On November 21, 1564, the fifty Spanish expedition to the Philippines sailed from Mexico. Aboard four ships under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi were five Augustinian friars, 380 men and a fair amount of food, ammunition and trinkets. The expedition was not the best nor the worst ever fitted for its destination, which at the start had been guessed as New Guinea.

Whether it was good sailing weather, or the combined forces of the Spanish King's trusted, tactful Legazpi, the conscientious Fray Andres de Urdaneta, ship's chief navigator, the experienced Marshall Martin de Goiti and the courageous, adventurous Captain Juan de Salcedo - this expedition landed in the Philippines, if not with complete security then at least with more than even changes of survival.

Sealed orders which Legazpi opened at mid sea carried King Phillip's instructions to sail to the Philippines and "labor diligently to make and establish sound friendship and peace with the natives - represent to them His Majesty's affection and love, giving them a few presents - and treating them well".

The true intent of the order did not escape Legazpi. He was on a voyage of colonization, a peaceful colonization if possible, but colonization, above all. Urdaneta understood the message, too, and reluctantly did his job. He was willing enough to proceed to the Philippines to spread the word of God, but he was well aware that there were other motives than the planting of the cross.

This was not an undiscovered, isolated region where credulous natives gave friendship in exchange for a looking-glass, or accepted the affection and love of a king several thousand miles away without questioning his motives. More than forty years past, the red-lipped, pink-powdered young wife of Cebu's Rajah Humabon had been baptized and gifted an image of the Child Jesus by Magellan. There had been rejoicing at the conversion, the avowals of friendship, and what appeared to be the easy conquest of the islands. Two weeks later, in the nearby island of Mactan, Magellan's army of Spaniards and assisting Cebuans were felled by Lapulapu and his men. Magellan was killed, and although there is little truth to the story that his Achilles heel had been located in his armor-uncovered knee, his death discovered for the Filipinos the vulnerability of the Spanish.

A few days later, 27 Spaniards were killed by recently friendly Cebuans. The hostility survived the years, nourished by the various rumors of other expeditions attempting to reach Cebu. Legazpi landed in Cebu on February 13, 1565. The gifts of glass, beads and mirrors were received - and cinnamon, wine and gold were given in exchange. This then, in effect, was barter. The Cebuans might have felt freed from the duties of hospitality and made no effort to disguise their hostility.

The Philippines then was made up of many little kingdoms with chieftains who were friendly or hostile to each other, but who recognized each other's independence. Trade and commerce was carried on among themselves and with foreigners. The Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Siamese, Sumatrans and other neighboring traders had brought to the country their various customs and cultures, without attempting to bring the authority of their kings.

The independence of rule and thinking of the various kingdoms were a help to Legazpi's troops. If they were not wanted in one place, they were still welcome in another. Bohol's chieftain, Sikatuna received them warmly. The policy of attraction - a combination of earnest piety, genteel diplomacy and abundance of beads - worked.

Many years later the painter Juan Luna somberly and stiffly immortalized the blood compact, the casi-casi in which the protagonists Sikatuna and Legazpi drew blood from themselves and with the mixed brew signed the pact of brotherhood. This ritual of minimum bloodshed was certainly preferable to violence and Legazpi filed it away in his mind, to draw on for future use.

With his new ally Legazpi headed back to Cebu, and took the kingdom by force, over the protests of Fray Urdaneta. Tupas, the chieftain of Cebu retreated to the mountain with 2000 warriors, to come down eventually and made the first documented surrender of freedom when he concluded a treaty with Legazpi providing that "they make submission and place themselves under the dominion of the royal Crown of Castilla and of his Majesty, as his natural vassals, promising to be faithful and loyal to his service, and not to displease him in any way."

There was more than one thing to make Legazpi rejoice. An image of the Holy Child Jesus believed to be the same one Magellan gave Queen Juana was found in one of the unburned houses in Cebu. In what might be precursor to another later even in Philippine history, Legazpi knelt in front of the image, and supplicated "that Thou enlighten and guide me so that all that we do here may be to Thy glory and honor."

To his credit, Legazpi did not make any reference in his prayers to doing good for the people sitting in darkness. Instead he asked that the Lord punish "the offenses committed in these islands against Thy Majesty."

There were a goodly number of these, by then, not the least of which were committed by the Spanish soldiers who had discovered the wines and women of Cebu, and the gold that lay buried in the graveyards. Also, and what might have been an offense in his eyes were the attacks launched by Portuguese soldiers soon after the establishment of the Spanish settlement in Cebu. A fort, a church and houses had been constructed which angered the Portuguese Captain Pereira who claimed the island as rightfully belonging to his King. Legazpi did not argue but stated that what had forced them to the island's shores would necessarily keep them there, until ships came to carry them away. An exchange of letters followed. The union of Spain and Portugal in 1580 resolved this conflict between Spain and Portugal.

But in the meantime, Cebu was no longer safe. Both Portuguese and the Cebuans threatened their security and in 1569 Legazpi decided to move his forces to Panay. Only when reinforcement arrived from Spain did he return to Cebu, now as governor with the new title of Adelantado. A more important message had arrived with reinforcements. Legazpi was ordered to take full possession of the Philippines.

Cebu was organized as a city government with a new governor, and the land divided into encomiendas, large estates which like rich slices of cake were given as rewards to those who had served King and Adelantado bravely and well. Years later, because of the evils and abuses it brought about, the encomienda system would be abolished. The bad taste it had left in the mouth would linger for as long as the abusive habits nourished by their sudden wealth remained.

Legazpi went on to follow orders.

The reception given the Spaniards varied. Tupa was initially hostile. Tondo's Lakadula was friendly, while Soliman was firm. Legazpi's men faced native armies equipped with Panday Pira's artillery, or large supplies of spear and lances and unbending resistance.

The separate kingdoms did not exact alliance from each other, except when they were banded together into a confederation such as that of Sumakwel's Confederation of Madyaas in 18th century Panay. But the barangays were largely independent and although Soliman would seek the advice of his elder relative Lakandula, he was not bound to obey, and did not, when the latter cautioned him to befriend the Spaniards.

Legazpi's voyage of conquest and colonization, riding on a policy of attraction which more than once had to don the accoutrements of war, became a unifying force and marked an epochal change in the government of the territory.

This unification was brought on by more than the fact of administration from the government set up by Spain. The friendliness which even the gentlest chieftains offered changed to disillusionment and wrath with the abuses of debauched soldiers and arrogant officials. With every resistance and native dissatisfaction, as with every conquest, fusion of the nation in physical and spiritual terms took place.

The first expedition to Manila in 1570 was led by Martin de Goiti and Legazpi's 18-year old grandson, Juan de Salcedo. The latter would provide a glamorous, dashing figure to the Legazpi chapter in the Philippines.

Rajah Soliman, chieftain of Manila, and Goiti entered into a blood compact. But that was nullified when Goiti fired a short, ostensibly to recall a boat he had sent off on an errand in the bay. Fighting ensued, Soliman and his men were overpowered.

The young chieftain retreated to the mountains. But Goiti did not underestimate his routed opponent. Salcedo had earlier proceeded to other points having taken on the work of colonization of the entire island of Luzon except for Central Luzon and some regions nearby for which Goiti was responsible. When Soliman's men clashed with the Spaniards, Salcedo was in Balayan, recuperating from a wound received in battle.

Legazpi led the next expedition to Manila, in 1571. As the Spanish ships approached, Soliman set fire to his rebuilt kingdom, retreated inwards to stronger fortifications, and continued to fight. Soliman died in battle, mourned by his men and his uncle who still believed his nephew acted too rashly and would have done better accepting the friendship proffered by the Spaniards.

In June of 1571, Manila was founded and made the administrative center of the Spanish colony. Streets, forts, and a palace was erected. An image of the Blessed Virgin found in Ermita was made the holy patroness as the Nuestra Señora de Guia. A few years later Manila was titled "The Most Noble and Ever Loyal" city. Not long afterward the natives rose in rebellion against Legazpi's successor in Manila, the appointed Governor, Guido de Lavezares. Goiti was dead and only Salcedo's intervention with Rajah Lakandula, dissuaded the latter from doing battle.

All of Luzon except the regions colonized by Goiti were conquered by Salcedo, peacefully, and when necessary, by force. He had an army of 30 to 40 Spaniards, and many natives. It is possible that his dashing, romantic figure, fired their sense of adventure, as they accompanied him while he marched from north to south, east to west, sailed along the coasts of the Philippines, seeking weak entries, its stronger ramparts. In Paracale he found what other Spaniards sought - survivors of past expeditions, and gold, much gold. While founding the city of Vigan he was called to Manila, in 1574, to help Goiti defend the city against Limahong. The Chinese pirate led a fleet of 62 war junks with 2000 soldiers, 2000 seamen, 1500 women, and a good number of artisans and farmers. Limahong was routed in what was a double victory for Salcedo. Not only were the pirates driven away, but done so with the help of the previously hostile natives. Lakandula and other chieftains, most of them on the verge of revolt, had joined forces with Salcedo in defeating the common enemy.

Fray Urdaneta had not lived to know of the founding of Manila. A reluctant colonizer,m he had left on the first ship that returned to Spain, and died shortly after discovering a new route to the Pacific. Legazpi suffered from a fatal heart attack in 1572. In 1574 Goiti was slain in battle with Sioco, Limahong's Japanese lieutenant. Salcedo died in 1576 at the age of 27, in his encomienda in Vigan. Like his grandfather before him, he died without wealth, having paid off Legazpi's debts and then willing everything else he had including his encomiendas to the natives of Vigan.

Within a decade Legazpi had founded cities that to this day stand echoing the names and events that saw their origins. The King's bidding had been fulfilled and from 1580 to 1898 when Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for $20 million, Spain's sovereignty over the Philippines was recognized by the rest of the world and some Filipinos.

Legazpi had found the Philippines a land of little separate kingdoms. To a large extent this helped in the conquest and colonization of what would otherwise have been much more difficult to subdue as a united force. But even before Legazpi had died the datus who lived, and those who died, had come to realize that a foreign power was placing them under one alien government. Except for the Muslims, the work of Christianization and unification of rule was successfully started.

But a unification of another kind had also begun to take place. The Filipinos whose separate kingdoms had been annexed began to close ranks as a people. The new government, with its virtues and vices, provided the springboard that launched the identity and spirit of the Filipino nation.