Seares: Lapulapu monument, museum: was the ‘hero’ a Muslim foreigner?

Pachico A. Seares

ERICH Wannemacher, a German expatriate who has been residing in Lapu-Lapu City for more than two decades, last Nov. 6, 2019, talked with Edward Mendez, Lapu-Lapu City tourism chief, about the relocation of the statue of Lapulapu from its present site, the architectural style of the museum that will be built and the reenactment of the battle of Mactan during the quincentennial celebration in 2021.

Like many other people concerned about accuracy, Wannemacher wants the celebration to hew “as closely as possible to historical facts.” The facts, Erich told Mendez, are “scientifically elaborated” in the book of professor Dr. Danilo Madrid Gerona on Magellan.

A battle, not a duel

First, he asked Mendez: Will it be a duel or a battle? A battle, Mendez said. But the kind of battle was not clear to Erich, who said its reenactment must take place “at the exact historic place, that is at the bay where the 50 foreigners met 1,500 soldiers of Lapulapu.” It must be at the mangroves, Erich said, where tribunes for paying guests must be built.

Mendez told him the Mactan Quincentennial Committee has met many times and that the directors and technical staff are already hired. National and local panels in Cebu are “deliberating” and clerics are “barnstorming.”

Erich wondered though why nothing was reported in the newspapers about the preparations (he said he does not trust social media).

Location of statue

The bronze statue of Magellan, Erich said, will find a new place in front of a museum to be constructed near the Liberty Shrine. The museum will be inspired by the Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. There will be six pavilions depicting scenes out of world history.

Erich frowns on the plan to erect the statue of Muslim Lapulapu “in or before a Christian Temple.” The Lincoln Memorial stands on 36 Doric columns, he said. “Although the Greeks were not Christians at the time when Doric columns were built on Peloponnese, the American building is Christian-inspired. Since American culture was ruled by European immigrants, basically it is a European-style building.”

The museum’s façade, Erich says, must be of Muslim architecture, for which the Court of Lions at Alhambra and other beautiful buildings in the world from Morocco to Indonesia may help inspire.

Asian, Pinoy eyes

The 2021 celebration must be seen through Asian and Filipino (particularly Oponganon) eyes, Erich urges. The past 400-year commemorations were determined by European culture, Erich says, which the coming fete must avoid. “We cannot compare the Battle of Gettysburg with the Battle of Mactan. That doesn’t do justice to the hero. The entire idea is devious. It not only wrongs the hero’s role in history, it hurts the entire Muslim world. They will protest vehemently,” Erich cautions.

Historical facts

He finds it “unfortunate and strange” that Filipinos are reluctant to recognize two historical facts: (1) Lapulapu was a native of Borneo; (2) he was a Muslim.

As an immigrant from Borneo, according to the Aginid, Erich says Lapulapu returned to Borneo with three of his wives and 11 of his children and a number of his warriors.

The only source that clearly classifies Lapulapu as Muslim, Erich says, is Richard Gordon’s Senate Bill 108 of February 2018: “He (Lapulapu) was a native Muslim of Mactan and the earliest known indigenous Visayan Muslim chieftain and datu in the island of Mactan.”

To settle the issue of Lapulapu’s origin, the Mactan Quincentennial Committee may ask East-Malaysian historians to trace the family named Dimantag, which Erich says is Lapulapu’s family name. They may also research on the garb of Muslim women in the 16th century. The right costume will add significance to the reenactment at the Lapu-Lapu hoopsdom on Dec. 14 to launch the 500 days to the 500-year event.

Faithful to history

Wannemacher and other history buffs want the quincentennial to be faithful to history. That may be tough. The major issue about Lapulapu is not even resolved yet.

The National Commission of Heroes created by then president Fidel Ramos in 1993 did not include the Mactan chieftain in the shortlist of national heroes. A new panel may revisit Lapulapu’s case: Was he a hero, should he be considered a hero? Did he even actually take part in the battle that killed Magellan?

Such details as the location of his statue or the dress the Bulakna and other actresses wear for the reenactment will fall into place once the question of his origin and heroism is settled.