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.


  1. meron pa nga stated that lapulapu is no a peroson, BUT A PERSONS lapu-lapu was said to be a tribe of filipino's excelling in arnis..

  2. I am a Cebuano and I have heard lores and legend of our Great Lapu-lapu. Each Cebuano family have an oral tradition of the epic battle, and not to mention there are some families in Opon who claim to be the descendants of the great Datu of Opon: The two popular bloodlines who claimed to be coming from Lapu-lapu are the Tampus and the Umpad, Both are residents of Mactan since time immemorial and both constitute majority of the voting population, a street there was named Umpad St. because all of the people there are literally under the surname of Umpad.

    Let me tell you the legend as it is passed down in my family. Lapu-lapu is not a tribe he is really a person, there where two major tribes in Cebu then, formerly called Zugbu: the Puwa (due to the red tint they usually mark on their skins) and the Patik (because the people are covered in tattoo). Lapu-lapu is speculated to belong to the Patik, in our culture we considered the Patik as one of the more aggressive and active sub-group of Sugbu-anons, they never turn down a fight, and for every man killed corresponds to a tattoo.

    As the story goes: Datu Lapu-lapu was not in good terms with Rajah Humabon and Datu Zula, after embracing Christianity Rajah Humabon and Datu Zula made a blood compact with Fernando Magallanes, and convinced the "Langaw" (An old Cebuano term for foreigner) to fight against Lapu-lapu. But Fernando Magallanes have other things in mind, he wanted to convert Lapu-lapu, as what he did to the two chieftain of ancient Zugbu. He sent a messenger and an interpreter the island of Opon, but the reply was not good. After that Fernando Magallanes plan to attack the the island by sunrise. During the epic battle of Mactan, some stories said that one of Lapu-lapu's men hit Fernando Magallanes' ankles with an arrow, some say with a spear but it was Lapu-lapu who gave the final blow.

    Ancient Sugbu-anons have this respect to their chiefs, and they have a code of war that only the chief can kill another tribe's chief, a warrior can severely injure and capture an opponent's leader but he has no right to decapitate the captive. Thus, the story is true that one of his men inflicted a fatal injury to Fernando Magallanes and but it was Lapu-lapu who really killed him.

    If you are interested in Pre-Hispanic culture, stories and tradition, the University of San Carlos-Cebu Study Center has a wide array of collections which includes ancient religions, beliefs, tradition, documented stories from oral sources. It contains rich and vibrant collection of the Visayan ancient past.

    1. don't forget that baring and pagobo are another popular bloodlines coming from Lapu-Lapu,our lolo Tomas K.Baring told us and he is even recognized as one during the 1950 and was made a model because he is as tall as Lapu-Lapu

    2. Lapu-lapu killed magellan but who killed lapu-lapu? Was it really the cook or the fisherman?

  3. Meanwhile, You can check out the first Government funded public Skate Park in Lapu-Lapu City

  4. thanks for the infos, especially sa mga nagcomment kasi very interesting yung mga sinabi question though, what was Lapu-Lapu's spiritual belief during his days? Was he really a muslim? kasi based po sa mga research na gnawa ko dati, the people in the Visayas were worshiping Anitos before Christianity came...and yun nga rin pong statue ni Lapu-Lapu sa Mactan shrine which has a wild boar's tusk sa necklace niya.

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  6. question: was lapu lapu muslim?

  7. I think not a muslim but a pagan. As what my grandfather told me that people in mactan before are not muslims. And Tomas K. Baring is my great grandfather i am proud that he was the model of the statue.


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