This year’s theme focuses on the challenges faced by the Magellanic expedition, while Cebuano ancestors faced challenges to survive in a land that was about to be “found”. A third in the series leading to the 2021 celebration commemorating 500 years of Magellan’s arrival and birth of Christianity in the Philippines.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Ferdinand Magellan and his crew who traversed the high seas from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain to the Philippine islands, en route on what supposedly was the search for Moluccas (Spice Islands). The crew endured its share of challenges and problems, both internal and external, across its two-year trans-oceanic voyage.
Their long and aimless voyage across South America and the Pacific Ocean resulted in significant loss in their supplies, resulting in hunger and famine among his men. Dissatisfied, some members considered abandoning the voyage.
The unhealthy environment in the ships, lack of sustenance and absence of professional medical practitioners resulted in outbreaks of diseases and high mortality rate among the seafarers. Many crewmembers succumbed to scurvy and other diseases. Some also died due to drowning and starvation.
Magellan’s armada experienced a freezing winter and severe storms along South America and the Pacific. In addition, they had to endure small living spaces, homesickness and sexual aberrations among crewmembers.
Maintaining peace and order within the crew also proved to be a challenge because of the crew’s ethnic and cultural differences. There was an attempted mutiny in Port San Julian where some rebelling seafarers were sentenced to punishment or death.
The ship of Santiago was also wrecked during a storm, and crewmembers were transferred to the four remaining vessels. The largest ship among the fleet, San Antonio, abandoned the expedition.
Meanwhile… In pre-colonial Sugbo, the society was also in flux… communities experienced problems—within their barangays and without. Internally, communities experienced ailments, primarily skin diseases such as nugas blisters from poisonous plants, and bubas or lymphatic swellings symptomatic of the bubonic plague.
Theft was also a common problem among the native Visayans, primarily stealing food such as root crops, coconut and fallen fruits. Stealing of valuables, however, was uncommon as it was considered raiding with severe punishment.
Warfare among the natives were due to direct raid or attack by another community, betrayal of alliances, or slave raiding, among others. Attacks were usually intercepted at sea but communities without men-of-war were forced to abandon their homes and retreat to the hills, returning when danger had passed to rebuild their homes.
Gabii sa Kabilin 2020 commemorates the travails of the Magellanic expedition at the cusp of changing world history, while our ancestors faced challenges to survive a land that was about to be “found”.