Morro Bay, CA - Landing of the First Filipinos - 1587

The first Filipinos to land in California arrived in Morro Bay in 1587, more than 200 years before the Spanish colonization of the state. These Filipino sailors were part of a Spanish expedition led by Captain Pedro de Unamuno, which set sail from the Philippines in 1586. My two brothers and I found this fact to be interesting and we took photos of the plaques and signs in the area during our visit on 5.28.23, which also happened to be my brother Sean's birthday. As fellow Filipinos, this was awesome to see and learn about. 

What We Learned (Signs Transcribed):


"The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade Route

More than four and a half centuries ago (1571-1815), the bustling Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade Route between Manila, Philippines (then a Spanish colony) and Acapulco, New Spain (now Mexico) connected Asia and the Americas. 

Over 6,000 miles long, the round-trip journey or tornaviaje across the Pacific Ocean took from six to nine months as ships followed two separate belts of trade winds across the Pacific. Seaworthy Spanish ships, called galleons, were specially designed for these long treacherous voyages. Built in the Philippines from locally harvested hardwoods and weighing 500-1,200 tons, these high-profile mighty ships were fitted with the latest armaments. Their interiors could easily be adapted to accommodate both passengers and tons of cargo. 

Transpacific treasure galleons transported high end Asian goods such as Chinese gunpowder, porcelain, and silk; Japanese lacquerware; Persian carpets; precious jewels; and exotic spices from Manila to Acapulco. From Acapulco, goods moved eastward overland to Veracruz, a port on the Gulf of Mexico, by sea to La Habana (Cuba) and onward to Seville. Having delivered their eastern cargo to Acapulco, the Manila galleons made their way homeward, cross the Pacific with vast amounts of silver to be exchanged for a new load of goods, other metals, and tobacco. 

One galleon has special significance for Morro Bay: After three months at sea, the crippled Acapulco-bound Nuestra Señora de Buena Esperanza commanded by Captain Pedro de Unamuno and piloted by Alonso Gomez made an unscheduled stop October 18, 1587, on present-day California's Central Coast in search of materials to repair her damaged masts and dwindling provisions. After dropping anchor offshore, two landing parties - among them Luzon's Indios (native Filipino scouts) - rowed ashore, claimed the territory for Spain. This memorial event makes the first recorded presence of Filipinos in North America. The explorers made contact with the local Chumash people who resisted them; skirmishes erupted resulting in deaths of two crew members: one Spanish soldier and one Luzon Indio. Having been unsuccessful at establishing peaceful relations with the dis-interested native Americans, Captain de Unamuno and crew departed for Acapulco three days later." 

Source: 2021 Yale-NUS College 

Historic Site (Transcribed):

"During the Manila - Acapulco Galleon Trade era from 1565 to 1815, Spanish galleons crossed the Pacific between the Philippines and Mexico. 

On October 18, 1587, the Manila Galleon Nuestra Señora de Esperanza, commanded by Pedro de Unamuno entered Morro Bay near here. A landing party was sent to shore, which included "Luzon Indios,"marking the first landing of Filipinos in the continental United States. The landing party took official possession of the area for Spain by putting up a cross made of branches. The group was attacked by native Indians two days later, and one of the Filipinos was killed. Unamuno and his crew gave up further exploration of this part of the coast. 

Historical Landmark Declared by the Filipino American National Historical Society

California Central Coast Chapter

Dedicated October 21, 1995

English 300*250

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