Interesting facts about the Philippines’ first hero and the battle that he led to victory

By: Rhobie Alburo Ruaya - CDN Digital | April 27,2020 - 09:54 PM

The Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521 was a very significant event in the country.

In our history classes, we learned that it was this day that Filipinos fought and won against Spanish invaders led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

The man who led the Filipinos to victory is native chieftain of Mactan Island, Datu Lapulapu.

Most historical accounts of Datu Lapulapu state that he is from the neighboring island of Borneo and has reached the shores of Sugbo (Cebu) where Rajah Humabon ruled and was recognized as King.

Aside from being a Filipino hero and symbol of bravery, there are still many facts about Datu Lapulapu and the Battle of Mactan known through extensive research which are worth noting.

Here are some of them:

He was from Borneo 

According to a folk epic taken from the oral histories of the region called the Aginid, Bayok sa atong Tawarik, when Lapulapu arrived from Borneo (Sabah), he asked Rajah Humabon for an area he and his people could settle in.

Humabon then offered them a place to stay in Mandawili (Mandaue), which included the island known as Opong (Opon).

Lapulapu soon after became the chief of the region’s people and was called Datu for his brave battles with pirates.

Later on, Lapulapu’s people helped enhance the trade of Sugbo when they cultivated the land in his region.

After the Battle of Mactan, the Aginid says that Lapulapu decided to return to Borneo with all his children, wives, and some of his men.

Lapulapu’s real name

Datu Lapulapu is also known for many names like Çilapulapu, Si Lapulapu, Cali Pulaco, Lapulapu Dimantag and as a Muslim Iranun Chieftain also known as Kaliph (Salip) Pulaka.

According to one account, there are various names for Lapulapu because of wrong translations by different writers.

In Antonio Pigafetta’s written accounts, the Italian scholar who joined Magellan’s conquest, he referred to Data Lapulapu as Çilapulapu.

While historians and writers seem to have different versions of his name, Lapulapu was described as a brave warrior and intelligent leader.

Did Lapulapu kill Magellan himself?

Datu Lapulapu was known to be the leader the group of men that won in the Battle of Mactan against the Spaniards.

But many writers and historians still debate whether the Chieftain himself killed Magellan in the battle.

According to research, it is impossible to tell whether Magellan lost his life in the hands of the Datu, and until this day, there is no evidence to support that.

Research also suggested that during the battle, Magellan was also very strong at 41 years old against Lapulapu, who was said to be 70 years old at that time.

How and when did Lapulapu die? 

According to historical records, Lapulapu was born in 1491 but there are no exact dates recorded.

Some research suggests that he was already horseback riding at 6 years old, and was able to write and read a year after and then learned to be an excellent fighter.

Aside from swimming, he was also good at other sports.

When he was around 70 years old during the Battle of Mactan, some historian claim that he did leave Mactan and went back to Borneo but there are no more accounts as to how he died.

While others say that he died in Mactan a year after the battle, some locals believe that in his last years, Lapulapu turned into a stone in the ocean and vowed to guard the seas of Mactan forever.

During the battle, the tide was on Lapulapu’s side

According to Antonio Pigafetta’s document of events, the Spaniard’s boats were forced to anchor their ships “two crossbow flights” away from the shore.

So the soldiers had to disembark the boat and walk into a hand-to-hand combat with the locals.

Still, according to his accounts, Magellan only had 50 troop members during the battle, against Lapulapu, who had his 1,500 warriors.

Underestimating his enemy, Magellan did not decide to call more soldiers.

Pigafetta also wrote that Lapulapu and his army aimed their fire-hardened bamboo spears and poisoned arrows at the legs of the Spanish soldiers.

With Magellan being killed, the other soldiers that survived came rushing back to the ship and left defeated.

A 2018 photo of the reenactment of the Kadaugan sa Mactan at the Lapulapu shrine.

Historical records also state that the Battle of Mactan was never an official plan of Magellan’s mission.

When he arrived in the country, Magellan took efforts to convert all indigenous people to Christianity.

He baptized King Humabon of Cebu along with thousands of other natives.

But Magellan threatened to kill those chieftains who were against the conversion.

Lapulapu remains to be a symbol of courage and great leadership for leading his troops to victory and protecting his people from the foreign explorers.

The Battle of Mactan is celebrated every year on April 27 to remember the bravery and victory of the first Filipino hero.

Share your thoughts about Datu Lapulapu in the comments section of this video. We’d love to hear them!



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