Lapu-Lapu Legends

Happy Independence Day Philippines!
And here's my Independence Day Special Urban Legend of the Day

Let's have a quick discussion about the history of Philippines in the time of Spanish expedition.
King Charles of Spain prepared the expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan to find another route going to the east of Europe - Asia. The reason is the Muslim Turks closed the route of Constantinople and other traditional routes in 1500. The only way to do that is to head west to Europe - Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean then to Asia. Magellan brought five ships - Victoria, Concepcion, San Antonio, Santiago and the flag-bearer, Trinidad. While on the way to Asia, when they passed through to what is now called the Bermuda Triangle, they encountered mysterious things - a shining vehicle-like floated from the depths of water and another was the one following them. (Well, I had watched it from a documentary.)

March 16, 1521, when Magellan reached the island what is now Samar. Then on the second day, they went to Homonhon, where they are hospitably accepted by the people. March 28, 1521, they sailed again to Limasawa and was accepted by Raha Kolambu. Then, on March 31, 1521, Father Pedro de Valderrama celebrated the first mass in the Philippines. April 7, 1521, they sailed again, with Raha Kolambu with them, and reached Cebu. There, Father Pedro de Valderrama converted 700-800 Cebuanos to Christianism on April 14 of the same year. Moreover, Magellan, ordered the creation of the Cross (which is now called "Krus ni Magellan") and gave an image of Sto. Nino (now it was the patron of Cebu and the subject of Sinulog Festival).

Lapu-lapu (Other names: Kali Pulako; Cali Pulaco; Cilapulapu; and Pula-pula) is the chieftain of Mactan, who refused to recognize the great power of Spain. In which case, Magellan declared war against them. He led 1,500 people to the war armed only with spears, Kampilan and Kalasag, and killed 3 out of 49 Spaniards armed with guns and lances.

Now, he is considered the first Filipino national hero who fought for the country against Spanish soldiers. In that war, Lapu-lapu's people overwhelmed the Spaniards, and he killed Magellan (one of the 3 slain soldiers). The ships who went back to Spain are Victoria and Trinidad. The war was known as the Battle of Mactan.

Well, though at that time, the archipelago of the present Philippines is not yet considered one country. The historians questioned the fact that Lapu-lapu is a Filipino hero.

Let's go back to the main discussion about this hero.


[Magellan killed Lapu-lapu?]

Normally, as written in the history textbooks, it was Lapu-lapu who killed Magellan, as what I had written above. Lapu-lapu was considered the first Filipino who didn't agree to be invaded by Spanish soldiers. But how if the history was wrong, and Lapu-lapu was actually killed by Magellan. We don't know the actual event of what actually happened that same time. Therefore, everybody can speculate. So if it was real, then the history of the first Philippine revolt against invaders is not TRUE?

NO! It was just an urban legend. Nowadays, only few or none believe it. There was another legend, it was not Lapu-lapu who killed Magellan but one of his men. The honor was just given to Lapu-lapu as the leader of the revolt.

[Lapu-lapu didn't killed Magellan]

Another, according to some rumors, he was not the actual person who killed Magellan, but his other soldiers. Well, no one knows. It was hundreds of years ago when it happened. The reason why they thought it was, in that time, in every war, when a soldier of a Datu/Rajah killed the opponent Datu/Rajah, the honor will be passed to him. Thus, it wasn't Lapu-lapu who made it but his soldiers.

I can't tell if it's real or not.

[Lapu-lapu's Statue in Opon]

From 1929 to 1933, the chief executive of Opon was Rito de la Serna. During his incumbency, the Municipal Council of Opon passed a resolution sometime in 1933 appropriating an amount for the construction of a monument in honor of Chief Lapu-lapu. The resolution was then immediately implemented. The statue of Lapulapu was then holding a bow and arrow and the arrow was pointing at the municipal hall. Whether it was by coincidence or for some other reason, Rito de la Serna died not long after the completion of the Lapulapu Monument. At first, the residents did not connect his death with the statue of Lapulapu. However, when de la Serna's successors died while in office, superstitious people began to talk about the statue.

Gregorio de la Serna, a nephew of the late Rito de la Serna, was elected to serve from 1934 to 1937 but he was not able to complete his term because he died in office sometime in 1937. Hon. Simeon Amodia was installed to serve the unexpired term of Gregorio de la Serna. But, again, tragedy struck as the newly-installed Simeon Amodia died even before the year 1937 came to an end. It was Pascual Patalinghug who broke the cycle when he completed the unexpired term up to the end of 1937.

In 1938, Mariano S. Dimataga was sworn in as the new chief executive of Opon. Whether he believed in the bow and arrow jinx or not is uncertain but he immediately undertook the renovation of the statue of Lapulapu. The bow and arrow were replaced by a pestle. Mariano Dimataga remained as the chief executive of Opon for the next thirty years2 until he retired in 1968.

This is not connected with the history, but still it's name is on it.


1. Opon was the name of Lapu-Lapu City before it became a chartered city in 1961. It was a municipality of the province of Cebu then.
2. Lapulapu is the Philippines' first national hero. Factual information regarding Lapulapu can be found in Bantayog ng mga Bayani.
3. Mariano Dimataga was the Municipal Mayor of Opon from 1938 up to 1942 when World War II started. After the war, Dimataga served again as the Municipal Mayor from 1945 up to 1961 when Opon became the chartered city of Lapu-Lapu. He continued to serve as the chief executive (as City Mayor) until his retirement in 1968.

courtesy of 'Mga Awit ng Nakaraan' (Songs of the Past)

Perhaps, the reason behind the mystery is the bow and arrow he was holding. Weapons like it were used by lower ranked soldiers, not by a datu like him. Maybe he was very angry for that. So he gave his favor to the person who changed his weapon. Unfortunately, the former mayors died naturally. It could be just a coincidence.

Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas Pagbabago para sa Kaunlaran at Kapayapaan. Dr. Florida C. Leutenrio.