Homonhon Island - History and Facts | History Hit

Homonhon Island

Pagbabangnan, Eastern Samar, Philippines

Homonhon Island was the first place that Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippines.

Peta Stamper

10 May 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Homonhon Island

Homonhon Island is a beautiful 12-mile-long island in the Eastern Samar of the Philippines and was one of the early sites of contact between Europeans and East Asia. Homonhon Island was the first landing place of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who organised a Spanish expedition to the East Indies between 1519 and 1522.

The site of Magellan’s landing is commemorated on Homonhon Island, although little marks the site.

Homonhon Island history

Ferdinand Magellan, a skilled sailor and naval officer, gained the support of King Charles I of Spain to find a westward route to the Maluku Islands or ‘Spice Islands’. He had been refused the support of his own king of Portugal, Manuel I. Commanding a fleet of 5 ships, Magellan headed south across the Atlantic to Patagonia, eventually reaching the Pacific after a series of storms.

Magellan’s 3 surviving vessels passed through the Marianas but did not land. Instead, having run out of food after crossing the vast Pacific Ocean, he landed with his crew on Homonhon – then known as Humumu – on March 16 1521. The exhausted men heralded their rediscovery of the Philippines for Spain.

Magellan stayed there for 8 days, during which he encountered a boat with 9 local native peoples of the Rajah Culambu of Limasawa, who guided him to Cebu on April 7. The Rajah Culambu assisted Magellan with the supplies of food and water so the Europeans could continue their voyage to Limasaw Island in the Siargao Straight.

It was later that month in 1521 that Magellan was killed in a violent clash between the Rakah Culambu and the Lapulapu in what is known as the Battle of Mactan.

Homonhon Island today

Today, the secluded island is home to around 8 barangays that have survived the area’s chromite mining and heavy fishing industry. You can visit Magellan’s landing site by getting a ride along a bumpy road passing through the island’s streams, forests and beaches.

Note that there is no hotel on the island but staying with a local family or camping is common.

Getting to Homonhon Island

To get to Homonhon Island from Tacloban City, take a van or bus from Abucay Grand Terminal. In Guiuan on the coast of Leyte Island, take a cab to the jetty. There is only one boat trip to the island daily dependent on the weather.