100 Istoryang Albayano, Segment 4

By Abdon M. Balde Jr.

THE CITY OF LEGAZPI is the capital of the Province of Albay. Its prominence indicates that many events that happened here affected many other places in the province. The city was founded in 1856 and was named after the Basque- Spanish navigator, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi—who never set foot in Albay. The most plausible reason for naming the place after Legazpi was because he was the grandfather of Captain Juan de Salcedo, the intrepid conquistador who in 1572 raided the region for gold and built the first Spanish garrison in Bikol named Santiago de Libong, which became the present town of Libon, Albay. In fact, in 1772 Governor General Simon de Anda named the settlement adjacent to Legazpi City as Salcedo (later renamed Daraga).

The naming of Legazpi City is credited to Don Ramon Montero of the Gobierno Superior de las Islas Filipinas who in July 17, 1856 signed a decree creating the visita of Pueblo Viejo, out of Binanuahan and the adjacent villages of Lamba, Rawis and Bigaa, and in another decree named the town Legazpi, which was inaugurated on October 22, 1856. 

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, was born in 1502 in Zumárraga, Spain. He was a Basque by birth. In 1528 he moved to Mexico (then called New Spain) and worked there in the financial council until he was appointed civil governor of Mexico City. In 1564 he was commissioned by King Philip II of Spain to lead an expedition to the Pacific Ocean in search of the Spice Island, as did Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and Ruy Lopez de Villalobos in 1543. He arrived in the Visayas in September 1565 and initially made Cebu his seat of government. One of the expeditionary troops he sent to the north reached the Gibalong settlement in what would later be known as the Bikol Region. 

Legazpi’s grandson Juan de Salcedo captured Manila in 1571 and he made it Legazpi’s new seat of government and declared it the capital of the Philippines. In 1572 Salcedo would lead a band of soldiers to Bikol in search of gold and establish a Spanish garrison in Libon. In August 20, 1572, Legazpi suffered a stroke and died, after having scolded an aide, according to stories. His remains were interred in a vault in San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila. The Spanish rule of the Philippines would last until September 1898.

Legazpi was actually the name of a place where Miguel Lopez was born, in the municipality of Zumarraga in Gipuzkoa, a province of the Basque Country’s autonomous community of Spain. In the birthplace of Miguel Lopez now stands a Legazpi Tower to commemorate his great contributions to Spain. Legazpi Tower in Manila was an apartment along Roxas Boulevard facing the Cultural Center of the Philippines.