Already a devout Christian, Ferdinand Magellan became a fervent proselytiser in this land of heathen souls ripe for conversion to the one true faith. Easter had arrived again – the anniversary of the mutiny at Port St Julian. On Maundy Thursday a prau with 8 crew approached the ship and Magellan enticed them aboard with gifts of red caps, bells and beads. Then he instructed Pigafetta and Henriqué to go ashore with them to see what manner of town lay beyond the trees on the beach; what defences, what weapons and how many warriors.
“Is it war, captain general?” Pigafetta asked.
“No. Just prudence.”
In a clearing behind the trees they found bamboo houses on stilts, with pigs, chickens and children beneath. The rajah’s palace was not much different, only bigger, and it was necessary to climb a ladder to the rooms. It was now revealed that one of their guides was the son of the rajah, Columbu. He introduced them to his father, a middle aged man in robes, with a curly bladed kris at his waist and gold rings hanging from his ears. He invited them to sit on cushions while a servant appeared with a porcelain urn of wine which he served in coconut shell cups.
As he handed over the gifts he had brought from the ship, Pigafetta wrote down their names in the local language. When he read the names back to them, Columbu and his son were astonished. Pigafetta tried to explain through Henrique that words can represent not only things but also abstract ideas like love and hate, war and peace and the most abstract idea of all, god.
“Abba,” Henrique said. “Their god is Abba. In some places where Moors live, god is called Allah.”
“Yes, I know about Allah, and the Patagonians call it Setebos and another word is Jehovah but is it the same god or all different?”
Henrique had no answer but the question troubled Pigafetta, knowing the captain general was about to introduce a new god, Jesus Christ.They were treated to a feast of pork, chicken and fish with copious quantities of wine so Pigafetta woke up with a sore head in the morning.
He reported to the captain general that these people were hospitable and their wine very powerful. Since there was some confusion over the word “god” they might be receptive to the Christian faith. The captain general was pleased by this news and sent Pigafetta and Henrique ashore again to invite the rajah and his people to an important ceremony.
On Easter Sunday they landed in two boats. Padre Valderrama conducted mass with monstrance and censers and a colourful figure of the Virgin Mary before Rajah Columbu, his son and many of his people.
At the conclusion of the service, the musketeers fired a volley in the air and the ships at anchor fired a blank broadside. Half the congregation ran into the forest in fear.
Next, the captain general shouldered a large cross brought especially for the purpose. It featured the crown of thorns and the nails that tortured Our Lord. He set off climbing the steep hillside like Jesus Christ climbing the hill of Calvary. At the summit, the cross was erected overlooking the sea and Valderrama said a Pater Nostra and Ave Maria. Little did he know he would soon be delivering the Last Rites for Ferdinand Magellan.
That cross, or its descendant, stands in the same place today. It is a tourist attraction.