The Battle of Mactan

It’s indeed sad that hundreds of years ago today, Fernando Magallanes, aka Ferdinand Magellan (hailed so inaccurately by careless historians as the first man to circumnavigate the globe), was killed by a mere “fish” now considered as a Filipino bayani (hero).

Lapu-lapu, as all Pinoys are aware of, is the name of a tasty fish, a local variety of the red grouper. The Mactán chieftain’s real name was Cali Pulaco (some say it’s Kaliph Pulaka). Cali was a local title that is, as far as we know, no longer in use. It’s a royal title like that of a datu or a rajáh, but of a much lower rank.

Naming a high-ranking chief with the name of an edible animal, especially of a fish dish –then as now– is disrespectful. The reason why the Mactán “hero” is now known by the name of a fish was a mistranslation by some careless historians (Blair and Robertson?).

And Fish King wasn't the real chieftain of Mactán. The island was actually under the jurisdiction of Cebú's Rajáh Humabon. Pulaco was just a subrogate (and belligerent) ruler of Mactán, together with Datu Zula. Since by that time Humabon was already baptized into the Christian faith, Magallanes thought it best to support an ally of Spain. But that doesn’t mean that Magallanes wasn’t eager to show-off European superiority of arms. He did the unthinkable, sailing straight to enemy grounds without the usual reconnoitering done my military experts. He thought that his cannons and European firepower (which were, of course, modern at that time) will overcome mere bolos and spears and arrows.

He was mistaken: the Portuguese and his malnourished men (they encountered unimaginable hunger during their voyage from Spain to the Philippines) was met with not a hundred men – he was met with more than a thousand island warriors. And the rest, you already know.

What is not known –or what is not emphasized– is what in the world were those Mactán warriors thinking of while they were battling the white men. What should be taught in local schools is that Mr. Big Fish and his school of spear-wielding island fellas have never heard of Europe, nor of Spain and the Spaniards. And most important of all, educators should teach THE TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH that Lapu-lapu never thought of “defending the Philippines from foreign invaders.” For all we know, those islanders thought that they were defending themselves from Chinese pirates who were known to have marauded some local tribes and brought with them prisoners whom they have sold in the thriving slave market.

So why teach that Lapu-lapu was the ”first Filipino” to defend the Philippines from colonization? There was no Philippines during that time. The concept of a country wasn’t extant back then. What was in existence were hundreds of warring tribal kingdoms, each thinking that they were –and should be– independent from the other. In short, they were not united (the Philippines is on the verge of reverting back to this kind of setup once federalists gain the upper hand in the government).

Lapu-lapu was defending the island of Mactán, not the “whole” Philippines. Actually, he was defending an island which wasn’t really his in the first place; he was in bad terms with Humabon and Zula.

Going back to Magellan, we should be made aware that prior to the 1898 American invasion of the Philippines, the Filipinos considered Magallanes, not the Grouper King, to be the hero of Mactán! Lapu-lapu was even derided in a poem (written way back in 1614 in honor of Magallanes) by a Filipino bard by the name of Carlos Calao. It was only during the American occupation that Lapu-lapu (like Andrés Bonifacio) was invented as a hero.

Now, Filipinos in Metro Manila adore a huge eye sore with a bolo shamelessly standing in Rizal Park (defile it defile it DEFILE IT!!!). It was a very INNOCENT gift from the Korean Freedom League, for they know not about Lapu-lapu.

In the US, Americans celebrate annually the date Christopher Columbus discovered their country. In the Philippines, Magellan’s discovery of the country is a disgusting chapter in Filipino history.

By the way, the photo you see on this blog is a monument in honor of Magallanes. It is found in miles-away Chile. Filipinos, think about it.

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According to the documents of Italian historian Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan deployed forty-nine armored men with swords, axes, shields, crossbows and guns, and sailed for Mactan in the morning of April 28. [1] Filipino historians note that because of the rocky outcroppings, and corals near the beach, the Spaniards could not land on Mactan. Forced to anchor their ships far from shore, Magellan could not bring his ships' firepower to bear on Datu Lapu-Lapu's warriors, who numbered more than 1,500.
When morning came, forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two cross-bow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, [the natives] had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries... The musketeers and crossbow-men shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly...[5]
Magellan then tried to scare them off by burning some houses in what is now the Barangay of Buaya, known then as Bulaia.
Seeing that, the captain-general sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to flight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain. The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away.[5]
Many of the warriors attacked Magellan; he was wounded in the arm with a spear and in the leg by a kampilan. With this advantage, the people of Mactan finally overpowered, and killed him. He was stabbed, and hacked by spears and swords. Pigafetta and the others managed to escape,
Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice... 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. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off...[5]

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Rafael Martinez-Minuesa said...

The psychological and emotional dissociation of postmodern Filipinos from the Hispanic-Filipino world, the result in turn of the North Americans’ triumph over the First Republic and restructuring of Filipino societal life, culture and identity between 1901 and 1946 according to the paradigm of the United States. In the course of those 45 years, the Filipino people became dissociated (or “separated from association or union with the Hispanic past) through linguistic change, education, technological transformation and the spread of U.S. customs, mores and cultural forms through telecommunications. However, the radical shift from a religious, tradition-bound, classical European cultural landscape to an Anglo-Saxon model of secular, technical modernity was not the major factor of the dissociation – it was the disappearance of the Hispanic-Filipino generation that led the movement, first for assimilation and equality of rights under Spain, and second, the Revolution and the founding of the Republic. The flower of this generation of paradigmatic Filipinos was eliminated from the life and leadership of the new nation through death, exile, and – after the establishment of North American rule – through its survivors’ margination and replacement by non-nationalist ilustrados who became the Americans’ collaborators, in the purported continuation of the failed national project, this time under more benevolent, democratic guardians – the very same destroyers of that national project.
The historical and psychosomatic dissociation from the Hispanic-Filipino past that was brought about by American colonization is the most important issue that Filipino historiography must examine today.