According to legend, in late October 1593, a soldier serving the Spanish Empire (whose real identity is unknown, but who has been identified in 20th-century reports as Gil Perez was protecting the Palacio del Gobernador in Manila, which is now the capital of the modern-day Philippines. On October 15, 1593, there were plenty of intrigues, and the Governor of Mexico, Gómez Pérez Dasmarinas, had been slain the day before.
At the time, sections of the Philippines had been under Spanish rule since 1565. As Governor of the region for the seventh time, Dasmarinas was on a Spanish expedition to capture additional territory in the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia when Chinese rowers on board his ship instigated a mutiny.
Whilst the rest of the Spanish population in the colony awaited information on the succession, the Spanish guards in Manila went about their business of watching over the Palace. On a night watch, the particular soldier Gil Perez began to feel dizzy and weary, which he immediately reported to his superiors. Having been overcome by these emotions, he took a seat against one of the walls and closed his eyes for a brief period.
It appeared as if Gil Perez had only closed his eyes for a few seconds before discovering himself at an entirely different location from where he had been previously. Unaware of his whereabouts, he was quickly apprehended by a group of guards wearing various uniforms who interrogated him about his identity.
When he answered, he was arrested and sentenced to prison. He was told that he was a deserter from the Spanish army, despite the fact that he was in Mexico City, more than 8,800 miles away from the Spanish capital. Unfortunately for the soldier, Mexico City was still a part of the Spanish Empire at the time, and his distinctive uniform, as well as his claim to have come from Manila, only served to strengthen the case against him, allowing the authorities to arrest and jail him.
Gill Perez attempted to demonstrate his innocence by describing how the Governor had just been assassinated. However, the news had not yet arrived due to the great distance between Mexico City and Manila. His accusers either believed he was insane, attempting to make explanations now that he had been apprehended, or that he was in cahoots with the devil. Only months later, when a ship from the Philippines arrived in Mexico, did news of the Governor’s death reach the country.
As word circulated, it became clear that reparation would be forthcoming for the Spanish soldier who remained imprisoned. His tale was now validated, and it was determined that the soldier was telling the truth and had been transferred across the world inadvertently and unwillingly. This was validated further when one of the Filipino passengers on the ship recognized the soldier and acknowledged that he had seen him in the Philippines the day following the Governor’s death, establishing that he was speaking the truth. Fortunately for him, he was released and permitted to return home.
Although the legend of the teleporting soldier may be considered folklore, there are several contemporary accounts of the story. A century after the occurrence, in 1698, Gaspar de San Agustin, a Spanish preacher, and historian wrote one account. San Agustin recalls the incident of the teleporting soldier in his narrative of the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, and he says that the man must have been transported using witchcraft.
Even more closely related to the events of 1593 is a 1609 story of Dasmarinas’ assassination by a Spanish soldier named Antonio de Morga. De Morga published “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas” that year, detailing the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, and while discussing the spread of word of Dasmarinas’ assassination, he includes an unusual interpolation.
“That year ships did not leave the Philippines for New Spain [the Spanish-controlled territories in the Americas]… meantime in New Spain, since no ships came, they suspected that the islands were in trouble, and there were not wanting some who related the news of most of what had in fact happened. At the same time, they could not discover in Mexico City whence these rumors had come.”
Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, 1609, by Antonio de Morga, edited by J.S. Cummins
This unusual sentence states that news of the Governor’s death reached Mexico City quite fast, despite the fact that no ships had arrived to deliver the news. Although de Morga makes no mention of the teleportation myth, subsequent folklorists saw this as proof that the narrative reported later that century had circulated fewer than 20 years after it allegedly occurred. This would imply that the story was not afterward invented and disseminated as fact, but had contemporaneous authenticity.
What truly occurred will never be known. At the very least, the story appears to have circulated within a century of when it allegedly occurred, if not within two decades of it. It is unknown whether Gil Perez actually lived — or if he did, whether his account included any reality. Various paranormal interpretations of the soldier’s account have been advanced over the years, including witchcraft, extraterrestrial abduction, and simple teleportation. The truth is unlikely to ever be known – but it definitely makes for an intriguing story.
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