memores acti prudentes futuri

Henry the Black: Magellan’s Malay Slave

Enrique de Malacca, cunoscut si sub numele de Henry the Black (Henry cel Negru), a fost servitorul personal si in acelasi timp traducatorul lui Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan l-a cumparat pe cel care avea sa fie botezat mai tarziu Enrique in anul 1511, de la un targ de sclavi din Malacca. Enrique avea sa devina insotitorul stapanului sau, in numeroasele expeditii pe care le intreprindea. Henry the Black ar putea fi considerat primul circumnavigator din istorie a fost autorul primei circumnavigatii culturale, calatorind prin lume, pana la gasirea unui popor vorbitor al aceleiasi limbi ca si el.


He left the Spanish port Sanlucar de Barrameda on Sept 20th 1519 with five ships (Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Victoria, and Santiago) and about 260 men.  Earlier, at the end of the 15th century, a Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama had found a route from Europe to India by sailing round the southern tip of Africa. Once Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498, it became urgent for Spain to find a new commercial route to Asia.

During that time, Europeans wanted silks, gems and spices from the East.  The spice world was in the control of the Portuguese. His master, a well known Portuguese sailor was accused for corruption, bitterly left the service of the King of Portugal and offered his service to the Spanish Crown instead.

He had set the sail  westward instead the anticipated east via Vasco Da Gama’s route, not knowing that he was part of the most daring and significance voyage of exploration ever!

Why the west?

Now they were sailing across the Atlantic to the land that Christopher Columbus had discovered in 1492 that everybody called the ‘new world’.  Explorers came back from the west far land called America in  the 16th century with  the news to Europe that an ocean lay beyond the western coast of America. Suddenly it just occurred to him that his Master might try to reach the East  by sailing westwards from Europe! His master was accused  of being a corrupt and a traitor, would not want to sail  direct to the Portuguese controlled route with Spanish vessels.  It would be a suicidal!

His master was none other than, Mister Ferdinand Magellan or in Portuguese, Fernão de Magalhães. His master whom he usually referred as ‘Master Magellan’ purposely didn’t tell the others of the crew where they were going because his Master would have thought that they would be too frightened to obey him (the Master).  He knew this too well. But the fact that they were at last sailing to the East  was an overwhelming news for Henry! Of course! He himself was presented to the King of Spain, when master Magellan tried to convince the Spanish King and his councils to finance his daring  voyage to the spice world!

FM:Portuguese maritime explorer

Like his Master, Henry was also a traveler and carried many names.  He was most famous by the name ‘Henry the Black’, due to his tanned skin though he was  not as dark as the African slave.  When he was younger and less dark, he was called Enrique of Melaka!  But deep inside him he always knew that his birth name had always been… Awang. That was before he was made a slave.  In year 1511, when Henry was barely 18 years old,  he was captured by  Portuguse soldiers under  a Poruguese Naval General or Big Master Dom Afonso de Albuquerque.  He was later sold to his Master after the Portuguese’s assault  on Melaka.  The Melaka Kingdom felt to the Portuguse and the royalties fled southward.  It had been closed to eight years he had never came back or seen his own type  of  clan, that Master called “Malayo”.

He missed his family and his “Malayo”  people but at the same time he enjoyed the voyage that he  had taken.  After the fall of Melaka, he had sailed eastward to various ports and towns of the East Indies being the interpreter on the circumnavigation to master Magellan.  They sailed even  up to a land which stood the highest mountain he had ever seen.  His master said that they had reached ‘Sabah’.  Later, they went in search of the Spice Islands of the Maluku.  In 1512, he followed Master back to Lisbon, Master’s motherland.  Shortly, after that, his master was dispatched to Morroco during the Portuguese campaign against the Moors. During this time, master Magellan had big argument with his master .  It was quiet sometime they did not set sail.  Master had no master. But master Magellan had always been busy meeting people here and there.  And one day his Master broke the news about  the voyage.  They were overjoyed that at last they  were back at sea.  Henry was almost landsick and could not afford to stay longer on the cold land.

For almost 3 months, on November 27, the expedition crossed the equator; on December 6, the crew sighted South America. As Brazil was Portuguese territory, Master Magellan avoided it, and on December 13, Master had the ships anchored near  Pantagonia or the present-day Rio de Janeiro. There the crew was resupplied, but bad conditions caused them to delay. Few days later, Master’s fleet sailed southward along the shore of South America in search for a passage that Master believed could lead  them to the Spice islands. On April 2, a mutiny involving two of the five ship captains broke out, but it was unsuccessful because most of the crew remained loyal to Master.  Small Master Juan Sebastián Elcano was one of those who were forgiven. Small Master Gaspar Quesada, the captain of Concepcion, was executed; Small Master Juan de Cartagena, the captain of San Antonio, and priest Padre Sanchez de la Reina were instead marooned on the coast.

The weather was extremely cold.  Henry was sick when they finally found a passage through the land by chance!  Two ships were driven towards land in a storm, the men feared they would be dashed against the shore spotted a small opening in the coastline on the nick of the time!  Unfortunately they had to abandon one of the ships, the Santiago that was wrecked in the  storm. It was the passage for which Master had been searching since they left Spain. The ships slowly made their way into the passage sending the Concepion and the San Antonio to scout and navigate the way for Henry’s ship (Trinidad) and the Victoria. It turned out to be a grievous mistake, the San Antonio under small Master Gomez’s command defected from the cause and set sail back east to Spain taking with it more than half of their supplies. Even with that Master Magellan commanded the three ship fleet to go on, for thirty eight days they  suffered through storms, the cold, and sailing around blocks of ice floating or even hidden in the narrow waters. The passage was approximately 570 km long and was about 2 km wide at its narrowest point.  Since then the passage had been called the Straits of Magellan, after Master’s name.

A map of Straits of Magellan.

They had almost entirely eaten their rations, most had begin to spoil, but it did not matter now the journey from here to the Spice Islands was short and will only last for a few weeks. The new found ocean looked very still though, it did not seem as though it would pose a threat to them. Very calm and beautiful, Master Magellan named it the ‘Mar Pacifico’.

After a few days the remaining  ships set sail and continued their voyage to the East by heading Northwest, crossing the vast Pacific ocean.   During this time, they suffered from hunger, starvation and malnourishment, only few that were fit to man the sails. For additional meat they had resorted to rats  and some of the men had even been selling them amongst themselves for half an ecu per piece. The drinking water had become impure. Twenty nine of master Magellan’s  men had died due to maladies, one giant, and one Indian of the country Versin.

But the weather was getting warmer and warmer and finally the expedition reached the equator on February 13, 1521.  And close to three weeks later, on March 6, they  finally reached  ‘Land Ho!’. The islands were the Marianas and Guam.   Master Magellan called Guam the “Island of Sails” because they saw a lot of sailboats. They renamed it to “Ladrones Island” (Island of Thieves) because many of Trinidad’s small boats were stolen there.  Master Magellan didn’t want to stay there long, not so much that they could not find the spices that they want but Henry was not able to communicate intelligently with the native.  So they continued…

Shortly on March 16, the expedition spotted an archipelago of various islands.  Master was smiling all the way until they reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines.   With 150 crew left, and became the first European to reach the Philippines. To everyone’s amazement the crossing from South America  took only 3 months and 20 days.

Henry had never been to this place. Awkwardly he felt at home.  It must be the weather. The sea water was not much different from that of Melaka as he tried to remember.  Few days after they sailed westward through the various islands, he couldn’t help to notice the similarity of the native features with his own people “Malayo”.  He tried to speak to them, but they quickly dissapeared in the land.  They even have the coconut trees on the shore.  Henry proudly climbed one of those tall coconut tree and surprised himself that he did not loose the climbing skills.  The taste of the coconut water on his tongue brought back his childhood memories.  Master  Magellan was kind enough to give him some days off so he could find his family once they reach the Malay archipelago.  It was going to be soon!

On few occasion, having been anchored for few days at one of the coves, finally Henry was able to communicate with the native.  Henry’s mothers tongue was not as sharp as before and he found that the native language was too alien to call home.  Seeing this, Master Magellan sat down quietly and didn’t speak that much – he must have thought that they were still far from their destination.  Henry tried to convince master that they had a lot of physical similarities and Melaka was just  a few days sail but master Magellan was already despaired.

Map of the Philippines with Cebu highlighted

 Map of the Philippines with Cebu highlighted

But on March 28th, two long boats approached master ships and Henry spoke to the important man who sat under the awning made of raw mats.  The Rajah understood Henry well!   From there onwards, Henry became the sole ears and eyes of the Magellan’s troop of explorers. They met with various tribes and kings, and along the way, Master Magellan made a mistake by befriending one of the tribes and meddled with the local conflicts.

In honouring the alliance with Raja Humabon who had converted to Christianity, Magellan had agreed to attack a rebellious natives at the village of Mactan, under their leader called Lapu-Lapu.

Lapu-Lapu the comic; The movie starred Mario Montenegro;
The statue of Rajah Lapu-Lapu

On 27 April, Master Magellan and his fleet attacked the village of Mactan. The Spaniard vessels were equipped with various ammunition. Master Magellan was certain that his superior weaponry would win the battle. He gave a final offer of peace, provided the Mactan’s would accept the name of Christ, but they still refused.  Master Magellan ordered men to burn down the villager’s homes, but this only served to angry the natives more.  The 60 armed Magellan’s men were overwhelmed by the 1,600 of Lapu-Lapu men equipped with poison-tipped arrows.  The counter attack was converged at the Master’s vessel solely.  Cannons from other ships had stopped firing, and neither there were any reinforcement from other vessels. Master Magellan was first struck by an arrow on his right leg before a spear stabbed him in the arm.  He finally pierced by a spear on his right leg and he collapsed face down.  Master Magellan’s body was converged  with wall of  spears as he died.

The Battle of Mactan:Lapu-Lapu was a Muslim chieftain,
and was also known as "Kaliph Pulaka".

Henry was wounded by the battle, and went for deep mourning.  A new captain was elected by the name of captain Barbosa.  The new captain was indeed the new master of the vessels, but he ain’t the master of Henry the Black.  Henry was upset that  he was tricked by the new captain.  Captain Barbosa denied Henry’s freedom despite the fact that Henry’s master was already dead. The animosity between the slave and the new captain could no longer be hide.  As much as Henry had suspected the role of Captain Barbosa in plotting the death of master Magellan by not sending reinforcement when needed, a plot was set to accuse Henry of conspiracy with the Lapu-Lapu’s men in the downfall of Captain Ferdinand Magellan.  But whatever it is, Henry was still the needed as the sole interpreter for the remaining European explorers.

Henry felt that the master whom he had loved and admired was now  dead, there should be no reason for him to continue the voyage.  There should be no reason for him to be a slave and he should start a new life as a free man.  Just after three days after the Magellan’s death, Henry went ashore and told Raja Humabon that the Spaniards were about to depart –  a conspiracy to revenge on the death of a ‘friend’ by the traitor Barbosa  or to gain all the ships merchandise took place between Henry, the loyal slave of Ferdinand Magellan and Raja Humabon.

So the next day on May 1, Henry told captain Barbosa that Raja Humabon had prepared trays of jewelries and presents to be given to the King of Spain.   Unsuspecting of anything, a party of Spaniards led by Captain Barbosa went ashore, with the usual company of Henry.  They were attacked. Only a sole survivor managed to fled back towards the ships.  When asked whether there were any other survivor, he said all were dead, except the interpreter!


The Returned Ship

When Victoria, the one surviving ship, returned to the harbor of departure after completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth, only 18 men out of the original 260 men were on board. People were amazed when they saw those on board of Victoria, for they looked starved and filthy.

The Magellan’s Will

In the will and testament of explorer Ferdinand Magellan, it was indicated that in the event of his death,   Henry the Black  “shall be set free and manumitted, and quit, exempt, and relieved of every obligation and subjection, and may act as he desires and thinks fit”.  Master Magellan even left Henry a comfortable sum of ten thousands maravedis in money.

Henry the Black

There was no record of Henry after the attack by Raja Humabon, but the local believed that Henry got married and settled himself in the Phillipines.  Other tale, suspected that Henry had managed to sail back to his homeland in Melaka.  But there were also rumours that he might have been killed by Raja Humabon’s men.

Whatever it was, Henry was indeed the first man  who sailed around the world.  And Henry the Black or Enrique de Malacca or Panglima Awang Hitam was afterall…….. a Malay!

Enrique De Malacca

Enrique de Malacca CD

by Junior Kilat


The National Maritime Museum, UK

Wikipedia The Age of Discovery

Che Mai Foimosi sclavi din istorie

The Mariners Museum: Age of Exploration

Linguistic Can Solved the Origin of Henry de Malacca

GM: I felt deeply touch while doing research and writing on this article.  As anticipated I’ve I already knew that we will discover the lost Malay Hero, i.e., Henry the Black but I was also overjoyed to discover about another local hero, the chieftain Lapu-Lapu.  The Phillipino’s local hero who killed Magellan as he and his people resisted of being Islam apostasy.  Circling the globe, we found two heroes!!!One who left Islam by force and one who defend it!

Loving what I’m doing…more and more everyday!

Abang Mamat Khalid tak nak buat pilem epik Panglima Awang Hitam ke?


Filed under: History Reveals, , ,

3 Responses

  1. Vicente Calibo de Jesus says:

    Enrique, Magellan’s slave, did not round the world

    Magellan’s slave’s name was “Henrich” in the eyewitness account of Antonio Pigafetta. In the Last Will of Ferdinand Magellan, it is Hispanicized as “Enrique” which is also what appears in official documents of the Spanish official agency, the Casa de Contratacion de las Indias.

    He was most definitely Malay although there’s room for discussion as to exactly which place he comes from. Pigafetta states he was from Sumatra, Magellan states in his Will that Enrique was from Malacca. A non-eyewitness, Maximilian Transylvanus, who interviewed Enrique’s mates who did round the world, wrote the slave came from the Moluccas, which would make him an Indonesian. Maximilian’s statement, being not firsthand, would be what we’d call “hearsay” and therefore is the least credible among the three.

    Did Enrique circumnavigate the globe? To be precise, let’s define “circumnavigate.” It means one sails from one longitude and goes around the world ending up in that same longitude where one started. If he’s from Malacca, at longitude 112° 30 East, then Enrique would have rounded the world if he had sailed back to that same longitude never mind if not exactly Malacca itself. There is no record he reached that longitude ever. The last written document or even oral testimony puts the slave in Cebu the Philippines on May 31, 1521. Nothing more is said of Enrique beyond that date which is recorded by Pigafetta. Cebu is at longitude 123°13’E. It is 11° short of rounding the globe.

    If Enrique was from Sumatra, at 107°55 East, he was short of circumnavigating the globe by 16°.
    If he were from the Moluccas, at 127°24’E, he would have overshot, i.e., overcirumnavigated the globe by 4°. If!

    Those who contend he is Malaysian (either from Malacca or Sumatra) argue Enrique was able to hop unto a ship sometime after May 1521 and reached his home before Victoria, the last ship of Magellan’s Armada, sailed back to Spain in September 1521. The problem with such assertion is it is without support. It’s as valid as claiming Enrique did end up somewhere on planet Mars. Both statements are products of imagination, one wild the other out of this world.

    There’s a very extensive discussion of this issue at Wikipedia which covers the equally popular claim that Enrique came from Cebu and therefore successfully circumnavigated earth on April 7, 1521 when Magellan’s fleet arrived at the place. This claim involved the implied claim that all those who wrote Enrique was from some other place lied. That is, Pigafetta, Magellan, Maximilian, and other eyewitnesses such as Gines de Mafra, Bartolome de las Casas, including the official documents, falsified truth.

    To know more about this outlandish notion, which victimized many famous authors like Laurence Bergreen, William Manchester, etc., click


  2. Vicente Calibo de Jesus says:

    Was his name Lapu-Lapu? Kalipulako? Qari Pulako? Lupalupa?

    Antonio Pigafetta is the only eyewitness who wrote the name of Mactan’s “lord” who is hailed today as a Filipino hero. The spelling of his name, “Cilapulapu,” the c being a cedilla (c with a tail), the archaic spelling of s in the Romance languages, is uniform in all the four surviving codices of Pigafetta’s account of Magellan’s expedition.

    This singular spelling is followed in all transcriptions, translations, and even the corrupted copies of Pigafetta’s account.
    Even the first authentic edition of Pigafetta, Carlo Amoretti ‘s 1800 transcription and rendition into modern Italian of the codex known as Ambrosiana, does not deviate from “Cilapulapu” inspite of his dictum that the “Ci” in the names of the various chiefs was a prefix that was an honorific. Amoretti asserts, “…It appears that Si or Ci placed before a man’s name is a title of honour.” (See

    The first Filipino to read an authentic Pigafetta account—the Amoretti Italian edition—is the first historiographer to break this orthographic tradition. Jose P. Rizal takes his cue from the Italian polymath and for the first time spells the Mactan chieftain’s name Si Lapulapu in his annotated 1890 edition of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las islas Filipinas por el doctor Antonio de Morga, obra publicada en Méjico el an̄o de 1609. nuevamente sacada à luz y anotada por José Rizal y precedida de un prólogo del prof. Fernando Blumentritt.

    Rizal translates and quotes a Pigafetta passage and intercalates his “Si Lapulapu” in place of Pigafetta’s “Cilapulapu.” (See;cc=philamer;q1=Lapulapu;rgn=full%20text;idno=AHZ9387.0001.001;didno=AHZ9387.0001.001;view=image;seq=00000050) Rizal does not explain his operation and fails to give a precise citation of his authority, Amoretti.
    There is actually a difference between Rizal’s “Si” and Pigafetta’s “Ci.” The Italian’s was an honorific while the Filipino’s was an article.

    Amoretti’s assertion—unargued and unsupported by evidence—is of doubtful validity? It’s falsified by the fact the most powerful king of all, Humabon, did not have a “Ci” before his name? There were so many other chieftains, no less powerful than Cilapulapu, whose names were not prefixed, e.g., Zula, the other no less powerful lord of Mactan; Bondara, Magalibe, Zula, Mandani, Teten, Japaa. The chief of Ceylon (today’s Panaon) was Cabulon; Baibai was Malegis; Butuan, Calambu; Chippit, Calanoa.

    The Amoretti assertion would have been valid if the people of Zubu were Muslimized. But they were not. In Tausug si means sheikh, a title given to the early Arab missionaries and their descendants. At the time, there were no Tausugs yet; they were Butuanons yet, and would not make the exodus to Basilan and Sulo, an event that would happen only after the archipelago had been colonized by conquistador Legazpi.

    Pigafetta gave a careful distinction between “heathens” and “Moors.” In the entire Cebu incident Pigafetta specifically referred to only one “Moor,” the trader from “Ciama” which could be either Champa or Siam. (Click;cc=philamer;q1=Siam;rgn=full%20text;idno=afk2830.0001.033;didno=afk2830.0001.033;view=image;seq=00000145)

    Is it possible Magellan, out of lack of interest, did not know if the people of Cebu and Mactan and everywhere else were Muslims. But it was very vital for the Spanish expedition to know who were “Mahometans”, in fact in the entire narration of Pigafetta he was particular on this point. This is further proven by the Cebuano-Butuanon “dictionary” or “vocabulary” of 150 words which Pigafetta titled, “Words of those heathen people.”

    Furthermore, when Magellan burned the houses in a village in Mactan, Bullaia, it was explained that “a cross was erected on the spot, because it was a village of idolaters; if the inhabitants had been Moors, i.e., Mahometans, a pillar of stone would have been raised to mark the hardness of their hearts.” (See

    As for the name, “Kalipulaku” this is the handiwork of a non-eyewitness, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, who wrote Historia de las Indias (Valladolid: 1557). The part on Magellan and his voyage is in Book XX, Part II. Oviedo’s source was Sebastian Elcano who . Not being an eyewitness report, Oviedo commits a number of errors, including his report that the Easter mass of March 31, 1521 was held at Cebu.

    The name “Qari Pulako” is a product of imagination based on the fictitious assumption Mactan was Muslimized. It’s on the same level of imaginative history of Isidro Escare Abeto who, on his own authority, declares Mactan chief’s real name was “Lupalupa.” (See;cc=philamer;q1=Lapulapu;rgn=full%20text;idno=AKM8935.0001.001;didno=AKM8935.0001.001;view=image;seq=00000028) His book, Philippine history: reassessed, was published in 1989.


  3. kc says:

    it is very special they really went well..!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Recommended Reading

Twitter: ‘pipit pekak makan berhujan’



'Sireh Pulang ke Ganggang'

  • 71,742 helai daun sireh
%d bloggers like this: