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Miguel López de Legaspi (b.1510 - d.1572) was a Spanish Conquistador who led the conquest of the Philippine Islands in 1565.


Early Years

Legaspi was born in the town of Zumárraga in the province of Guipúzcoa in Spain on August 20, 1510. He went to New Spain (Mexico) in 1545 and worked for some years as a chief notary to the common council and the civil governor of the city of Mexico. He was later commissioned by the viceroy Luis de Velasco to lead an expedition to conquer the Philippine Islands in 1564. The expedition was ordered by King Philip II, after whom the islands were named. The viceroy died in July of that year, but the audiencia, governing provisionally, completed the preparations for the expedition. On November 21, 1564, armed with five ships and 400 soldiers, Legaspi sailed from the port of Navidad, New Spain (present day Mexico).

The Conquest of The Philippines

Legaspi and his men sailed the vast Pacific Ocean for months and landed in the Mariana Islands. There, they replenished their supplies, encountered conflicts with the Chamorro tribes and were vanquished from the islands. Being outnumbered, Legaspi decided not to get involved with anymore fueds, since the soldiers were reserved for the Philippines. They continued their journey to the East in search of the rich Spice Islands and finally arriving in the Philippine archipelago in late 1565. There he founded the first Spanish settlements on Cebu and called it Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesús (Village of the Most Holy Name of Jesus) and Villa de San Miguel (Village of Saint Michael, now a barangay in Cebu City).

In 1566, he explored Bohol, befriended the natives there and made a blood compact with the chieftain Datu Sikatuna as a sign of friendship between the two peoples. (See Sandugo festival.) In Cebu, he encountered strong resistance and a battle was fought due to reaction of the natives against the abuses undergone in the past at the hands of Ferdinand Magellan and his men in 1521. Legaspi and his men were outnumbered by various tribes who began to oppress the invaders. This led him to retaliate and kill the chieftain, Rajah Tupas (son of Rajah Humabon), and destroy the native settlements.

In 1567, 200 armed Spanish soldiers from Mexico began arriving in Cebu under orders of the Spanish King Philip II. They established a city, a permanent settlement and built a stone fortress, Fort San Pedro, to protect themselves during the native rebellion of 1567-68.

In 1568, Legaspi sent one of his men to report on his progress, back to New Spain, Mexico who arrived in Acapulco on August 20, 1569. Legaspi himself remained in his capital Cebu and did not accompany his men for the conquest of Manila because of health problems and advanced age. Having heard of the rich resources of Maynilad ( present day Manila) by local natives, he dispatched two of his men Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo to explore the northern region.

The Conquest of Manila

In late 1569, the Spanish force of 300 soldiers, cavalries, and several local natives led by Martin de Goiti left Cebu and began exploring the Northern regions of the Visayas and established settlements in the island of Mindoro near Luzon. In May 8 1570 they arrived in Manila and were overwhelmed of the size of the harbour. There they were welcomed by the friendly Muslim natives and the idigenious population. Goiti's forces rested, camped for a few weeks and began befriended the natives. However, the Spaniards had other plans. They were there to stay permanently and marched to the Muslim settlements in Tondo where a number of battles were fought between Goiti's forces and Rajah Suliman's tribes on May 24 over the control of land. The heavily armed Spaniards defeated, crushed the natives and conquered the area.

Legaspi left Cebu the following year in 1571, and brought half of his forces to Manila. The rest were left behind to protect the settlements. In Manila, he made a "peace pact" with the native muslim councils Rajahs: Suliman, Matanda, and Lakandula with both groups agreeing and "organizing a city council consisting of 2 Mayors , 12 councilors and a secretary" . He finally established a permanent settlement on it on June 241571 and built a walled city (See Intramuros). He proclaimed the town as the island's capital and permanent seat of the Spanish Government in the East. With the help of Augustinian and Franciscan Friars, he established a government to administer the Islands. He then becomes the first governor general of the Philippines. As governor of the new colony in the East, his task was to convert the natives to the Catholic religion. Those who opposed his rule where tortured and executed and those who supported him awarded them with a land grant called "ecomiendas".

Last Years

Legaspi governed the colony for a year and then died of heart failure in Manila in 1572. Legaspi was laid to rest at his home at Intramuros, San Agustin Church. He did not live to see the commemoration of Manila in 1574. The city was given the title "Ever Loyal and Distinguished City of Spain in the Orient." by the king of Spain.

The Spaniards were so successful in their conquest that by the time of Legaspi's death, the regions of Luzon, Visayas and parts of Northern Mindanao had past to Spanish rule. Since then, for about 256 years, the Philippines was administered as a colony of New Spain (present day Mexico).

During his last years, he wrote several letters to the Spanish king about his journey to the East and the conquest he had achieved, which, under the title Cartas al Rey Don Felipe II. sobre la expedicion, conquistas y progresos de las islas Felipinas, are preserved in manuscripts in the archives of the Indies at Seville, Lopez de Legazpi

es:Miguel López de Legazpi


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