The Island of San Juan may be the country's Lost Atlantis

The Island of San Juan may be the country's Lost Atlantis

- Historians have searched for the Island of San Juan, to the point they theorized that it was just an imagined island, mistakenly drawn on the map by Herrera

- Some people have theorized that the island was swallowed by the sea, like the Lost Island of Atlantis

- Recently however, it was found out that the island is akin to the Micronesian island of Sonsorol

Off the tip of Mindanao is one of the most intriguing locations in the country. Here, you can find the mysterious Island of San Juan, which according to many accounts, “vanished.”

Historians say that you can see the distinct features of the island in the old maps of the Philippines. The island is said to be as big as Panay island, but larger than Bohol. It is a completely detached island from the mainland Mindanao.

The Island of San Juan may be the country's Lost Atlantis

Herrera map (Photo credit:

Maps during the 16 to early 18 centuries showed San Juan jutting off Mindanao’s tip.  In fact, a 1537 chart made by Portuguese Gaspar Vargas referred to it as the Island of San: Joā.

In 1570, Abraham Ortelius, a Flemish cartographer featured the island and considered it as a town of Cebu. Later, it was held as a separate island, in the same way that it was shown in Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas. Other cartographers who also showed the island include Dutchman Jan Janssonius, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin and Vincenzo Coronelli.

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One cartographer, who got to provide a more in-depth look into the island, was Christopher Middleton. He was able to show some prints of the island’s inhabitants.

The inhabitants of San Juan became a “representative” of what the Philippines is. They had average height, and had dark and curly hair.

The Island of San Juan may be the country's Lost Atlantis

Coronelli's map (Photo credit:

For centuries that the Island of San Juan was on the maps of these cartographers, a weird turn of events simply “erased” the island from succeeding maps. One which marked such disappearance was the 1734 map of Murillo Velarde, a Jesuit cartographer. This Velarde map was also the same map used by the Philippines in contesting Scarborough Shoal.

After the Velarde map, other maps of the country no longer showed the island. The last map where the islands were seen was that by Herman Moll. The friars Bravo and Buzaeta were among the last people who got to give accounts of the island’s existence.

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The mystery of the Island of San Juan was never solved. In 1969, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz posited the theory that the island is comparative to that of the Lost City of Atlantis, theorizing that it might have been swallowed by the sea or shaken by an earthquake.

The Island of San Juan may be the country's Lost Atlantis

Bellin's Map (Photo credit:

Aguilar Cruz on the other hand was quick to dispute the claims of Alcuaz. His defense was that it is highly improbable for an island of such size to vanish into thin air without even a hint of a rumble. If such was the case, it must have been heard, and recorded.

Aside from the two contending theories, others believe that it was the Agusan River, which has silted over the years, eventually reattaching itself to Mindanao.

Carlos Quirino, one of the most-respected historians said that the Island of San Juan was merely an imagined island, a product of the imagination of Herrera, which was subsequently and mistakenly copied by other cartographers.

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The search for the missing island continued until Jesuit maps were able to shed some light on the matter. The maps, which were sourced from inhabitants of the Caroline Islands showed the Palau and Sonsorol, both belonging to the Micronesian groups of islands.

Between Palau and Sonsorol, the latter is the closer one to San Juan. Antonio Galvao said that Sonsorol consists of two islands, the same with San Juan, and that the location of Sonsorol is the same one that was defined in olden maps. – SD, Kami Media




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