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422 years ago

First Posted 09:52:00 10/15/2009

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CALIFORNIA, United States?Historical records do not cite the names of any of the ?Luzon Indios? aboard the Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza when it landed in Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587.

All we know of the people who would later be called ?Filipinos? was that the Esperanza?s captain, Pedro De Unamuno, wrote in his log that his crew was composed of "Luzon Indios." All the natives of the Spanish colonies were called "Indios."

According to Unamuno?s account, because his ship needed to replenish its supplies after two months at sea, he had to dock in the nearest land even if it was not found on any of the Spanish maps, a land that would later be called California.

Unamuno wrote that he sent two groups to explore the land, one group of 12 soldiers which he personally led, and a group of Luzon Indios led by a Franciscan priest, Fr. Martin Ignacio De Loyola. Fr. Loyola carried a cross while his Indios were armed with swords and shields.

While reconnoitering the new land, the Luzon Indios encountered a group of five males, two females, and two babies that may similarly be called California Indios. But the natives ran from them to avoid any contact. Father De Loyola and his Indios then returned back to the Esperanza.

The following day, October 19, Unamuno ventured on shore again with 12 Spanish soldiers and eight Luzon Indios led this time by Fr. Francisco De Noguera. Two of the indios were sent ahead to scout the terrain. They found a camp with 17 dugouts of varying sizes that had just been abandoned by the natives who were eager to avoid contact. After failing to make contact with any of the natives, Unamuno and his crew then camped out.

While Unamuno and his crew were exploring the land, Fr. Martin and another crew of Luzon Indios went ashore to get wood and fresh water for the ship and to wash their clothes at a nearby creek. As they were doing so, a group of 23 natives approached them to ask them what they were doing. As there was a language problem, they could not understand each other. Because of their superior numbers, the natives were able to seize the clothes the Luzon Indios were washing and their water canteens. When they tried to seize Fr. Martin, gun shots came from the ship, forcing the natives to withdraw.

On Tuesday, October 20, Unamuno and his soldiers were nearing their ship when they saw two Luzon Indios running down from a hill, under attack from the natives. Unamuno?s soldiers went up the hill to repulse the attackers. Three of his soldiers were wounded including one fatally. Unamuno reported that a Luzon Indio was also killed by ?a javelin which he failed to ward off with his shield.?

After a prolonged battle, Unamuno and his crew returned to the Esperanza and decided to continue their voyage to Acapulco on October 21 reaching Acapulco on November 22, 1587.

It would take another eight years before another group of Filipinos would return to California.

On November 6, 1595, a Spanish galleon ship, the San Agustin, landed in what is now Point Reyes in Marin County in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Spaniards christened the bay ?La Bahia de San Francisco? but it would take another century for the bay across from Point Reyes to be called that name.

In his San Francisco Chronicle article (400th Anniversary Of Spanish Shipwreck, November 14, 1995), Carl Nolte wrote ?the San Agustin, which was probably a small warship in the Spanish navy, was commanded by Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno and had a crew of Spanish officers and Filipino sailors, according to historian Raymond Aker, who has studied the ship and its voyage. The expedition turned out badly: The San Agustin was the first ship known to be wrecked on the California coast.?

The San Agustin?s voyage began in the summer of 1595 when it sailed from Manila to Acapulco with a cargo of 130 tons of Ming Dynasty porcelain, silk, and other trade goods from China bound for Spain. It was part of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade that would dominate the economy of the Philippine colony from 1565 to 1815.

On occasion, a galleon ship would also carry gold and silver, extracted from Philippine mines. This was the case with the Santa Ana, a galleon ship that left Manila the year after Pedro De Unamuno?s voyage, in 1588. It was hijacked by English pirates off the coast of Mexico.

When the San Agustin landed in Point Reyes, the ship?s Spanish officers wanted to quickly resume the voyage to Acapulco but Captain Cermeno wanted to explore the land. By then the ship had made contact with the local natives, the Coast Miwoks, who lived in about six villages in the area. Cermeno gave them cloths and other gifts while the Miwoks gave them seeds and a banner of black feathers.

At Cermeno?s direction, the Filipino sailors ?assembled a small launch on the beach for exploring the shallow waters nearby. They stayed at the bay for three weeks, in gentle fall weather.? Unfortunately, a storm came which pulled the ship?s anchor up and blew the ship to the rocks, killing a dozen men including a priest.

What happened to the cargo of the San Agustin? According to Nolte, ?The Miwoks picked up the cargo, slept on the silk meant for the royalty of Europe, ate from the priceless blue porcelain of the Wan Li period of the Ming Dynasty.?

Captain Cermeno and his crew of Filipino sailors and a dog then built a larger launch from the materials they could find in Point Reyes and sailed out to Acapulco, which they reached without losing a man. They did lose the dog, though, which the Filipino crew and their Spanish captain ate to survive.

Please send comments to Rodel50@aol.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, California 94127. For past columns, log on to Rodel50.blogspot.com.

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