|PNP Seal and Badge features Lapu-Lapu|
Photo courtesy of the Philippine National Police
Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish agenda
In 1519, the Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães (Spanish name: Fernando Magallanes, 1480-1521) was authorized by the Spanish King Carlos I (Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire) to commence the first recorded circumnavigation of the world. At this point, there were two first-rate naval powers in the world, Portugal and Spain. When Magellan saw no support from Portugal, perhaps the obvious choice to turn to is Spain. Magellan has been in Malacca (Maluku) at least once, which was conquered by Portugal. This is where he met Enrique, who he would have baptized and made a slave. This time, he goes to the neighboring Spice Islands (Moluccas/Melaka), but through the other way around (going west to reach the east). Magellan may have been confident to complete the voyage with his trusted slave Enrique to interpret for him once they get across the Pacific Ocean (a name attributed to Magellan, who saw the ocean as peaceful).
|Reenactment of Magellan's landing|
Photo courtesy of GMA
|Monument of Rajah Humabon in Cebu|
Photo courtesy of Zee Lifestyle
At least in the Spanish accounts, Humabon seemed the paramount ruler of the island. Thus, the epithet Rajah, as applied to fellow island rulers Siani and Calambu. However, the incident of one village ruler refusing Humabon is most likely evidence of Humabon's loose hold beyond his domain in Cebu. It can be inferred that he is the strongest in the island, but not its paramount ruler. Indeed, after the Battle of Mactan, Pigafetta and the remaining crew had the chance to see the rest of the island. Pigafetta lists them down as follows:
- Cingapola: the chiefs are Cilaton (Laton), Cimaninga (Maninga), Cimaticat (Maticat), Cicanbul (Canbul)
- Mandani: the chief is Aponoaan (Noaan)
- Lalan: the chief is Teten
- Lalutan: the chief is Japau
- Lubucin: the chief is Cilumay (Lumay)
- Matan: the chiefs are Zula and Cilapulapu (Lapu-Lapu)
- Zzubu: the chief is Humabon
|Political map of Cebu|
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
As for Ci (Si), it is considered a derivation of Sri, which is a title of respect. Of course, it is observed that Filipinos commonly use Si to introduce names, which the Spanish seemed unaware of then.
Enter the Spanish. Humabon treated the foreigners well, but is there a hidden agenda as well? Probably so. Humabon may be Cebu's strongest, but not its overall ruler, and his immediate rival is just across the waters. If we are to believe Cebu folklore, Lapu-Lapu is a migrant to Cebu. Even his name has different variations: Salip Pulaka (from W. H. Scott), Cali Pulaco (from the 1898 Philippine Declaration of Independence, and adopted by Filipino diplomat Mariano Ponce as his pseudonym), and Lapu-Lapu Dimantag. He comes from Borneo, and when he arrived, he asked for land to develop. Humabon offered him Opong (Mactan), but Lapu-Lapu preferred Mandawili (Mandaue). However, the Spanish encountered Lapu-Lapu as ruler of Mactan, not of Mandaue. If we are to analyze both accounts, it can be inferred that when Lapu-Lapu became a threat to Humabon, the latter installed a new ruler in Mandaue, and forced the former to accept his offer to settle in Mactan. Could Aponoaan be the one Humabon installed as Mandaue's new ruler? If this is so, then Lapu-Lapu may have not forgotten what Humabon did. Besides, Lapu-Lapu may have known that Humabon himself was foreign. If we are to believe Cebu folklore, Humabon's grandfather, Sri Lumay, was a migrant from Sumatra, and was even half-Tamil.
|Lapu-Lapu Shrine in Cebu|
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
|Battle of Mactan mural|
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Engaging in battle is not a matter of last resort. Instead, for rulers like Humabon and Lapu-Lapu, it is an opportunity to increase one's prestige and prove himself to the people. At midnight of April 27, the Spanish met with Humabon and his men, divided into 20 to 30 balangays. If we are to estimate the number of Humabon's troops with Antonio de Morga's estimate of how many a single balangay can handle, then it will amount to as much as 3,000 oarsmen and 900 soldiers. Magellan, perhaps learning a bit on how diplomacy is done through perception of strength, wanted to impress Humabon and told him not to intervene in the imminent battle. Whether or not Humabon saw this as advantageous to his bid for ruling Cebu, he followed Magellan and watched from a distance. Of course, if both Humabon and Magellan faced defeat, Lapu-Lapu will emerge as the strongest in Cebu, and the rulers will soon shift their support. However, if Magellan alone lost, Humabon can save face, and say that he was only a spectator to the event, not an active participant. Then they arrive three hours before the sun rises, which may be around 3 AM. Magellan, however, did not want to engage without a final warning. A Moorish (Moro) merchant was sent to negotiate with Lapu-Lapu the recognition of Humabon as their king, and obedience to the King of Spain. Pigafetta made it a point that Humabon and the rest who were converted to Christianity were not Muslims, while Lapu-Lapu is. Of course, the conditions were rejected, and gave only one request - do not attack before daylight. Magellan and his men thought this was psychological warfare. If they attacked before daylight, which may be around 6 AM, traps may have been set up and they would easily fall for them. Thus, they decided not to attack until then.
This choice observes a protocol in battle observed in the Philippines. Attacking at night is seen as a treacherous act, and Magellan may have not wanted to lose Humabon's trust. Nevertheless, there is also some tactical advantages to be considered. Pigafetta mentions that their boats cannot land on shore, and these remained "two crossbow shots" away. The distance a crossbow may reach varies, so twice this distance can range from 180 yards (165 meters) to 1080 yards (988 meters). Regardless of how far it actually was, Magellan and his men had to cross the waters to get on shore. Perhaps one reason why they cannot land is because of the low tide, which is evident in early morning. They might have not noticed it for being seaborne since midnight, and at this time, it would have still been high tide. The low tide may have also helped Lapu-Lapu and his men, as they seemed to charged against Magellan when they reached the shore and pushed them back as far as "the distance of a crossbow shot," which may range from 90 yards (82 meters) to 540 yards (494 meters).
|Francisco Pizarro and his men in Lima|
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
For one, Magellan did not, or was unable to, use his superior arms against Lapu-Lapu. They did not seem to have artillery pieces to use, but they had crossbows and arquebuses (Europe's primary firearm at the time). Since Lapu-Lapu's men were waiting on the island to engage them in battle, the Spanish fired at them when they reached the shore. However, since they already crossed water prior, the automated weapons may have suffered some malfunction. A crossbow's range is already mentioned before, and an arquebus's range goes from 400 yards (366 meters) to 1,100 yards (1,006 meters). If the weapons are not performing well (they may backfire or for firearms, even explode), the Spanish were tired of walking on water, and Lapu-Lapu and his men stayed within the maximum range of the weapons (if they were not in range, the Spanish would have not fired anyway), then no wonder their shots made "little or no harm." At their maximum ranges, the crossbows and the arquebuses are not exactly deadly, and their wooden shields are probably hard enough to deflect them. Soon enough, the warriors of Mactan were able to gain on the Spanish, avoiding their shots and when in range, threw javelins, spears, and lances. Firearms were relatively a recent development at this time, and loading them takes ten seconds up to a full minute. If one runs fast enough, you can cover the range of a crossbow (494 meters) or an arquebus (366 meters) within that single minute it takes to reload. In addition, while a javelin does not have the range (less than 100 meters), it is definitely as deadly as the crossbow or the arquebus. The javelin is also easier to reload. Pigafetta notes how they just pick up the javelins as they move forward. Since the beach offers little cover, the Spanish were vulnerable when they reload their weapons.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
|Artist's impression of Enrique|
Photo courtesy of The Voyage of Balangay
Enrique, the interpreter of the crew, was also wounded in battle, and so he chose not to work anymore. Besides, Magellan's will stated that Enrique shall be set free when Magellan dies. It was one of the remaining commanders, Duarte Barbosa, who refused to set him free as he found fault in him. When he was threatened to be flogged, it was said that Enrique went back to Humabon, but not to do the work assigned to him by the Spanish. According to Pigafetta, he warned Humabon that the Spanish would soon leave but if he overcomes them, the ships and its goods are his to take. There is also the notion that Humabon may have seen the Spanish as a threat, for they may turn against him for not helping in the battle. On May 1 (May 2), Humabon invited the remaining crew to a dinner (two commanders and 24 others came), only to have them massacred. When one of the wounded, Juan Serrano, informed the Spanish of the incident and warned them to leave quickly if they do not want to be killed as well. They immediately sailed off. Apparently, Serrano is the only source of the incident. He told Pigafetta and the others that only Enrique was not attacked. Did Enrique really turn his back against the Spanish, especially since his master is gone? Did the Spanish had misgivings of the interpreter in the first place? Surely, the wounded Serrano would not lie about their only interpreter? Whatever happened to the interpreter Enrique, we may never know as he was not mentioned again.
As they sailed, they reached Bohol, where they were received well, and then Palawan (Palaoan). From there, they sailed onward, seeing Sulu (Zolo) and Taghima (Basilan). After that, they leave the Philippines for good and goes on to complete the circumnavigation of the world. Of the original 276 crew, only 18 survived to tell the tale (Enrique is not included in the list). As for Lapu-Lapu, he seemed to remain in rivalry with Humabon, but with this feat, he has become entrenched as one of our nation's heroes. Even President Rodrigo Duterte recognized this, and created the Order of Lapu-Lapu in his honor. Folklore claims nobody saw him die. Instead, he became a stone statue, still watching over Mactan. Doubt and trust - these are two sides of diplomacy and relations between parties. The initial contact with the Spanish showed that unlike in the Americas, where they treated the Spanish as gods, we treated them as our equals. With this in mind, our first encounter was a victory, and perhaps an anomaly in the early years of Spanish colonization.