Close view of Monument of Legaspi and Urdaneta in Intramuros Manila

Monument of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Andres Urdaneta (Intramuros)

Monuments are meant to commemorate something of historical importance to a place and its people. I always pass through a monument outside of Intramuros (known as the Anda Circle), fronting the Manila Hotel along Roxas Boulevard, and I wonder who these people are or what the monument is about. A quick search yielded the information that it’s a monument of Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Fr. Andres de Urdaneta, commemorating their landing in the Philippine Islands in 1565.

We start with the familiar facts — March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan first set foot in the Philippines. He died on 27 April 1521, fighting a local chieftain named Lapu-lapu (read more: Magellan’s Cross, Mactan Shrine and Basilica del Sto. Nino). More than forty years after Magellan’s demise, Spain sent out four expeditions to establish colonies in the Far East. One of these expeditions was led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who reached the Philippines in 1565. Fr. Urdaneta recommended that Legaspi be the captain-general of the Spanish fleet. Legazpi entered into the now-famous Blood Compact with a local chieftain in Bohol (read more: Blood Compact Monument) and he ordered the construction of Fort Santiago in Ingramuros.

Fr. Urdaneta, a cousin of Legaspi, is an Augustinian priest and an adventurer. Urdaneta City, a 1st class city in the province of Pangasinan, is named after him. On the other hand, Legazpi City, a first class city and capital of the province of Albay, is named after Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. Legaspi’s tomb is found at the San Agustin Church, located beside the Manila Cathedral.

The bronze and granite monument depicts Legaspi (left) holding a sword (which is now gone) and Urdaneta (right side) holding a cross. The monument also commemorates the introduction of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines, represented by the cross. I understand that there used to be an inscription which reads: “he is the unparalleled cosmographer, pioneer of the Christian and Spanish civilization in the Philippines”, but it is now gone like the sword.

The monument also depicts Urdaneta stepping on a ship anchor, reflecting the fact that the technical direction of the expedition was the exclusive affair of Urdaneta (read more: Philippine Historical Commission). He is said to have discovered the “tornaviaje” or return route to Spain.

Why would you want to see this monument? Aside from its historical value, it’s just beside the monuments of both former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, and former President and People Power saint Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the parents of the incumbent President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. It sits across the history-rich Manila Hotel. The next block, a two-minute stroll, is the Rizal Park (or Luneta Park). It’s a 10-minute walk from the Manila Ocean Park and the National Museum.

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