Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lost Legacy: The Magellan Monument

The Magallanes Monument
1848 - 1945

When someone mentions the "Magellan Monument", one might immediately think of the Magellan Shrine or Magellan's Cross in Cebu, but did you know that Manila also had its very own monument dedicated to the Portugese explorer?

Colored illustration showing how commanding the monument was.
Another colored illustration.

The Monumento de Magallanes was an iconic monument that honored navigator and explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. As we all know, Magellan captained the first expedition to circumnavigate the earth. He was also known for “discovering” (emphasis on the quotation marks) the Philippines and claimed the newly “discovered” islands for Spain. Magellan was not able to complete the entire journey because he was killed in the Battle of Mactan in 1521.

Possibly one of the many initial plans of the monument. This design was not applied, obviously.

The monument was erected in 1848 by the orders of Gobernador-General Narcisco Claveria. The monument was originally planned to be erected in Cebu but it was decided later on that it would be more fitting to erect it in the country's capital. Through voluntary contributions and donations, they raised enough money for the monument to be built.

The Paseo de Magallanes became a major landing stage for boats and the Magallanes Monument greeted the passengers upon docking. It was like how the Statue of Liberty greeted the ships that entered New York Harbor.
John Tewell Photo Collection   

It was originally located at the center of Paseo de Magallanes just outside the northern walls of Intramuros, near the Puerta de Isabel II. When the Americans developed and expanded the wharves of the Pasig River in 1904, they tore down some parts of the walls and the monument was moved to a new location near the Aduana Bldg.

The original location of the Magallanes Monument just outside the walls of Intramuros.  
Beyond Forgetting Photo Collection
1925, the monument in its new location in front of the Aduana/Intendencia Bldg and the Commission of Census Bldg.
John Tewell Photo Collection
Showing the evolution of the Paseo de Magallanes area.
1898 - 1934 - 2012

GIF made by me
Paseo de Magallanes. The monument can be seen in the background.

The Paseo de Magallanes was a prominent park and leisure area during the Spanish and American Colonial Era. Afternoon walks, and other outdoor activities were preferred to be done here. 

"Piles of lumber along the Pasig River near Magellan Monument. Intramuros, Manila."
John Tewell Photo Collection

"During the U.S., trade on the quays of Pasig was very active, and the nearby Paseo de Magallanes was used as a storage timber, coal, and other supplies. By 1904, they built a new road through the park and the monument was moved to a new location, next to the Customs. However, it remained a tourist site."

John Tewell Photo Collection
Magallanes Monument
GIF made by me

The monument’s fluted column was made of stone that rested on a marble pedestal. The column was decorated with anchors, dolphins, merlions and laurel leaves. A spherical globe inscribed with Magellan’s name crowned the monument. All of these adornments were made of bronze and were imported from Europe.

Detail of the spherical globe with the "MAGALLANES" surrounding it. You can also the N - S cardinal points, quite appropriate for a monument that celebrates an explorer and navigator.
John Tewell Photo Collection
The Magallanes Monument with the Jones Bridge in the background.

The Magallanes Monument was another casualty of World War Two. It was tragically destroyed when a bomb made a direct hit towards the monument. It is said that the column was just dislodged from the pedestal and was still very repairable. Others say that it was reduced to bits and pieces. The true whereabouts of this monument still remains a mystery up to this day. Rumor has it that during the clean-up operations after the war, the Americans pushed the remains of the monument down the Pasig River. The Magallanes Monument is now lost, forever. The only remaining memories are in black-and-white photographs and a few illustrations as a remembrance of its simplicity and dignity that captivated the whole city . 

Still standing amidst the ruins. The Jones Bridge is already destroyed here.
Life Photo Archive
Last moments of the Magallanes Monument from the clip "Battle of Manila", 1945.
John Tewell Photo Collection
Last moments of the Magallanes Monument from the clip "Battle of Manila", 1945.
John Tewell Photo Collection
The Magallanes Monument seen on the right was reduced to rubble. From the clip "Battle of Manila", 1945.
John Tewell Photo Collection
John Tewell Photo Collection

In 2021, we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Magellan's arrival in the Philippines. It would be great if we can give him tribute, perhaps rebuilding the monument? Hmmm.  


  1. Don Lucino had a very interesting bit of tradition regarding the pacto de sangre between Legaspi and Lakandola which he claimed was in written form and was later buried beneath the Magallanes monument with other papers. This story I was never able to verify in any way, though I worked on it for years. ------ The Last of the Lakans By LUTHER PARKER

  2. Trbute?
    For what... For the Abuse, Slavery, and Genocide that followed which our ancestors endured?
    We better forget about it.
    First of all... Magellan did not "discover" the Philippines!!!
    The Austronesians did, tens of thousands of years ago...
    And we lived in the islands peacefully ever since...
    until Magellan and his crew who were lost in the sea, happen to pass by, abused the hospitality of our ancestors, and tried to take over the Islands through their usual swords and cross... until he met Lapu-Lapu.
    Tribute is an insult to our identity as a nation.
    Acknowledging the lie that Magellan "discovered" the Islands... is accepting that we never existed at all.

    Let us do ourselves a favor.
    Let us make ourselves count.
    Let us consider ourselves the same value as the people of western nations who attacked, occupy and colonized other people of other lands, just like what happened to us.
    This Magellan thing "discovering" the Islands is a BIG LIE, that should be erased from the pages of Philippine history...
    as well as the History of the World.

  3. It is quite true that the Philippines never existed before Magellan because there was no unified government at all. If there was, 'twas these barangays and kingdoms which frequently engaging in wars with each other. They are not called Filipinos. They are Tagalog, Ilocano, Sugbuhanon, Maranao, Tausug but they were not Filipinos then. But I believe that the word "discovery" is very exaggerated because the populace were already civilized then. They have writing systems, martial arts, religions and societal hierarchy. It is also believed that the literacy rate of the Muslim Maynila was even higher than in Madrid at the time.
    But denying our colonial past is far from being patriotic. Colonization gave us the notion of nationalism. It gave us the inspiration to be free and become an independent people. Denying this fact is denying your whole existence as a Filipino.

  4. I agree with his Majesty_Tim. The past, good or bad, must be remembered because it is part of our journey as a people. I agree that the Magellan Monument must be rebuilt, if only highlight the Filipino coming to terms with its past, and taking the cudgels to be responsible for his future. Just imagine how less sublime and noble (or less complete) the bicentennial of the Cadiz Constuticion in 2012 would have been if some representatives from the them Spanish colonies were excluded just because they kicked Spanish ass latter in their wars of independence.

  5. Hi Franz, fabulous information.
    Must have taken ages to source all of this.
    I had no idea there had been another monument. I heard that the one at Mactan had been damaged during the war. I'm trying to find out why the style of the lower tiers is completely different from the obelisk, and someone suggested that it was bombed as well.

    Do you have any info on that?

    By the way, I agree that it would be incredible to re-build the monument, but perhaps karma has spoken and it should be at Mactan.