Where is Cebu City in the Quincentennial?

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales September 16,2019 - 07:03 AM

For now, it will be the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) who will spearhead the celebrations in Cebu City regarding the presentation of the Santo Niño to Juana, the wife of Rajah Humabon. This comes on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance uttered in the City of Naga that he would not support any celebrations having to do with Christianity and Hispanization in the upcoming 2021 Quincentennial of the Magellan expedition. 

This was the response last Friday of my good friend Dr. Rene Escalante to the query made by no less than former Cebu City mayor and now vice-mayor Michael Rama. Dr. Escalante, chairman of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), is also the vice-chairman of the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), a body created by President Rodrigo Duterte, to spearhead all government-led commemorations of the Quincentennial. Its chairman is in fact Duterte’s own executive secretary, Salvador Medialdia.

Mike Rama had been adamant that the NQC theme “Victory and Humanity” lacked the word “Faith,” and so he took the floor after the presentations to inquires to what would happen to Cebu City in 2021. His question was also of special import since Cebu City is a member of the association of Magellanic cities and it would be strange for the city not to be part of the Quincentennial commemoration. (Incidentally, Mike told me personally that he is in fact the vice-chair of this association, which comprises all the cities that Magellan passed by from Spain to the Americas and here in the Philippines.) And so for the moment, CBCP it is.

Earlier in the morning, as I was delivering the second National Quincentennial lecture, the NQC met with Lapulapu City Mayor Junard Chan in the same venue, the Bellevue Hotel in Lapulapu City, to thresh out details of a Memorandum of Agreement between the two parties since it is now quite clear that victory against Magellan at Punta Engaño would be the main focus of the government’s celebration in 2021. A day earlier, Mayor Chan himself formed Lapulapu City’s equivalent of the NQC precisely to lay the local groundwork for the commemoration events which will surely place the city on the spotlight.

Sadly, the five hectares earlier promised for a Quincentennial park at the South Reclamation Project (SRP) has been scrapped. Decades from now, when all of SRP shall have become a concrete jungle full of high rises, people will lament why the area doesn’t have a park full of trees to end the monotony of glass and concrete all over the place. And then they will remember this episode.

Beyond the two cities of Lapulapu and Cebu, however, I believe there are at least two more towns/cities that should also commemorate the Quincentennial. I am referring to Mandaue, and Liloan  in the north and perhaps Talisay in the south. While only Mandaue and perhaps Liloan are identified when Humabon and his chiefs meet Magellan for the first time, Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler of the expedition, mentions some villages in Cebu that alas are no longer extant or their names have changed. All in all, these were the chiefs present in that audience Humabon-Magellan encounter: Laton (“Cilaton”), Guibucan (“Ciguibucan”); and Maninga (Cimaninga); Maticat (Cimaticat); Canbul (Cicanbul), all from a place called Cingapola; Apanoaan, chief of Mandawi; Teten, chief of Lalan (most probably Liloan); and Lumay (Cilumay), chief of Lubucin. 

Could the settlement called Cingapola be Olango Island? Given five chiefs in one place, this would denote some large island. How about Lubucin? These questions may never be answered unless a map can be found showing where these used to be. The main thing to do now is for Liloan and Mandaue to join the Quincentennial commemoration in their own right.


To those who missed “The World of Lapulapu” the two-hour lecture I delivered as the second one in the National Quincentennial Lecture Series, you can simply visit the Facebook page of RTVM Malacañang. There should be a post there of the lecture which was live-streamed last Friday. Many thanks to the NQC and the NHCP especially the NQC secretariat led by Ian Christopher Alfonso for inviting me to do the talk. I believe the next one will be in Tacloban on the Baybayin, ancient Visayan writing system by my good friend, Dr. Rolando Borrinaga. The first one was held in Manila and was about pre-colonial tattoos delivered by Xiao Chua. 

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