After Magellan’s death, the survivors of the Mactan fiasco were forced to escape from Cebu. The Victoria was the only ship that managed to return to Spain. The spices it carried sparked a great interest in the islands. Various expeditions were in the following decades to replicate Magellan’s feat and figure out a way of returning home safely. Most of them ended in failure. Success finally came when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, having set sail from Spain in November 1564, arrived in Cebu on 27 April the following year, and managed to establish a fledgling Spanish settlement there.

Before reaching Cebu, Legazpi’s fleet had crisscrossed the islands of Samar, Leyte, Limasawa, and Camiguin in search of food, without much success. Legazpi decided to head for Mindanao but his ships met with bad weather along the way, forcing them to take shelter in a small bay on the coast of Bohol. The plan to reach Mindanao was scuttled.

The Boholanos were at first hostile to Legazpi and his men. They had had a bad experience with the Portuguese who, posing as Castilians, had earlier visited Bohol from Moluccas in large praus and committed outrageous acts against them. In his attempt to establish friendly relations with the Boholanos, Legazpi sent emissaries to one of their chieftains, Rajah Sikatuna. At first Sikatuna was reluctant to meet the Spanish general, believing that he was Portuguese. But the historic moment did arrive when Legazpi, representing the king of Spain, and Sikatuna, who represented the natives of Bohol, concluded a blood compact between them.

The Legazpi-Sikatuna blood compact or pacto de sangre (“sandugo” in Filipino) represents a formal act in which two different civilizations seal an everlasting friendship. The blood compact was a traditional means of securing a pact of peace and friendship and was carried out as follows: both chiefs of opposing parties have to bleed each other in the arm with a knife. The blood is poured into a cup and mixed with a little wine or water. Both chiefs have to drink the mixture and thus peace is made.