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Magellan, the foodie

/ 05:10 AM January 03, 2021

This year, we will be commemorating the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippines.

Aside from Christianity, of course, the Spanish also brought us food. Just as we introduced them to ours.


Here are some foodie moments in our history worth noting, based on research posted on the Instagram of food historian Felice Prudente Sta. Maria (follow @felicepstamaria). She has been curating these tidbits of food history since 2019:

1 The first meal in Manila: Lechon?

According to the chronicles of Antonio Pigafetta, after landing in the Philippines on March 16, 1521, Magellan let his men eat a sow in Homonhon Island on March 17. Could this have been the first lechon in the Philippines?


He also recorded that Magellan and crew feasted on pork after the first Easter Sunday mass on March 31, 1521. The natives offered to Magellan’s company two swines for their meal.

2 Bananas

On March 18, 1521, natives gave the newcomers fruit that Sta. Maria concluded to be bananas. Pigafetta called the offering “figue” or fig. But in Spanish, she argued, fig was called “higuera” while the banana was called “higuera de adan” or Adam’s fig.

3 Inihaw

Pigafetta recorded that Filipinos had roast fish cut into pieces, with freshly gathered ginger.

4 Tuba

Pigafetta wrote in 1521 that the Cebuano word for vino was tuba nio nipa. This was made from distilling the juice of nipa, the only palm growing in water. The sap flowed from a cut to a flower stalk. A bamboo pitcher was hung on a joint to catch about 2 liters of sap. This would then be fermented into intoxicating wine. It was also noted that Magellan’s men “drank too much every day and slept so well that work was put off by Spanish and natives alike.”

Pigafetta also noted, during one of the first few meetings between Magellan and Rajah Humabon, how tuba was consumed. They were given “four jars full of palm wine … covered with sweet-smelling herbs and arranged with four small reeds in each jar by means of which he drank.”

5 Kakanin

Pigafetta described “tinapay” as “rice cake.”

No wonder Fr. Gerard Timoner, master general of the Dominicans whom we interviewed in the online show In Depth of DominusEst.PH, noted that in the translation of the Lord’s Prayer, “our daily bread” was “kakanin sa araw-araw.”


6 Tabon eggs

Pigafetta wrote: “There are doves, turtledoves, parrots, and certain black birds as large as domestic chickens, which have a long tail. The last mentioned birds lay eggs as large as the goose, and bury them under the sand, through the great heat of which they hatch out. When the chicks are born, they push up the sand, and come out. Those eggs are good to eat.” Sta. Maria wrote that
Pigafetta must have referred to the Tabon bird.

There are so much more in Pigafetta’s notes, which I have only recently started reading.

This year, as we celebrate 500 years of Christianity or 500 years since the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, let us all join the party and make it a year of discovery about our own history as well—that is, from faith to food. There is much to learn and appreciate. Happy New Year!

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TAGS: Ferdinand Magellan, Spanish food
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