a page in philippine history

1521 reflective ambigram

On March 16, 1521
When Philippines was discovered by Magellan
They were sailing day and night across the big ocean
Until they saw a small Limasawa island

Magellan landed in Limasawa at noon
The people met him very welcome on the shore
They did not understand the speaking they have done
Because Kastila gid at Waray-Waray man…

So goes the first two stanzas of Yoyoy Villame’s song. I was no older than 10 when the song came out in vinyl (yes, vinyl) and everyone within ten years of my age group (give or take) remembers this song. However, Magellan did not actually “discover” the islands now collectively called the Philippines.

Magellan headed the Spanish expedition that first circumnavigated the world in 1519. After crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, he landed in Homonhon island which he claimed along with the other islands he saw for the king of Spain and named them Islas de San Lazaro. The name Las Islas Filipinas (after king Phillip II) was given by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos decades later to the islands of Samar and Leyte. The Spanish rule probably began when Miguel Lopez de Legaspi settled in Cebu from Mexico.

The Spaniards were not the first foreigners (or Europeans, for that matter) on the islands. Most of the islands were ruled by its own  datu, rajah or sultan and were already trading with other nations. And most of these interactions were recorded, ‘though not many survived.

The significance of the date could be that it probably was the prologue to the 333 years of Spanish novela our ancestors had to endure. Having said that, our brush with Spain added much to our culture, which is not so bad. Most of what they erected, wrote and taught us are still extant and are still benefiting us now. If only our pre-colonial heritage were just as intact.

The AMBIGRAM.
1521 is a natural mirror ambigram, and I did not really have to try hard to make it. The challenge for me was to find a suitable font style and background image for the final design. As always, blackletter (aka old english) is very suitable. I redrew and digitized an illustration from one of my old high school history books and set it on top.

The final design can be posted on a glass window where viewers can appreciate it from either side.

As a post note, Magellan was not able to complete the journey that began with five carracks. He died in Mactan after unsuccessfully attacking it. Datu Lapu-Lapu, Mactan’s chief, did not release Magellan’s body to the remaining crew, so after burning down the Concepcion (one of the ships) the Spaniards retreated to Borneo with only two remaining ships. En route home, the Trinidad was captured by the Portuguese and was subsequently destroyed in a storm while on dock. The Victoria, helmed by Sebastian Elcano, pushed forward looking for a way home through the Spice Islands, was the only ship that remained, thereby being the first to completely sail around the world.

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