Ruy López de Villalobos (1500 – 1544), was a Spanish explorer who sailed the Pacific from Mexico to establish a permanent foothold for Spain in the East Indies, which in 1543 were near to the Line of Demarcation of Portugal.
López de Villalobos was commissioned in 1541 by the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, who was the first colonial administrator in the New World, to send an expedition to the Islas del Poniente meaning Island of the West (present-day Philippines). His fleet of six galleon ships, the Santiago, Jorge, San Antonio, San Cristobal, San Martin, and San Juan, left Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico with 370 to 400 men on November 1, 1542. On December 25, the fleet headed towards Revilla Gigedo Islands off the west coast of Mexico. They sighted Alavaro de Saavedra's Los Reyes galleon ship. The following day they saw a group of islands at 9° or 10°N which they named Corrales. They anchored at one of these. On January 6, 1543, ten small islands on the same latitude were seen, and looked so beautiful that they named them Los Jardines (The Gardens). According to historian Martin J. Noone, this was probably Eniwetok. Between Eniwetok, and Ulithi, and during the period between January 6, and 23, the galleon San Cristobal piloted by Gines de Mafra (a member of the crew of the Magellan expedition in 1519-1522 was separated from the fleet during a severe storm. This ship ultimately reached the island of Mazaua, anchorage of the Magellan expedition in March, and April 1521. This was the second visit of Gines de Mafra to the Philippine Islands, which is identified today as Limasawa in the southern island of Leyte.
On February 29, they entered Baganga Bay (which they named Malaga) on the eastern coast of Mindanao. López de Villalobos named Mindanao Caesaria Karoli after the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V of Spain, because it looked majestic. The fleet stayed there 32 days; the entire crew suffered extreme hunger. On March 31, the fleet left in search of Mazaua for food. The island had become famous for its friendly, and generous reception to the Magellan fleet. Because of low-wind current, they could not sail on. After a ten-day struggle, they dropped down, and reached Saranggani. Around the first week of July San Cristobal, to the delight and relief of everyone, came out of nowhere bringing food from Mazaua. On August 4, San Juan, and San Cristobal left for Leyte. A Portuguese contingent arrived on August 7, and delivered a letter from Jorge de Castro, governor of the Moluccas, demanding an explanation for the presence of the fleet in Portuguese territory. López de Villalobos responded, in a letter dated August 9, that they were not trespassing and were perfectly within the Demarcation Line of the Crown of Castile.
The San Juan left for Mexico on August 27, with Bernardo de la Torre as captain. Another letter from Castro arrived in the first week of September with the same protest, and López de Villalobos wrote a reply dated September 12 with the same message as his first. He quit Sarranggani to go to Abuyog, Leyte with his remaining ships, the San Juan, and the San Cristobal. The fleet could not make headway because of unfavorable winds. In April 1544, he left for Island of Amboyna. He, and his crew members then made their way to the islands of Samar, and Leyte, where he named them Las Islas Filipinas (The Philippine Islands) in honour of the Prince of Spain, Philip II. Driven away by hostile natives, hunger and a shipwreck, López de Villalobos was forced to abandon his settlements in the islands, and the expedition. He, and his crewmembers sought refuge in the Moluccas, where they quarrelled with the Portuguese, who imprisoned them.
Ruy López de Villalobos died on April 4 in his prison cell on the island of Amboyna. Some 117 remaining crew members survived, among them Gines de Mafra and Guido de Lavezaris. De Mafra produced one manuscript on the Magellan circumnavigation and had this delivered back to Spain by a close friend on board. They left for Malacca, where the Portuguese put them on a ship bound for Lisbon. Thirty elected to remain, including de Mafra. His manuscript remained unrecognized for many centuries. It was discovered in the 20th century, and published in 1920.