In 1999, Perlis-born mariner Dato' Azahar Mansor went on record as the first Malaysian to sail round the world. Is that so? Actually, Azahar's feat was almost 500 years late!
Historical records point out that a Malay slave who had been forcibly baptised Henrich (Hispanicised as "Enrique") by his Portuguese captors was the first Malay to sail round the world. In 1511, Enrique was acquired by Ferdinand Magellan who had sailed to Malacca through the Cape of Good Hope. Needing an interpreter, Magellan bought Enrique and took him back to Europe. Thereafter, the Portugese explorer (he became a Spanish citizen later) took his Malay interpreter with him on his cirumnavigation round the world from 1519-1521.
Italian historian Antonio Pigafetta who recorded Magellan's travels stated that Enrique was mentioned by Magellan in his last will. Official documents of the La Casa de Contatacion (The Trading House) of Spain of the 16th century that trained sailors and navigators also recorded Enrique's trip with Magellan.
On March 16, 1521, Magellan arrived at Homonhon island in the Philippines. Gines de Mafra, a Spanish member of Magellan's crew wrote in his log that: "He [Magellan] told his men he was in the land he desired, and sent a man named Heredia, who was the ship's clerk, ashore with an Indian they had taken, so he said, because he was known to speak Malay, the language spoken in the Malay archipelago."
On April 27, 1521, Magellan sailed into Mactan and a battle with the natives resulted in his death and many of his crew. In his will, Magellan had provided that upon his death, Enrique shall be freed. The remaining masters of the fleet refused to release Enrique, but on May 1, 1521, he escaped. In the eyes of Spanish historians, Enrique is recognised as the first Malay to sail round the world.