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The statue of Lapu-Lapu on Mactan Island
|Datu of Mactan|
Lapu-Lapu (fl. 1521) was a ruler of Mactan in the Visayas. The Philippines regards him as the first Filipino hero because he was the first native to resist Spanish colonization through his victory over the explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Monuments of Lapu-Lapu have been built in Manila and Cebu while the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection use his image in his honor.
He is best known for the Battle of Mactan, which happened at dawn on April 27, 1521. The battle halted the Magellan expedition and delayed Spanish occupation of the islands by over forty years until the expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi in 1564.
Besides being a rival of Rajah Humabon of Cebu, little is known about the life of Lapu-Lapu and the only existing documents about his life are those written by Antonio Pigafetta. His name, origins, religion, and fate are still a matter of controversy.
The historical name of Lapu-Lapu is controversial. The earliest record of his name is from the Italian explorer Antonio Pigafetta who accompanied Magellan in the Philippines. He records the names of two chiefs of the island of "Matan", the chiefs "Zula" and "Çilapulapu" (note Ç). The honorific Çi or Si is a corruption of the Sanskrit title Sri. In an annotation of the 1890 edition of Antonio de Morga's Sucesos de las islas Filipinas, José Rizal spells this name as "Si Lapulapu". The Aginid chronicle identifies him "Lapulapu Dimantag".
The title Salip (and its variants Sarripada, Sipad, Paduka, Seri Paduka, and Salipada, etc.) is also frequently used as an honorific for Lapu-Lapu and other Visayan datus. Despite common misconception, it is not derived from the Islamic title Khalīfah (Caliph). Like the cognate Si, it was derived from the Sanskrit title Sri Paduka, denoting "His Highness". The title is still used today in Malaysia as Seri Paduka.
The 17th century mestizo de sangley poet Carlos Calao mentions Lapu-Lapu under the name of "Cali Pulaco" (perhaps a misreading of the Ç used in Pigafetta's spelling) in his poem Que Dios Le Perdone (That God May Forgive Him). The name, spelled "Kalipulako", was later adopted as one of the pseudonyms of the Philippine hero, Mariano Ponce, during the Philippine Revolution. The 1898 Philippine Declaration of Independence of Cavite II el Viejo, also mentions Lapu-Lapu under the name "Rey Kalipulako de Manktan [sic]" (King Kalipulako of Mactan).
The only known record of Lapu-Lapu before the arrival of the Spanish was in the pre-colonial oral chronicles from the reign of the last king of Cebu, Rajah Tupas (d. 1565). This was compiled and written in Baybayin in the book Aginid, Bayok sa Atong Tawarik ("Glide on, Odes to Our History") in 1952 by Jovito Abellana. The chronicle records the founding of the Rajahnate of Cebu by a certain Sri Lumay (also known as Rajamuda Lumaya), who was a prince from the Hindu Chola dynasty of Sumatra. His sons, Sri Alho and Sri Ukob, ruled the neighboring communities of Sialo and Nahalin, respectively. The islands they were in were collectively known as Pulua Kang Dayang or Kangdaya (literally "[the islands] which belong to Daya"). Sri Lumay was noted for his strict policies in defending against Moro raiders and slavers from Mindanao. His use of scorched earth tactics to repel invaders gave rise to the name Kang Sri Lumayng Sugbo (literally "that of Sri Lumay's great fire") to the town, which was later shortened to Sugbo ("scorched earth").
Upon his death in a battle against the raiders, Sri Lumay was succeeded by his youngest son, Sri Bantug who ruled from the region of Singhapala (literally "lion city"), now Mabolo in modern Cebu City. Sri Bantug died of an epidemic and was succeeded by his son Rajah Humabon (also known as Sri Humabon or Rajah Humabara).
During Humabon's reign, the region had since become an important trading center. The harbors of Sugbo became known colloquially as sinibuayng hingpit ("the place for trading"), shortened to sibu or sibo ("to trade"), from which the modern name "Cebu" originates.
This was the period in which Lapu-Lapu (as Lapulapu Dimantag) was first recorded as arriving from Borneo. He asked Humabon for a place to settle. Humabon offered him the region of Mandawili (now Mandaue), including the island known as Opong (or Opon), hoping that Lapu-Lapu's people will cultivate the land. Lapu-Lapu succeeded in doing so, and the influx of farm produce from Mandawili enriched the trade port of Sugbo further.
The relationship between Lapu-Lapu and Humabon deteriorated later on when Lapu-Lapu turned to piracy. He started raiding merchant ships passing by the island of Opong, affecting trade in Sugbo. The island thus earned the name Mangatang (literally "bandit" or "those who lie in ambush"), later evolving to "Mactan".
Battle of Mactan
Lapu-Lapu was one of the two datus of Mactan before the Spanish arrived in the archipelago, the other being a certain Zula, both of whom belong to the Maginoo class. When Portuguese explorer and conquistador Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines in the service of Spain, Zula was one of those who gave tribute to the Spanish king while Lapu-Lapu refused.
In the midnight of April 27, 1521, Magellan led a force of around sixty Spaniards and twenty to thirty balangay (war boats) of Humabon's warriors from Cebu. They arrived in Mactan three hours before dawn. However, because of the presence of rock outcroppings and coral reefs, Magellan's ships could not land on the shores of Mactan. Their ships were forced to anchor "two crossbow flights" away from the beach. According to Antonio Pigafetta, they faced around 1,500 warriors of Lapu-Lapu armed with iron swords,[note 1] bows, and "bamboo" spears.[note 2]
Magellan repeated his offer not to attack them if Lapu-Lapu swore fealty to Rajah Humabon, obeyed the Spanish king, and paid tribute, which Lapu-Lapu again rejected. At the taunting request of Lapu-Lapu, the battle did not begin until morning. Magellan, perhaps hoping to impress Humabon's warriors with the superiority of European armor and weapons, told Humabon's warriors to remain in their balangay. Magellan and forty-nine of the heavily armored Spaniards (armed with lances, swords, crossbows, and muskets) waded ashore to meet Lapu-Lapu's forces. They set fire to a few houses on the shore in an attempt to scare them. Instead, Lapu-Lapu's warriors became infuriated and charged. Two Spaniards were killed immediately in the fighting, and Magellan was wounded in the leg with a poisoned arrow. He ordered a retreat, which most of his men followed except for a few who remained to protect him. However, he was recognized as the captain by the natives, whereupon he became the focus of the attack. Outnumbered and encumbered by their armor, Magellan's forces were quickly overwhelmed. Magellan and several of his men were killed, and the rest escaped to the waiting ships.
The historian William Henry Scott believes that Lapu-Lapu's hostility may have been the result of a mistaken assumption by Magellan. Magellan assumed that ancient Filipino society was structured in the same way as European society (i.e. with royalty ruling over a region). While this may have been true in the Islamic sultanates in Mindanao, the Visayan societies were structured along a loose federation of city-states (more accurately, a chiefdom). The most powerful datu in such a federation has limited power over other member datu, but they had no direct control over the subjects or lands of the other datu.
Thus Magellan believed wrongly that since Rajah Humabon was the "king" of Cebu, he was the king of Mactan as well. But the island of Mactan, the domain of Lapu-Lapu and Zula, was in a location that enabled them to intercept trade ships entering the harbor of Cebu, Humabon's domain. Thus it was more likely that Lapu-Lapu was actually more powerful than Humabon, or at least was the undisputed ruler of Mactan. Humabon himself was married to Lapu-Lapu's niece. When Magellan demanded that Lapu-Lapu submit as his "king" Humabon had done, Lapu-Lapu purportedly replied that: "he was unwilling to come and do reverence to one whom he had been commanding for so long a time".
The Aginid chronicle also records that Humabon had actually purposefully goaded the Spaniards into fighting Lapu-Lapu, who was at that time, his enemy. However, the men of Humabon who accompanied Magellan did not engage in battle with Lapu-Lapu, though they helped with recovering the wounded Spaniards. Humabon later poisoned and killed twenty-seven Spanish sailors during a feast. According to the Aginid, this was because they had started raping the local women. It was also possibly to aid Magellan's Malay slave interpreter, Enrique of Malacca, in gaining his freedom. The Spanish were refusing to release him, even though Magellan explicitly willed that he be set free upon his death. A discourse by Giovanni Battista Ramusio also claims that Enrique warned the Chief of "Subuth" that the Spaniards were plotting to capture the king and that this led to the murder of the Spaniards at the banquet. Enrique stayed in Cebu with Humabon while the Spanish escaped to Bohol.
The battle left the expedition with too few crewmen to man three ships, so they abandoned the "Concepción". The remaining ships - "Trinidad" and "Victoria" - sailed to the Spice Islands in present-day Indonesia. From there, the expedition split into two groups. The Trinidad, commanded by Gonzalo Gómez de Espinoza tried to sail eastward across the Pacific Ocean to the Isthmus of Panama. Disease and shipwreck disrupted Espinoza's voyage and most of the crew died. Survivors of the Trinidad returned to the Spice Islands, where the Portuguese imprisoned them. The Victoria continued sailing westward, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano, and managed to return to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain in 1522. In 1529, Charles I of Spain relinquished all claims to the Spice Islands to Portugal in the treaty of Zaragoza. However, the treaty did not stop the colonization of the Philippine archipelago from New Spain.
Lapu-Lapu and Humabon reestablished friendly relations some time after the Battle of Mactan. Lapu-Lapu later decided to return to Borneo with eleven of his children, three of his wives, and seventeen of his men. Nothing more is known of him after this.
After Magellan's voyage, subsequent expeditions were dispatched to the islands. Five expeditions were sent: that of Loaisa (1525), Cabot (1526), Saavedra (1527), Villalobos (1542), and Legazpi (1564). The Legazpi expedition was the most successful as it resulted in the colonization of the islands.
The religion of Lapu-Lapu is also controversial. The inhabitants of the Sulu archipelago believe that Lapu-Lapu was a Muslim of the Tausūg or the Sama-Bajau people. Some also believe that Lapu-Lapu and Rajah Humabon were the founders of a Muslim Rajahnate of Cebu (as the "Sultanate of Cebu"); or at least that Lapu-Lapu had founded a colony of the Sultanate of Sulu in Cebu Island, existing alongside the Rajahnate of Cebu with the consent of Humabon.
However, the Visayans were well noted for their widespread practice of tattooing, leading them to be known as the Pintados by the Spanish. Pigafetta, who recorded Magellan's encounter with the Cebuanos, explicitly described Rajah Humabon as tattooed. He also records the consumption of pork, dog meat, and palm wine (arak) by the Cebuanos, as well as the common custom of penile piercings (tugbuk or sakra). Tattooing, body modification, pork, dog meat, and alcohol are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
The supreme god of the religion of the Visayans, when explicitly recorded by contemporary historians, were identified as "Abba" by Pigafetta and "Kan-Laon" (also spelled "Laon") by the Jesuit historian Pedro Chirino in 1604, comparable to the Tagalog "Bathala". There is no mention of Islam. This is in contrast to the other locations visited by the Magellan expedition where Pigafetta readily identifies the Muslims they encountered (whom he called Moros after the Muslim Moors of medieval Spain and northern Africa, to distinguish them from the polytheistic "heathens"). In fact, during the mass baptism of the Cebuanos to Christianity, he clearly identifies them as "heathens", not Moros:
We set up the cross there for those people were heathen. Had they been Moros, we would have erected a column there as a token of greater hardness, for the Moros are much harder to convert than the heathen.
— Antonio Pigafetta, Primo viaggio intorno al mondo, c. 1525
Indeed, the Visayans were noted for their resistance to conversion to Islam in the epic poem Diyandi of the Aginid chronicle. The name of the capital city of the island (Sugbo, "scorched earth")[note 3] was derived from the method of defense used by the natives against Moro raiders from Mindanao, which was to burn their settlements to the ground to prevent looting. They referred to the raiders as Magalos ("destroyers of peace").[note 4] As discussed in the previous section, the chronicle also records the founder of the Rajahnate of Cebu as Sri Lumay, who was the grandfather of Rajah Humabon, and a prince of the Indianized Chola dynasty.
While it is thus more likely that the Cebuanos, though closely related culturally to the southern Moros, were predominantly animist (not unlike the Mindanao Lumad) or Indianized (like the contemporary Kingdom of Butuan) on the arrival of the Spanish, there is still a possibility that Lapu-Lapu may have been Tausūg or Sama-Bajau and Muslim. Since he is recorded in the Aginid as being an orang laut ("man of the sea") and an outsider who settled in Cebu from "Borneo". The Tausūg name itself means "people of the current", and like the neighboring Sama-Bajau of the Sulu archipelago, they have a strongly maritime-oriented culture.
Lapu-Lapu is regarded, retroactively, as the first Filipino hero. The Philippine government has since erected a statue in his honor on Mactan Island and renamed the town of Opon in Cebu to Lapu-Lapu City. Another statue stands in Rizal Park in the national capital of Manila. Lapu-Lapu also appears on the official seal of the Philippine National Police. His face was used as the main design on the defunct 1-centavo coin circulated in the Philippines from 1967 to 1974.
During the First Regular Season of the 14th Congress of the Philippines, Senator Richard Gordon introduced a bill proposing to declare April 27 as an official Philippine national holiday to be known as Adlaw ni Lapu-Lapu, (Cebuano, "Day of Lapu-Lapu"). In the United States, a street in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco, California is named after Lapu-Lapu.
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.
Two Filipino films, both called Lapu-Lapu, have been made about Lapu-Lapu—the first in 1955 and the second in 2002. The 1955 flick is cast by Mario Montenegro, in the title role, and Delia Razon; written by Francisco V. Coching, and serialized in Pilipino Komiks in 1950s. The latter stars actor-turned-politician Lito Lapid and Joyce Jimenez.
- Including what Pigafetta described as a large "cutlass", which was probably the native sword sundang
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- Cognates include the modern Cebuano words sugba ("to grill"), subu ("to forge"), sug-ang ("to cook [over an open fire]"), and sugnod ("to burn" or "firewood")
- It should be noted that sea raids and piracy (magahat) for slaves and plunder was not unique to the Moros, but widely practiced among other pre-Hispanic Filipino thalassocracies, including the Cebuanos. See Timawa
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