody probably knows about the lantaka, and that it was probably used in the Battle of Mactan. I personally can vouch for that; for most Filipinos, the image of a lantaka is a bamboo or tin cannon used during New Year. The lantaka was a firearm; that means our ancestors must have been technologically advanced or had access to such technology by the time the Spaniards arrived. Chances are high that they did; the lantaka was a Malay weapon and Filipinos have had relations with the Malaysians at that time.

Some people actually overlook that, as they thought we got defeated because we did not have weapons as advanced as the Spaniards had. Perhaps some of my countrymen think that Filipinos at that time were similar to the American Indians or the Maori who first fought using bows and arrows. However, the fact that Filipinos had access to weapons made of steel -- the kampilan -- suggest an advanced society. How do we know that? Pigafetta described that in his journals.

Most of all, it is because of Pigafetta that we Cebuanos get a close look at the pre-Hispanic version of our language (I consider Visayan as a language on its own rather than a dialect). Pigafetta had described some words spoken by the natives as they referred to certain items.

For me, it is a sad reality that someone who is so important in history is delegated to some obscure part outside Fort San Pedro where visitors overlook him. Whether we Filipinos like it or not, Magellan and Pigafetta -- next to Miguel Lopez de Legaspi -- are two of the biggest figures in our history. Just because the Spanish colonized us for 333 years, it doesn't mean we should treat the Spanish figures with less importance as we give Rizal, Bonifacio and many others.

Photo copyright belongs to a good friend of mine, Mike Rafael.


Vic de Jesus said...

Iagree with you, Mike, Pigafetta deserves better treatment.

His account gives us a comprehensive picture of life in the archipelago in the 16th century.

The vocabulary of Cebuano--and Butuanon--words is the first written Filipino "dictionary" in history. It was started in Mazaua on Good Friday, 29 March 1521. To read this particular incident, click

It should interest you to know that if not for Pigafetta we would not know that the first treaty ever signed by a foreigner and a citizen of our archipelago was that between Magellan and Humabon. This belies the claim behind the Order of Sikatuna award, the highest decoration the Philippine Republic gives to foreigners, that the first treaty was between Sikatuna and Legazpi in 1565. The Magellan-Sikatuna treaty was signed in April 1521.

But there's one issue that Cebuano's may not exactly like about Pigafetta. In his account he explicitly states Enrique, Magellan's slave was from Sumatra. You can read this at

You might find the discussion on Enrique at Wikipedia enlightening. Pls go to


Immortal Undead said...

Hello, Mr. De Jesus. I've heard about you and I'm glad you've found this blog entry of mine. I do feel pity for such a neglected statue in the city of Cebu.

Thanks for the enlightening links.

Arnold Carl said...

Don't worry.

Rehabilitation of the park has already been considered.

They're just waiting for the subway project to be completed.

If I'm not mistaken, rehabilitation of Fort San Pedro and Plaza Independencia is part of the package when they built the subway.