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April 30, 2022

Magellan discovered the Philippines in his memorable first circumnavigation of the globe. He followed the sun in its apparent daily path around the world. Every successive degree he compassed on his eastern course added 4 minutes to the length of his day.

When he reached the Philippines, the difference amounted to 16 hours. This apparently escaped his notice. Elcano, the captain of his only remaining vessel, was unaware on his return to the longitude of his departure. According to his log-book, he was 1 day behind the time of his origin port. *

  • According to Albo’s ship journal, he perceived the difference at the Cape de Verde Islands on July 9, 1522

The error remained also unnoticed in the Philippines. It was still, over there, the last day of the old year, while the rest of the world was commencing the new one.

This state of things continued until the close of 1844 when it was resolved. Since that time, the Philippines:

  • was no longer in the distant west, but in the far east, and
  • is about 8 hours in advance of Spain.

The proper field for their commerce, however, is what is to us the far west. They were colonised thence, and

For centuries, they only had an indirect communication with Europe via the annual galleons going between Manila and Acapulco.

Now, the eastern shores of the Pacific are starting to teem with life. The Philippines will no longer be able to remain secluded.

It is the tropical Asiatic colony that is best situated for communication with the west coast of America. It is the only competition of Indonesia for the Australian market.

Manila’s original trade partner was China and the other countries in the Asia-Pacific. The Philippines will have to abandon its trade with them.

Had the circumstances we have mentioned been left unnoticed,

Period | Duties on Philippine Exports to China in dollars | Philippine Imports from China in dollars End of 16th century | 40,000 dollars | 1,330,000 1810 | 1,150,000 |
1861 | 2,130,000 |

the Philippines, or at any rate, the principal market for their commerce, would have fallen within the limits of the western hemisphere, to which indeed they were relegated by the illustrious Spanish geographers at Badajoz.

The Bull issued by Alexander 6th on May 4, 1493. It divided the world into 2 hemispheres:

  • All heathen lands in the eastern half should belong to the Portuguese.
  • The western half would belong to the Spaniards. The latter could only claim the Philippines if it were in the western hemisphere.

A treaty between Spain and Portugal on June 7, 1494 stipulated that the demarcation line was to run from the north to the south, 100 leagues to the south-west of the Azores and Cape de Verde islands. This was approved by Julius 2nd in 1506.

  • This line was drawn 370 leagues west of the Cape de Verde islands.
  • Back then, Spanish and Portuguese geographers reckoned 174 leagues to a degree on the equator.

In the latitude of the Cape de Verde Islands, 370 leagues made 21° 55’. If to this we add the longitudinal difference between the westernmost point of the group and Cadiz, a difference of 18° 48’, we get 40° 43’ west, and 139° 17’ east from Cadiz (in round numbers 47° west and 133° east), as the limits of the Spanish hemisphere. At that time, however, the existing means for such calculations were entirely insufficient.

The latitude was measured with imperfect astrolabes, or wooden quadrants, and calculated from very deficient maps. The variation of the compass, moreover, was almost unknown, as well as the use of the log.*

According to Gehler’s “Phys. Lex.” the log was first mentioned by Purchas from a voyage to the East Indies in 1608. Pigafetta does not cite it in his treatise on navigation. But on page 45 he says: “Secondo la misura che facevamo del viaggio colla cadena a poppa, noi percorrevamo 60 a 70 leghe al giorno." This was as rapid a rate as that of our fastest steamboats-ten knots an hour.

Both method and instruments were lacking for useful longitudinal calculations. It was under these circumstances that the Spaniards attempted, at Badajoz, to prove to the protesting Portuguese that the eastern boundary line intersected the mouths of the Ganges, and proceeded to lay claim to the possession of the Spice Islands.

The eastern boundary should, in reality, have been drawn 461 further to the east as much further as it is from London to the coast of Labrador, or to the lesser Altai; for, in the latitude of Calcutta 46° are equivalent to 2,575 nautical miles.

Albo’s log-book gives the difference in longitude between the most eastern islands of the Archipelago and Cape Fermoso (Magellan’s Straits), as 106° 30’, while in reality it amounts to 159° 85'.

The disputes between the Spaniards and the Portuguese were caused by the uncertainty of the eastern boundary. Portugal had already founded a settlement in the Spice Islands. These were laid to rest by an agreement made in 1529 where Charles 5th abandoned his pretended rights to the Moluccas in favour of Portugal for 350,000 ducats. The Philippines at that time had no value.


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