No Room for Revisionism: Cebuanos Remind Us All to Never Forget History

Cebuanos are commemorating the 501st anniversary of the Battle of Mactan.
IMAGE MACTAN SHRINE/KULARTS-SF

On this day 501 years ago, Lapulapu killed the Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan. These are two names every school kid in the Philippines knows. (Kind of like…GOMBURZA).

No, there’s no room for “Majoha” in Cebu as the city and province never forgets its history. Instead, it relives it. Or at least, the better part of it. On the 27th of April every year, the Lapulapu City Government reenacts the historic battle between the brave datu Lapulapu and Magellan, leaving no chance for revisionism nor misinterpretation.

After two pandemic years, Oponganons (natives of the city of Opon, which was the old name of Lapulapu) are once again celebrating the datu's victory by staging “Adlaw ni Lapulapu: 501st Anniversary of the Victory at Mactan" at Liberty Shrine in Cebu on Wednesday, April 27. It’s the closing event of the quincentennial commemoration of the historic Battle of Mactan.

Special presentation of the Battle of Mactan in Liberty Shrine during a media tour hosted by Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort in partnership with the Department of Tourism Region 7, Cebu Pacific, and Lapulapu City Tourism

Photo by Jelo Arevalo.
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The Victory at Mactan

And in case you’re wondering why this piece of history is important, Lapulapu’s victory delayed Spanish colonization of the Philippine islands by 44 years. Historians say the datu was the first native Filipino to defeat colonizers.

Magellan’s multi-pronged expedition was initially successful in terms of commerce and evangelism. He first introduced Christianity to the Philippines and made sure we remember it as his cross (aptly named Magellan’s Cross) remains planted in Cebu to this day.

 Statue of Lapulapu at the Liberty Shrine

Photo by National Quincentennnial Committee Philippines.

While Rajah Humabon, the first local chief that Magellan met, embraced Christianity and warmly received Magellan and his men, Mactan datu Lapulapu rejected the visitors and declared opposition. The story then proceeds with the fierce battle of Mactan. And as they say, the rest is history. 

Importance of History

The conservation, promotion, and commemoration of historical heritage and resources are integrated in our culture, and in the Constitution. 

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For the quincentennial year of the victory of Lapulapu, President Rodrigo Duterte declared 2021 as the Year of Filipino Pre-Colonial Ancestor, citing the Strengthening Peoples’ Nationalism Through Philippine History Act in his proclamation. The President is also expected to attend the reenactment of the Battle of Mactan. 

A special performance of the reenactment of the Battle of Mactan

Photo by Jelo Arevalo.

According to Proclamation 1128, “The State shall provide the means to strengthen the Filipino people’s nationalism, love of country, respect for its heroes and pride for the people’s accomplishments, by reinforcing the importance of Philippine national and local history in daily life, with the end view of raising social consciousness.”

History continues to shape our country and our people’s culture, beliefs, and values. And the timeless reminder “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” is relevant now more than ever.

While history has a lot to teach those of us living in the present day, Philippine history, in particular, reminds us time and time again that Filipinos are fearless against any oppressors—foreign or otherwise. That’s the same lesson that we learned from Lapulapu’s victory against Magellan.

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Roland Jelo Arevalo
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