On October 24, 1593, a Spanish soldier called Gil Perez was mysteriously transported from Manila in the Philippines to the Plaza Mayor in Mexico City.
On that morning Gil Perez, who was a member of the Filipino Guardia Civil and worked as a guard at the palace of the Governor General in Manila, was doing his guard duties at the Governor’s palace All the soldiers were on high alert since Chinese pirates had assassinated the governor — Gomez Perez Dasmarinas – just a day or two before, and were awaiting the appointment of a new chief.
Gil Perez was tired and decided to lean against a wall and rest for a moment. When he opened his eyes, he noticed that he was no longer at the palace, but in a completely unfamiliar place. He was still wearing his uniform and noticed that people were approaching him to ask questions. He acknowledged he had realized he was no longer in the Philippines, but he had no idea where he was or how he had managed to get there. When he was told he was in Mexico (more than 9,000 nautical miles from Manila, across the Pacific) , Perez refused to believe it saying he had received his orders in the morning in Manila and that it was impossible for him to be in Mexico City in the evening.
Perez was brought before the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition where he was interrogated exhaustively, but all he could say in his defence was that he had travelled from Manila to Mexico in some way. He repeated the same story over and over again, but the members of the Tribunal of the Inquisition did not believe him and imprisoned him for desertion and the possibility of being in the service of Satan.
Two months later, when a ship arrived from Manila, the governor’s death became known, just as Perez had stated. Moreover, one of the ship’s passengers recognized Gil, admitted he did not know he was in Mexico City and swore he had seen him on October 23rd, just before his disappearance from Manila, while he was marching with the garrison of the palace.
Consequently the Mexican authorities were forced to believe Perez’s story, release him from jail and send him to Manila, where he returned to his former post as guard of the palace.
Some sources say that the story was not told until 100 years after it reportedly occurred, while others assert that authorities documented the occurrence immediately.
Folklorist Thomas Allibone Janvier in 1908 described the legend as “current among all classes of the population of the City of Mexico” and based his version on a Mexican folklorist who, in turn, had found a 1698 account by Fray Gaspar de San Agustín , the friar who had collected Gil’s testimony in front of Tribunal of the Inquisition.
“My name is Gil Perez,” the soldier testified. “As for being here on duty, I do as much as possible what was commanded me. I was ordered this morning to stand guard at the gates of the Governor’s Palace in Manila. I know very well that this is not the Governor’s Palace and I’m obviously not in Manila. Why or how that may be, I know not. But here I am, and this is a palace of some kind, so I am doing my duty as much as possible. Last night, the Governor of the Philippines, His Excellency, Don Gomez Perez Dasmarinas had his head cracked with an axe and died for this cause. “
He added he didn’t know how he had travelled from Manila to Mexico, but only that it had taken him “less time that it takes a cock to crow” to cross the Pacific Ocean,