The Mysterious Case of Gil Pérez, the Man Who Allegedly Teleported From Manila to Mexico
In fiction, ESP, time travel, and teleportation are common story arcs. (Just try counting how many books, movies, or television shows were released this year that feature time-defying tropes.) And why not? It's a fascinating concept especially since physicists say it's completely possible. Most times, however, the truth is stranger than fiction.
Take for example the Moberly-Jourdain incident, in which two women, Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, claimed to have time traveled while visiting the Palace of Versailles in 1901. The story goes that, after they got lost while walking through the gardens to the Petit Trianon, the two noticed that everything looked out of the ordinary, as if they were in a living picture. They even claimed to have come across Marie Antoinette, insinuating they had experienced a haunting or they had time-traveled to the 18th century. Though the incident has been repeatedly debunked and labeled a hoax, it's still something to think about.
While the Moberly-Jourdain incident remains to be one of the most well-known supernatural urban legends, years before, there was the mysterious case of Spanish soldier Gil Pérez who allegedly teleported from Manila to Mexico in the 16th century.
Gil Pérez was a Spanish soldier during the early years of Spain's rule in the Philippines. As a member of the Guardia Civil, he worked for the Gobernador-General as a palace guard. One day, however, in October 1593, the seventh Gobernador-General Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas was assassinated by Chinese pirates during an expedition in the Moluccas. Dasmariñas' death made for quite a hectic time considering he hadn't decided on a successor, with several prominent Spaniards vying for the spot.
With such tense conditions, Pérez was guarding the palace when he reportedly began to feel dizzy and exhausted. He then leaned against the wall and dozed off for a few seconds, but when he opened his eyes he was surprised to see that he was in a completely different place. When he asked a bystander where he was, he was told that he was in Plaza Mayor (now known as Zocalo) in Mexico City. Soon, guards in New Spain got wind of Pérez thanks to his claims and his strange Manila uniform. He was brought to the authorities, including the Viceroy of New Spain, Luis de Velasco, whose palace was where he was transported to.
Though understandably shocked, Pérez managed to answer all of their queries in great detail, including the assassination of Dasmariñas, which, since it had only happened the night before, would not be proven until months later. While the Viceroy was pleased with Pérez's explanations, it was only time until religious officials got involved. He was turned over to the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition, for further questioning. From Mexico, he was taken to Santo Domingo in the Caribbean where he was placed in jail for desertion and being a "servant of the devil."
As a loyal and decorated soldier, Pérez took everything in stride and cooperated with the authorities. It was even said that he preferred being jailed over fighting the jungle men of the Philippines. Eventually, he was found to be a devout Christian and, coupled with his good conduct, he wasn't charged with any crime. But still, the authorities didn't know what to do with the unique situation and kept him imprisoned until they came to a solid decision.
One day, a Spanish galleon arrived in Acapulco to reveal all of Pérez's claims about the Gobernador-General were true. He was recalled to Mexico where some of the passengers even recognized him as a palace guard. With this, he was freed and sent back on the next ship to Manila.
Pérez's story has since become legend. It's been recounted in books and stories by several authors including American folklorist Thomas Allibone Janvier, Washington Irving, Luis González Obregón, Gaspar de San Agustín, Antonio de Morga, and even José Rizal.
The tale may seem farfetched but, centuries later, people are still trying to explain it. Maybe a visit to the Palacio del Gobernador, the site of the former residence of the Gobernador-General during the Spanish colonial era, in Intramuros will do for now.