Much ado over a cartoon?

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales - CDN Digital | November 11,2019 - 06:55 AM

As we were about to close meeting last Tuesday afternoon on how to add more tour packages to align with the upcoming Quincentennial commemoration, I suggested the production of a movie about the Magellan expedition up to the aftermath of the Battle of Mactan, one that should address a young audience that has only learned about that historic encounter through Yoyo Villame’s song. 

No sooner had I said it than an hour or two later, a Facebook page of an upcoming animation precisely targeting the young was shared to me, complete with so many negative comments about how it depicted Lapulapu as a villain. The page showed the poster of what appeared to be a cartoon entitled, “Elcano & Magellan: The First Voyage Around the World” set to be shown in the Philippines in January 2020 by its local distributor, Crystalsky Multimedia.  

All I could comment was that I doubted if this was really a genuine movie, more like fake news, because it had bad English. The subtitle on the poster read: “With Philippines Very Own Hero “Lapu-Lapu.” The word “Philippines” had no “the” before it, lacked an apostrophe after the letter ‘s’ indicating a possessive noun, and the word Lapulapu had a dash, when it should not (a significant error committed by the framers of the law that created the city of Lapu-Lapu, making his name sound more like a moniker or nickname like Ling-Ling, or Dong-Dong, Day-Day as Filipinos are wont to do).

Little did I know that this was a Spanish production which, as animations go, is believed to have made liberties with the historical accounts (yes, in the plural) of the Magellan expedition and the battle that he perished in at Mactan. 

“What do I think of this movie?” someone pm’ed me. In truth, I really could not say anything simply because I hadn’t seen it yet—and, in fact, I may not see it at all, now that the distributor is hesitant to show it, pending the comment of a group of historians, possibly in Manila, who will be called to preview it. 

What I am simply amazed about is the profusion of negative comments from netizens denouncing this movie. These comments are both praiseworthy and yet also cautionary about how quickly we react to something we really have not seen yet but suspect, given that it is produced in Spain, to be pro-Spanish, pro-Magellan and, ergo, anti-Cebuano or anti-Filipino. Never mind if, there was no Philippines to speak of when Lapulapu and his men emerged victorious against Magellan. 

I can only wonder at the reaction if there was Facebook already in the 1930s when the so-called wooden ‘alho’ or club and ‘kwako’ or pipe of Lapulapu were presented to Don Sergio Osmeña in Manila by a Mactanon family. How those wooden pieces survived time and the elements alone is short of miraculous, if not ridiculous. Worse, the club actually painted Lapulapu as a primitive caveman, in the tradition of Tarzan of the 1930s, when in fact he and his men went to battle as seasoned warriors and raiders armed with bladed weapons (the ‘kampilan’, ‘kris’, and ‘talibong’ come to mind), bamboo lances and poisoned arrows. 

I also wonder how netizens would react to stories, clearly invented, that Lapulapu’s lineage was Sumatran or Bornean. Thankfully, the great historian of our time, the late William Henry Scott, was able to expose the fake ten Bornean datus, the fake Kalantiaw Code and the fake Maragtas etc. purveyed by the unscrupulous forger Jose Marco. Yet the fake stories about Lapulapu are still in blogs today that many gullible people take as true: that his mother was from Sumatra and that he himself was a Muslim, a caliph (!) who carried the name Kalipulaku! Does it not in fact insult the senses to have someone from so far away to fight for us? 

As the 500th anniversary of the victory at Mactan approaches, expect more fakery to emerge and be prepared. It is not this animation movie that we should rage against. It is these fake stories about Lapulapu, about the equally fake rajahnate of Sugbu under Humabon and all these fake claimants purporting direct lineage to Lapulapu that we should rail against and denounce. Between artistic license and pretense, the latter is more dangerous to our past.

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