1521, after a strong expansion in South Asia, the Spaniards suffered a severe defeat in the islands south of Luzon. Magellan, the famous Iberian explorer, died one day in April in a battle that will make the Philippine people proud. In front of him, the great warrior Lapulapu, not wishing to see his village disappear, was able to master the battle very quickly. But how did the fight go? How did a series of mistakes bring down the famous explorer? Let’s explore the past by dissecting the Battle of Mactan.
The Battle of Mactan, a national story
Before we talk about the battle, we’re going to have to contextualize a little bit. Magellan, following the road supposed to take him to the Moluccas Islands, stopped on the island of Homonhon to greet his friend and new ally Rajah Kolambu. Together they left for the island of Cebu to try an alliance with Rajah Humabon, the king of this region of Visayan. The latter, in proof of friendship, asked all the tribes of his territory to provide food for the famous explorer’s ships. However, if all complied at the king’s request, one village on the island of Mactan did not accept the request: that of Chief Datu Lapulapu.
Rajah Humabon then proposed to his new allies to dislodge the recalcitrant leader. Seeing here an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of friendship with the king, Magellan agreed. Judging the tribe to be primitive, the explorer surrounded himself with a hundred heavily armed men in his quest to conquer the island. Three hours before dawn, on the morning of April 27, 1521, a message was sent to the tribe offering them an immediate surrender. In the morning, having received a negative response from the Lapulapu tribe, Magellan sent his men to start a battle that he thought was won in advance.
At the heart of the battle against Lapulapu
Unable to land on the island because of the surrounding rocks and corals, crossbows and musketeers remained afloat. The swordsmen, on the other hand, walked to the village. About 50 men landed on the banks of Mactan. They found in front of them more than 1000 natives armed with bamboo spears, bows and long swords. Quickly surrounded and unable to turn around, the Spanish forces tried to fight in vain. On the boats the muskets thundered without being able to reach any enemy. On earth, the battle was lost in advance. In the hope of scaring the natives, Magellan asked that the fire be set in the huts of the premises. Unfortunately, this decision only angered the inhabitants who redoubled their efforts in their attacks.
While his troops were being slaughtered, the explorer was wounded in the leg by a long tribal sword. He received a bamboo spear in his arm, and a poisoned arrow came crashing into his other leg. After several minutes of battle, the Spanish troops were defeated. Finally, the explorer was killed and the survivors left for Cebu.
Many legends followed
Today, considered the first Filipino hero, the history of Lapulapu continues through the centuries. Indeed, shows of the battle are still organized today on the island of Mactan. With notoriety, come legends. Many stories have emerged on the island.
One of the best known is that the Lapulapu would never have died. It would have turned into stone and since then has protected the seas surrounding Mactan. Today, fishermen still ask permission to fish in the hero’s territory. They throw special stones into the sea before taking off.
Finally, another legend is that the statue erected in the center of the city of Lapu-Lapu has protective properties. Indeed, it was originally equipped with a crossbow, was placed in front of the old town hall. After the successive deaths by heart attack of three corrupt mayors, it was equipped with a sword and the town hall was moved.