Who was the translator/interpreter of Ferdinand Magellan when he came to the Philippines?
Enrique de Malacca (in some sources he was mentioned as “Henry the Black”) was originally from Malay Archipelago, but was enslaved by a Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan during his expedition to Melaka in 1511. Not many sources mention about him, except he was mentioned as “Panglima Awang” in Malay literature. However, there are no any specific records about him in Malay historical accounts. The most famous comprehensive record about him was found in Magellan’s voyage, written by Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian who joined Magellan’s crew.
According to Pigafetta, Enrique was a Malay originally from Sumatera, and lived in Melaka. During the Portuguese invasion of Melaka in 1511, Enrique was one of the defenders of the city. He was captured by the Portuguese and become a slave of the Magellan’s team. With his good knowledge of navigation and ability to communicate in Malay language, Enrique became a useful person for Magellan as he was in need of an interpreter and a navigator to continue his journey to other parts of Southeast Asia after the capture of Melaka.
On 17th March they reached a place what is known today as Philippines. During this time, Enrique played an instrumental role as interpreter. He became the voice and ear between Magellan and the natives.