Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Voyage of Enrique of Malacca

Over the years, there has been considerable debate about who actually was the first man to sail around the world. We were all taught this historic honour belongs to Ferdinand Magellan (Fernao de Magalhaes, in his native Portuguese) who led the expedition of five ships and over 270 men out of Spain in 1519 and sailed westwards, reaching the Philippines, where he was killed. However, Magellan was thought to have travelled to as far as Sabah before, and one can argue that he had indeed actually completed circumnavigating the globe. There are also those who argue that the accolade should rightly belong to Sebastian del Cano, a mutineer from Magellan's crew, who led the one surviving ship, Victoria, and 17 other men, and limped back to Spain on September 8, 1522.

However, only one individual can truly claim to have been the first man to leave his home, sail around the globe and arrive at a part of the world where his mother tongue was spoken. That man was a Malay, Magellan's able servant and interpreter, called Enrique of Melaka or Henry the Black.

If there is any single Malay ever who has had the greatest impact on world history, it would probably be Enrique. It is therefore ironic that we know so little of the man. He is called Panglima Awang by Harun Aminurrashid in Malay literature but there is no mention of him in any credible Malay historical records. There is brief mention of Enrique in the official Spanish crew lists, as well as Magellan's last will and testament. Almost all of the certain facts that we know of Enrique come from the most comprehensive chronicle of Magellan's voyage, the narrative by Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian volunteer who joined Magellan's crew.

Pigafetta does briefly mention Enrique's origins - he was a Malay who had lived in Melaka but was originally from 'Zamatra' (Sumatra). Magellan was among the crew of the Portuguese squadron of five ships under Diego Lopez de Sequeira which sailed into Melaka on September 1, 1509, and became the first Europeans to have contact with the Malay Peninsula. Magellan also took part in the capture of the city by the Portuguese in 1511 and it was probably then that he acquired a Malay slave, whom he gave the name Enrique.

The young Enrique may have been about 18 at the time - Magellan's will and testament made eight years later cited Enrique as being "of the age of twenty-six years, more or less". The will also stated specifically that Enrique was a "captured slave" - indicating that Enrique was not bought in a slave market by Magellan. He may have been one of the defenders of the city who was taken captive in the final Portuguese assault. Prisoners of war would have been regarded as slaves and could be divided as booty among the officers and men of the victorious Portuguese expedition. He may also have been a slave before the fall of the city. There were thousands of slaves in Melaka belonging to the merchants and Malay nobility, and Portuguese records indicate that Sultan Mahmud of Melaka alone had over three thousand 'ambarages' ('Hamba Raja' or royal slaves). Many of the 'hamba raja' were in fact prisoners of war brought back from Melaka's successful campaigns against the kingdoms of Sumatra, Enrique's birthplace.

The new slave must have been a useful guide and interpreter when Magellan then travelled to different parts of the East Indies after Melaka's capture, reaching as far as Sabah. He then sailed back to Lisbon in 1512, with his loyal Malay servant in tow, and was dispatched to the Portuguese campaigns against the Moors in Morocco. There, Magellan was wounded in battle and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Accused of corruption while he was there, he bitterly left the service
of the King of Portugal and offered his services to King Charles I of Spain in 1517. Portugal controlled all the eastward routes to the rich Spice Islands of the Malay archipelago and Magellan presented the King of Spain with his daring plan - to find a route sailing westwards to the Spice Islands, avoiding the Portuguese. It is said that he even had Enrique presented to the King and his Privy Council, to convince them that accompanying him on the voyage would be a man with the local language, knowledge and experience needed to make the voyage a success.

Up to then, it does appear that Enrique was a loyal and able servant, and that his relationship with his master was a good one - perhaps even one of friendship. It was certainly good enough for Magellan to declare in his will and testament that, upon his death, Enrique "shall be free and manumitted, and quit, exempt, and relieved of every obligation and subjection, that he may act as he desires and thinks fit." Magellan even left Enrique a comfortable share from his estate, "the sum of ten thousand maravedis in money for his support".

The Spanish king was won over with the plan. Magellan was provided with five sailing ships - San Antonio, Conception, Victoria, Santiago and his flagship Trinidad - and crews comprising over 270 men. They left the Spanish port of Sanlucar de Barrameda on September 20th, 1519 and began perhaps the most daring and historic voyage of exploration ever - a voyage whose significance can only be equaled to Man's landing on the moon 450 years later.

Across the Atlantic, down the coast of South America and upwards across the Pacific, they sailed and suffered many hardships - thirst, starvation, disease, storms, desertion, hostile natives, even mutiny. Finally, on March 16th , 1521 - eighteen months after they left Spain - they sighted Samar, the most easterly of the Philippine islands. They continued their exploration of the islands and encountered a number of natives - but Enrique's Malay was unintelligible to them and they had to communicate using sign language. Magellan must have despaired, thinking that they were still far from their goal - the islands of the Malay archipelago.

But on March 28th, a momentous event occurred. Pigafetta wrote: ".... we saw approaching two long boats, which they called Ballanghai, full of men, and in the larger was their king seated below an awning made of mats. And when they came near the captain's ship, the said slave (Enrique) spoke to that king, who understood him well."

From that moment onwards, Enrique became the sole ears and voice of this band of explorers. As they continued their voyage to the surrounding island kingdoms, it was Enrique alone who, on behalf of Magellan and the Spanish crown, spoke with kings and traders - requesting provisions, bartering goods to trade, offering messages of peace, delivering threats of war.

It was after delivering one such threat that Enrique lost his master and friend, Magellan. Magellan had befriended the ruler of Cebu, Raja Humabon and was asked to punish a large band of rebellious natives in the village of Mactan, under the leadership of a warrior named Lapu Lapu. On Saturday, the 27th of April, Magellan attacked Lapu Lapu's village with 60 men-at-arms - cannon, muskets, crossbows and steel swords against bamboo spears and poison-tipped arrows. But the small Spaniard force suddenly found itself overwhelmed by over 1,500 of Lapu Lapu's warriors.

Pigafetta noted that Lapu Lapu's men were converging their attacks on the Spanish captain himself - Magellan was first struck in the right leg by an arrow and later a spear stabbed him in the arm. For some reason, his cannon had now stopped firing and, despite being pressed by attacks for nearly an hour, no reinforcements had arrived from his waiting ships. Then, many of his men began to flee for the safety of their ships. The Filipinos rushed forward and, with a wounded arm that was barely able to raise his sword in defence, the limp Magellan trailed behind his fleeing soldiers. Wading knee-deep in the surf, he was finally pierced by a spear in the right leg and he collapsed face down. A wall of spears converged upon the fallen captain and he was dead.

Enrique himself was wounded in the battle. Devastated by the death Magellan, he went into deep mourning. Pigafetta writes that "he no longer went ashore to do necessary business but was always wrapped in a blanket." A new commander was elected to replace Magellan - a Portuguese by the name of Duarte Barbosa - and he was determined to show the Malay slave that the new captain would not tolerate such behaviour. Shouting at Enrique, Barbosa told him that although his master was dead, he was not to be freed but was to remain a slave. Duarte ordered him to go ashore whenever he was needed or he would be driven away.

Pigafetta then writes that Enrique was then suspected of plotting the downfall of his ship mates but he did not elaborate on the reason behind this conspiracy. Enrique may have suspected that the captains who remained on the ships may have plotted the death of his master during the battle - intentionally not sending him any reinforcements or supporting cannon fire. He may have been enraged at Barbosa for denying him his liberty - having been promised by his master that he should be set free upon his death. He may have felt that a master whom he had loved and admired was now dead, and there was no longer any reason to remain a slave - it was now time to start a new life as a free man.

Whatever the reason - whether it was loyalty, revenge, rage or just an attempt at freedom - the plot was hatched just three days after Magellan's death. Pigafetta writes that Enrique went ashore and told Humabon that the Spaniards were about to depart immediately "but, if he would follow his advice, he would gain all their ships merchandise ... and so they plotted a conspiracy."

The next day, Enrique told the Spaniards that Humabon had prepared jewels and presents to be brought to the King of Spain and asked them to come ashore to receive these. A party of Spaniards led by Barbosa did come, accompanied as usual by Enrique, but they were attacked. A lone survivor fled back towards the ships and, when asked if there were any others who survived the attack, he said all were dead, except the interpreter.

Official Spanish records list Enrique of Melaka as one of the 27 men massacred in that attack, so we really do not know if Enrique did survive that attack, as Pigafetta claims. What we do know is that was the last we hear of Enrique in Pigafetta's diary - and he disappears into the mists of history. No one knows if he remained in Cebu, or found his way back to Melaka or maybe even returned to his
homeland in Sumatra. If he had indeed made his way home, he would have arrived there much earlier than del Cano - making the Malay slave the first man ever to have sailed around the world, rather than Magellan or del Cano.

One could also argue that the Spaniards may have indeed changed the official crew lists to ensure that this was not a possibility - how could a Malay slave have beaten the flower of Spanish manhood in the race around the globe? Certainly, Enrique was to be just a footnote to the heroic deeds of Magellan and del Cano that were told in countless books about this remarkable voyage written over the next few hundred years. It was only in this century that questions were raised about this Malay interpreter and his role in this historic achievement. Little was known about him even in Malaya until, in 1958, the writer Harun Aminurrashid published one of the greatest historical novels in modern Malay fiction, "Panglima Awang".

Despite there being no written evidence indicating that Enrique had any origins in or connections with the Philippines - and Pigafetta's quite clear statement that he was from Sumatra - Filipino writers and historians are now claiming Enrique as one of their own countrymen. Some suggest that he may have been abducted from Cebu and brought to Sumatra or Melaka as a slave. Others think that he may have been a member of the small Filipino community living in Melaka at the time of its fall to the Portuguese. The most convenient feature of these theories is that if Enrique was indeed from Cebu, that would without any doubt make a Filipino the first man to have sailed around the world.

The main argument behind these theories is that Enrique could speak in the language of the people inhabiting the islands around Cebu - Bisayan - and therefore must have been from Cebu himself. There is a fatal flaw in this argument - Pigafetta's narrative above does show that Enrique could not communicate at all with the natives in his first encounter with them. It was only when he spoke with royalty - in this case, their king - or with traders that they suddenly found a common language among them. This is certainly not surprising - Malay was, by then, the 'lingua franca' of the whole Archipelago, and the official language of international diplomacy and trade for the whole region. All references to Enrique in Pigafetta's chronicle have him speaking with kings, chiefs or traders - rather than the common folk who may not have known the international language of Malay.

But the continuing controversy of whether he was Malay or Filipino does not detract from the monumental achievements of this man. Burning with the unquenchable wanderlust and seafaring passion of his race, Enrique of Melaka had sailed the seas of the East Indies with his master; followed him across the Indian Ocean and around the rim of the African continent; loyally fought alongside him in North Africa; lived in the splendour of the royal courts of Portugal and Spain. He embarked upon the greatest adventure ever - to circle the globe, the final frontier; to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Having done that, he had returned full circle, to a land where he could understand the people and they could understand him. And there is just still the possibility that this humble Malay slave was indeed the first human ever to have sailed around the world.

Magellan's Voyage--A narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation Antonio Pigafetta. Yale: Yale University 1969
Der Mann und seine Tat Zweig, S. Magellan. Zurich:Wien-Leipzig-Z├╝rich, 1937.
Portuguese Documents On Melaka Pintado, M J. Kuala Lumpur: National Archives of Malaysia, 1993.
Sejarah Melayu: Enrique of Malacca Sabri Zain.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Door Duistermis tot Licht

It is presumptuous for us to play "mother," and with children who are older than we; but what does age matter? Every one needs love, the grey-beard as well as the child.

Should a woman only exclusively through marriage be able to come to her right — to the full awakening of the best gifts of her soul? because the highest and most sacred glory of woman is motherhood. But then must a woman be obliged to have a child of her own in order to be a true mother — a being who is all love and sacrifice? If that is true, how pitifully shallow is the idea of the world that it is only a piece of oneself that one can love better than oneself. There are so many who are called mothers only because they have brought children into the world, but beyond that they are not worthy of the name. A woman that gives all the love that is in her heart to others, with no thought of herself is, in a spiritual sense — mother. We set the spiritual mother higher than the physical.

We hope and pray fervently that later if it is granted us to realize our ideals, and we stand at the head of a school, our children will not call us "mother" as a matter of form, but because they feel that we are mothers.

We hope that Anneka will find cordial, affectionate people at Buitenzurg, who will make up to the poor lonely child for the lack of a mother and of a home of her own. Anneka lived our Javanese live with us here. I wish that you could have taken a peep at the little comer behind the door, where Anneka sat on the ground with us in such a sisterly manner. One evening she sat by us in our chamber, at the low table where I am now writing; she sewed, we wrote. There was still a fourth in the circle — a friend of ours. She read aloud or rather sang to us. You know of course, that all of our books are written in poetic metre, flower-tongue as we say, and they are meant to be sung.

Doors and windows were open. Outside the chamber there bloomed a tjempaka tree; its perfume came to us on the soft wind. The voice was gentle and tender, the song was sweet to our listening ears. It carried our souls back to the far distant past, to the golden age of barbaric splendour, and of men and women who were wise and beautiful and strong.

We bit our pen-holders absently — much oftener than we made them fly over the white paper, and amid these wholly Javanese surroundings, there between brown children of the Sunny Land, sat a pale daughter of the West. Oh how gladly would we have you, even so, among us.

We have learned the songs too, and if we were not bashful, we would sing and dream before you.

Yesterday Annie did something typically Javanese. She was so anxious to go away from Japara, we said to her "Ask the help of the Soenan of Kantingan, promise him an offering of flowers, if your wish comes true." So she did.

Day before yesterday evening we spoke of it, and the next morning she went with us to make her offering. We went there with a band of priests to the holy grave, and we took flowers and incense with us.

Anneka went with us into the building over the grave and sat with us on the ground at the foot of the tomb. Incense burned, and a mystic buzzing rose at first softly but gradually louder from the priestly choir. It was solemn and impressive. We sat with lowered heads and listened to the murmur of the mystic prayer, while blue clouds of incense rose upwards.

One of the priests creeping forward on the ground brought Anneka's flowers and laid them reverently on the grave of the Soenan, and after diat on the other graves. Next to me I heard a snickering. It was Anneka! Barefooted as a mark of reverence, she had come with us into the building. For it is our custom to look upon the dead as holy, and to show them reverence.

We then went to the little stream behind the churchyard to wash our feet. We asked the priest for Heaven's blessing for Anneka.

Dearest, we should so love to have you here, so that you could live our native life with us. There is so much that is touching in our Javanese life; especially in the honour that we show to our dead and to our parents. Nothing ever happens in our lives of any importance, either of joy or of sorrow, that we do not think of our dead. Anneka will remember Japara when she sits high and dry at Buitenzorg, although she may be a thousand times better off there than here. They that have known Japara; who have seen its soul, can never forget it. They must think of it again and again, whether it is with love or whether it is with hate.

Letters of a Javanese Princess: Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang Raden Adjeng Kartini September 2nd, 1902

Monday, September 20, 2010


Never contempt the poor
Never revere the rich
Never adore the authorities

Kasih Bapa Seluas Lautan Martinelli 2009.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Emotional Rule of Momentum

Isn't it Ironic, that..
we ignore the ones who adore us,
adore the ones that ignore us,
love the ones who hurt us, and
hurt the ones that love us.

quoted from Jordan Neill.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Da Spencer Code


"A few days after Jesus had died on the cross and been buried, his apostles claimed that they had seen and talked with him. They believed that Jesus was indeed the messiah and had risen from the dead, or been resurrected."

Global History and Geography: The Growth of Civilization pp 143 by Henry Brun, Lillian Forman and Herbert Brodsky, Amsco School Publications, Inc., 2008.

"Muhammad was the messenger of Allah."

Global History and Geography: The Growth of Civilization pp 182 by Henry Brun, Lillian Forman and Herbert Brodsky, Amsco School Publications, Inc., 2008.


"After the death of Jesus, his followers proclaimed that he had risen from death and had appeared to them. They believed Jesus to be the Messiah (anointed one)..."

World History pp 170 by Jackson J. Spielvogel, McGraw Hill Glencoe, 2008.

"The revelations of Allah (God) to Muhammad are written down in the Quran, or holy book of Islam."

World History pp 210 by Jackson J. Spielvogel, McGraw Hill Glencoe, 2008.


"The authors of the Gospels believed Jesus was the son of God..."

The Western Heritage Ninth Edition pp 161 by Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment and Frank M. Turner, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.

"[Muhammad] began to receive revelations from the angel Gabriel, who recited God's word to him at irregular intervals."

The Western Heritage Ninth Edition pp 200 by Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment and Frank M. Turner, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.