THE scant historical data about Lapulapu did not stop the government from making the 500th anniversary of the Victory of Mactan the main event of the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines.
Dr. Rene R. Escalante, executive director of the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), admitted to the little information on Lapulapu’s personal life.
Escalante said there had been no reliable information about when and where he was born, his parents, and whether he had a wife and children.
There was no documentation on what happened to Lapulapu after the Battle of Mactan and his death.
Escalante said the account of Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian scholar who joined explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition, is also silent as to Lapulapu’s actual participation in the battle of Mactan.
Pigafetta and other survivors did not categorically state that Lapulapu personally participated in the battle as a combatant. There is also no first-hand account stating it was Lapulapu who delivered the fatal blow that ended Magellan’s life.
Escalante said because of the lack of reliable data about Lapulapu, his photos, his statue at the Liberty Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City and Luneta Park in Manila as well as the commemorative P5,000 bank notes are all artists’ renditions.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, in his speech on April 27, 2021, in Lapu-Lapu City, shared a version on Lapulapu’s life by Abraham Ijirani, secretary-general of the Sultanate of Sulu, who studied Philippine history.
Ijirani’s version states that Lapulapu was a Tausug warrior ordered to monitor some islands where foreigners were seen.
The version forwarded by Go drew the ire of some netizens, as it deviated from the popular narrative that Lapulapu was one of the chieftains of Mactan who opposed Rajah Humabon of Cebu when the rajah ordered the other chieftains to provide food to the ships of Magellan’s armada.
Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, sailed under the banner of the Spanish Empire. He led the Armada de Molucca in search for the Spice Islands via the western route. The maritime expedition became the first recorded circumnavigation of the world after it was completed by Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian Elcano in 1522.
The significance of the Battle of Mactan made the NQC decide to make it the main event of the government-sponsored commemorations, said Escalante.
“What happened in Mactan 500 years ago is known to most of us Filipinos. What I would like to highlight today is the fact that we Filipinos are generous, hospitable, and peace-loving. But if somebody would threaten our sovereignty and disturb our political and social equilibrium, we are ready to defend our country. This is what happened in 1521 against Magellan, in 1896 against Spain, in 1901 against the Americans, and in 1941 against the Japanese,” Escalante said.
(The Filipino Katipuneros led by Andres Bonifacio launched a revolution against Spain in 1896.
The Philippine-American War started in 1899, not in 1901.
Japan occupied the Philippines, then an American colony, in 1942 during World War II. The occupation lasted until 1945 after Japan’s defeat.)
Escalante further said that one of the objectives of the NQC is to memorialize Lapulapu’s heroism and popularize his contribution to the country.
He said there are existing initiatives in Congress to name the two terminals at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport as Lapulapu Domestic Terminal and Lapulapu International Terminal.
He also said they are proposing to build a museum at the Liberty Shrine to showcase Lapulapu and other heroes of the Battle of Mactan.
“We are expecting that every time we hear Lapulapu in the coming days, what will come to our mind is the historic leader of Mactan who defended our country against the invaders and not the delicious fish we eat in Chinese restaurants,” Escalante said.
At the time of Lapulapu’s victory, the archipelago that was later named as the Philippines in honor of King Philipp II of Spain was still a hodgepodge of tribes, kingdoms, rajahnates and sultanates.
The road to the archipelago’s nationhood started with Spanish colonization. “The content of our national destiny is ours to create, but the basic form, the temper, the physiognomy, Spain created for us,” the late National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin wrote.
Joaquin, in his 1979 essay, said: “As nationalists, we hail Lapulapu as the First Filipino, although he was also the first to resist the idea of nation.”
He further said: “Because he defended our pristine liberties, he is certainly a Filipino; but he was himself not a ‘nationalist,’ to use that word in a literal sense. He was, we have to say, not fighting for the Philippines; he was fighting for his native land of Mactan, or for a section of Mactan. Lapu-Lapu was a tribalist. And he rose to oppose an event that marked the beginning of the end of tribalism among us.”
Victory in humanity
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, chairman of the NQC, in his message during Tuesday’s commemoration, said there were many challenges in the preparations for the commemoration like conflicting opinions of how to appropriately celebrate events that led to the colonization of the country.
Medialdea said the theme of the quincentennial celebrations seeks to reignite nationalism in every Filipino in a manner that is also relevant and relatable to the international community.
The theme “Victory in Humanity” underscores tha magnanimity, compassion and humanity of the Filipino ancestors.
Medialdea said victory refers to Lapulapu’s triumph on the shores of Mactan and represents how the gallantry and spirit of freedom of Filipino ancestors were passed from one generation to the other, which ultimately determined destiny and history.
Humanity, on the other hand, refers to the compassion, magnanimity exhibited by Filipino ancestors to the starving and dehydrated crew of the Magellan and Elcano expedition.
“In our battle against Covid-19 and other ills of society, let us tread the footsteps of the unyielding warriors, who rallied behind Lapulapu and of our ancestors who have shown kindness and compassion to those in need, for we as a country remain united, we will always emerge victoriously and savor the same triumph experienced by Lapulapu,” he said.
The reenactment of the Battle of Mactan was done in 10 minutes and the actors were local talents. The pandemic forced the City Government to hire local talents as it could save money, and the City spent P9 million for the quincentennial of the battle.
Escalante said a shrine and museum for Lapulapu will be constructed next year and are expected to be finished in 2023. (MVG, GCM)