Enrique of Malacca Enrique of Malacca was the first person to circumnavigate the globe linguistically—he traveled so far in one direction (west) that he came to a place where his own language was spoken. Enrique may have also circumnavigated the globe completely, a full circle of the earth beginning and ending in Malacca or somewhere in the Philippines. 

Enrique departed Malacca on the Malay Peninsula in 1512 or 1513, taken as a slave by Ferdinand Magellan after the 1511 Portuguese invasion of the area trade hub. They went first to Lisbon and later to Spain before departing on the Magellan-Elcano expedition that first circled the globe. Enrique was last seen by Magellan's fleet at Cebu (Philippines), some 2,600 kilometers from Malacca.

1558 Carrack Pieter Bruegel the Elder

May 19, 2022

Article: Myths and Truths About the First Circumnavigation of the Globe

This Philippine Daily Inquirer feature by Javier Galván explores the myths and the history surrounding the first circumnavigation as perceived in the Philippines, including whether Enrique of Malacca was the first person to circumnavigate the globe and what part was played by Lapulapu, datu at Mactan, where Ferdinand Magellan was killed in battle.


Editor’s note: With this article by Javier Galván, director of the Instituto Cervantes de Manila, the Inquirer initiates a series of informative and thought-provoking essays commemorating the arrival of Spain and the Europeans in the Philippines, whose quincentenary will be marked by the nation next year (1521-2021).

There are also hypotheses full of romanticism: that Enrique of Malacca was the first to circumnavigate the world, or that Lapu-Lapu was the first Filipino anticolonialist. The first one could have been accomplished, though highly improbable and could never be proven with historical accuracy. What we know about Enrique is that he was from Malacca, that he had traveled with Ferdinand Magellan until Lisbon, and later on from Sevilla westward until reaching what is now known as the Philippine Islands. But after he had abandoned the expedition, nobody knew what became of him.

Read more about the first circumnavigation.

Was Enrique of Malacca Filipino?

Enrique of Malacca's origin is a subject of debate. Three places are considered possible: Malacca, then a major trade hub on the Malay Peninsula; Sumatra, the large island adjacent to Malacca; and the Visayan Islands in the (modern-day) Philippines. The evidence points to Malacca, though chronicler Antonio Pigafetta said Sumatra, and some scholars believe it's possibly Enrique was from the Visayan Islands in the modern-day Philippines? See the historical evidence in this post: Where was Enrique of Malacca from, Malacca or the Philippines?

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Learn more about Enrique at EnriqueOfMalacca.com.

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