Battle of Mactan
|Battle of Mactan
Tagalog: Labanan sa Mactan
Spanish: Batalla de Mactán
A mural painting depicting the Battle of Mactan
|Explorers in the service of Spain under Charles V||Visayan kingdom of Mactan|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ferdinand Magellan †||Lapu-Lapu|
|49 Spanish explorers||approx. 1,500 warriors|
|Casualties and losses|
|At least 9 killed, including Magellan and 4 Christian Indios||At least 15|
The Battle of Mactan (Cebuano: Gubat sa Mactan; Filipino: Labanan sa Mactan; Spanish: Batalla de Mactán) was fought in the Philippines on 27 April 1521, prior to Spanish colonization. The warriors of Lapu-Lapu, a native chieftain of Mactan Island, defeated Spanish forces under the command of Ferdinand Magellan, who was killed in the battle.
On 16 March 1521 (Spanish calendar), Magellan sighted the mountains of what is now Samar while on a mission to find a westward route to the Moluccas Islands for Spain. This event marked the arrival of the first Europeans in the Archipelago. The following day, Magellan ordered his men to anchor their ships on the shores of Homonhon Island.
There, Magellan befriended Rajah Kulambu and Rajah Siagu the chieftain of Limasawa, who guided him to Cebu. He, and his queen were baptized into the Catholic faith, taking the Christian names Carlos, in honor of King Charles of Spain, and Juana, in honor of King Charles' mother. To commemorate this event, Magellan gave Juana the Santo Niño, an image of the infant Jesus, as a symbol of their new alliance.
As a result of Magellan's influence with Rajah Humabon, an order had been issued to the nearby chiefs that each of them were to provide food supplies for the ships, and convert to Christianity.
Most chiefs obeyed the order. However, Datu Lapu-Lapu, one of the two chiefs within the island of Mactan, was the only chieftain to show his opposition. Lapu-Lapu refused to accept the authority of Rajah Humabon in these matters. This opposition proved to be influential when Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan's voyage chronicler, writes,
On Friday, April twenty-six, Zula, the second chief of the island of Mactan, sent one of his sons to present two goats to the captain-general, and to say that he would send him all that he had promised, but that he had not been able to send it to him because of the other chief Lapu-Lapu, who refused to obey the king of Spain.
Rajah Humabon and Datu Zula suggested that Magellan go to the island of Mactan and force his subject chieftain Datu Lapu-Lapu to comply with his orders. Magellan saw an opportunity to strengthen the existing friendship ties with the ruler of the Visayan region and agreed to help him subdue the rebellious Lapu-Lapu.
At midnight, sixty of us set out armed with corselets and helmets, together with the Christian king, the prince, some of the chief men, and twenty or thirty balanguais. [a type of Filipino boat] We reached Mactan three hours before dawn. The captain did not wish to fight then, but sent a message to the natives to the effect that if they would obey the king of Spain, recognize the Christian king as their sovereign, and pay us our tribute, he would be their friend; but that if they wished otherwise, they should wait to see how our lances wounded. They replied that if we had lances they had lances of bamboo and stakes hardened with fire. [they asked us] not to proceed to attack them at once, but to wait until morning, so that they might have more men. They said that in order to induce us to go in search of them; for they had dug certain pit holes between the houses in order that we might fall into them.
Pigafetta writes how Magellan deployed forty-nine armored men with swords, axes, shields, crossbows, and guns, and sailed for Mactan in the morning of 28 April. Filipino historians note that because of the rocky outcroppings, and coral near the beach, the Spanish soldiers could not land on Mactan. Forced to anchor their ships far from shore, Magellan could not bring his ships' cannons to bear on Lapu-Lapu's warriors, who numbered more than 1,500.
When morning came, forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two cross-bow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, [the natives] had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries... The musketeers and crossbow-men shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly...
The Death of Magellan of 1521
Magellan then tried to scare them off by burning some houses in what is now Buaya, known then as Bulaia.
Seeing that, the captain-general sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to flight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain. The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away.
Many of the warriors attacked Magellan; he was wounded in the arm with a spear and in the leg by a kampilan. With this advantage, Lapu-Lapu's troops finally overpowered and killed Magellan. He was stabbed and hacked by spears and swords. Pigafetta and the others managed to escape,
Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice... An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian's body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off...
According to Pigafetta, several of Magellan's men were killed in battle, and a number of natives converted to Christianity who had come to their aid were killed by warriors. There are no official records of the number of casualties in the battle, although Pigafetta mentions at least 3 Christian soldiers killed including Magellan.
Magellan's allies, Humabon and Zula, were said not to have taken part in the battle due to Magellan's bidding, and they watched from a distance.
Pigafetta reports that the Christian king Humabon sent a message saying that if they returned the bodies of Magellan and his crew, they would be given as much merchandise as they wished. Lapulapu's immediate response was, "We will not give away the captain's body for all the riches in the world, because his body is the trophy of our victory against invaders of our shore”
Some of the soldiers who survived the battle and returned to Cebu were poisoned while attending a feast given by Humabon. Magellan was succeeded by Juan Sebastián Elcano as commander of the expedition, who ordered the immediate departure after Humabon's betrayal. Elcano and his fleet sailed west and returned to Spain in 1522, completing the first circumnavigation of the world.
In Philippine culture
Today, Lapu-Lapu is retroactively honored as the first "Philippine national hero" to resist foreign rule, though formally the territory of the "Philippine Islands" had yet to be established or even named at the time. He is remembered by a number of commemorations: statues on the island of Mactan and the Cebu Provincial Capitol, a city bearing his name, and a local variety of red grouper fish. Kapampangan actor-turned-politician Lito Lapid starred in a film called Lapu-Lapu, and novelty singer Yoyoy Villame wrote a folk song entitled "Magellan" that tells a humorously distorted story of the Battle of Mactan.
There is a spot in Mactan Island called the Mactan shrine where the battle is reenacted during its anniversary. In the same shrine, next to the Lapu-Lapu statue, there is a obelisk erected in Magellan's honor by the Spanish colonial authorities and defaced shortly after the US military occupation of the Philippines.
Magellan is also honored for bringing Christianity to the Philippines in general and the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) to Cebu in particular. The Magellan's Cross and the aforementioned Magellan's shrine were erected in Cebu City and Mactan Island. Many landmarks and infrastructures all over the Philippines bear Magellan's name, mostly using its Spanish spelling (Magallanes), which is also a widely used Filipino surname.
According to native legend, Lapu-Lapu never died but turned into stone, and has since then been guarding the seas of Mactan. Fishermen in the island city would throw coins at a stone shaped like a man as a way of asking for permission to fish in the chieftain’s territory.
Another myth passed on by the natives concerns the statue of Lapu-Lapu erected on a pedestal at the center of the town plaza. The statue faced the old city hall building, where the mayors used to hold office; it held a crossbow in the stance of appearing shoot an enemy. Some superstitious people of the city proposed to change this crossbow with a sword, after a succession of three mayors died due to a heart attack.
Another legend suggests that after the battle, Lapu-Lapu left Mactan and lived on a mountain.
- Agoncillo, Teodoro (2006). Introduction to Filipino History. Garotech Publishing.
- David, Hawthorne (1964). Ferdinand Magellan. Doubleday & Company, Inc.
- "Battle of Mactan Marks Start of Organized Filipino Resistance Vs. Foreign Aggression". Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Nowell, Charles E. (1962). Magellan's Voyage Around the World: Three Contemporary Accounts. Northwestern University Press.
- "The Death of Magellan, 1521". Archived from the original on 7 June 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2008.
- "MAGELLAN Lyrics by Yoyoy Villame". Archived from the original on 10 February 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
- Frank "Sulaiman" Tucci (2009). The Old Muslim's Opinions: A Year of Filipino Newspaper Columns. iUniverse. p. 41. ISBN 9781440183430.
- "Battle of Mactan: history and myth".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of Mactan.|
- The Death of Magellan according to Pigafetta
- Reliving the Battle of Mactan
- Battle of Mactan: History and Myth