Naming airports

By: JASON BAGUIA August 28,2018 - 09:29 PM

BAGUIA

President Rodrigo Duterte’s use of his bully pulpit to advocate for the renaming of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport so that it would bear the name of Lapu-Lapu would be easily understandable to the Cebuano or Visayan who longs for greater national recognition of the region and its culture.

Lapu-Lapu, to many Filipinos, as per artists’ paintings the slayer of Ferdinand Magellan in the 1521 Battle of Mactan, was chieftain of the place who led his men in the same battle.

The proposal, made by the President on Monday, National Heroes’ Day, should also encourage research and healthy public debate.

It is now up to the President to back up his proposal with a proclamation or with a call for Congress to realize it by legislation.

Father and I once discussed this question such that my memory was made to revisit related questions.

First, is Lapu-Lapu a nation’s hero? The coins of the ‘80s so attest. Lapu-Lapu was the face embossed on one side of the one-centavo coin.

But what did Lapu-Lapu and his men defend? Were they protecting a nation? Perhaps not. The idea of a nation-state, the imagine community had not yet been conceived. This would only happen more than three centuries after the Battle of Mactan. Perhaps Lapu-Lapu was merely warring against foreign men in the company of warriors from the rival tribe of Humabon, the chieftain of Cebu.

The History website, in its entry on notable events in 1521 reads:

“Magellan’s ships had dropped anchor at the Philippine island of Cebu, and Magellan met with the local chief, who after converting to Christianity persuaded the Europeans to assist him in conquering a rival tribe on the neighboring island of Mactan. In the subsequent fighting, Magellan was hit by a poisoned arrow and left to die by his retreating comrades.”

The Eyewitness to History website, meanwhile, quotes the journal of the Venetian scholar Antonio Pigafetta, who had sailed with Magellan:
“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.”

Cebu’s very own Resil Mojares wrote that “preciously little is known about a key figure in what has been enshrined as a ‘world event,’ and one that has acquired the status of a ‘national’ hero.”

“Yet, the problem, too,” he adds, “is that — because imagination abhors a vacuum — the deficit of facts has inspired such rampant speculation that no Filipino hero is as heavily cloaked in myth and fiction as Lapu-Lapu.

“In the search of the historical Lapu-Lapu, therefore, the challenge is that of finding one’s way between the void of facts and imagination’s excesses.”

The historian Ambeth Ocampo agrees. “What Filipinos have lost in the European historical record,” he said, “we have regained with a vengeance through tradition and oral lore that make Lapu-Lapu not just a hero of Mactan or Cebu, but a national hero for all Filipinos.”

What is the real motive behind renaming the Mactan-Cebu International Airport?

Is it to call people to genuine heroism, or is it to subtly promote the idea of war with which the administration has cloaked its fight against illegal narcotics?

Is it to popularize Lapu-Lapu, dearth of facts about him notwithstanding?

Should a newly named Lapu-Lapu airport provide comfort to Mactan islanders who are weeping over their own dead in the so-called war against drugs?

Will a new airport name rouse residents of Opon and Cordova to be more responsible for surrounding seas infested with coliform.

Will they be vigilant so that reclamation and bridge-building projects do no permanent ecological damage?

While we await answers to these questions, the renaming of Mactan airport in honor of Lapu-Lapu has one important implication that presidential fanatics should realize.

They would be giving further evidence of their inconsistency and lack of reason if they hail Mactan’s renaming while they campaign to remove from the international airport in Manila the name of Ninoy Aquino, whose life and opposition to tyranny was ended by an assassin’s bullet there.

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TAGS: AI, air, airports, CEB, Cebu‬, naming, plane, SIR

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