Few Filipinos today know the story of the battle of Lepanto, now called Navpaktos (or Napactus), on the north shore of the narrow strait of Corinth in Greece.
The Turks had taken the island of Cyprus, and threatened Venice, the “Mistress of the Adriatic.” France, England, and Austria had refused to aid it, but Philip II of Spain and Pope Pius V did, and they organized the Catholic League. To lead it, they named John of Austria, half-brother of the Spanish king.
On Oct. 7, 1571, the two fleets sighted each other, and the battle began. The first furious skirmish nullified the initial battle order planned by both sides. Ship masts banged against each other or broken, iron, and steel penetrated the hulks, sails were torn. To heighten the tension, a dark mist enveloped the combat scene.