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By Eugenio M. Gonzales

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Sample text

For his entire life prior to his naval expedition to the Philippines, he actually practiced a land-based civilian profession. To be exact, he was a bureaucrat turned businessman who spent most of his time in the relative comforts of an office, in contrast to the typical conquistadors of his generation who distinguished themselves by annexing territories through often bloody military campaigns. Interestingly, Legazpi is remembered as a captain and navigator. A closer look at his curriculum vitae shows that he was not even qualified for both positions.

While crossing the Pacific, two ships, the Santiago and Espíritu Santo, sank with a great loss of life. Only the Florida was left to continue the journey. With tremendous difficulty it arrived in Mindanao, but a storm impeded its sailing to Cebu. Saavedra desperately tried to find a return route to Mexico but failed. He died on the high seas on October 9, 1529. Much later, the rest of the expedition fell into the hands of the Portuguese. The degree of Basque participation in this undertaking is not known.

Despite the dismal failure of the Loaysa expedition, Charles I ordered Hernando Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, to organize an expedition to the Moluccas from Mexico. Cortés commissioned his cousin Alvaro de Saavedra to command a fleet. On the eve of All Saints’ Day of 1527, the ships Florida, Santiago, and Espíritu Santo left the port of Zihuatenajo in Mexico. It was the first Spanish expedition launched from the American continent with the mission to reach the Indies. It had a small contingent of forty-five men, with an ample supply of gunpowder and medicine.

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