Bicolano historian and author Danilo Gerona reveals the true story of the heroism of Lapu-Lapu.
Dr. Danilo Madrid Gerona is a member of Sevilla 2019-2022 and leads the global celebration of the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the world. The historian said that it is premature to declare Lapu-Lapu a national hero.
Gerona is part of the committee that published the book, "Ferdinand Magellan, The Armada de Maluco and the European Discovery of the Philippines" using sources from the libraries and archives in Seville.
While most history books describe Lapu-Lapu to be the first native Filipino to ever fend off Spanish colonizers, Gerona expressed skepticism in Lapu-Lapu's heroism claiming that it was based on the misguided belief that Lapu-Lapu killed Magellan.
What history books got wrong
According to Gerona, the information that has been depicted in our history books has plenty of deficiencies. Our books talk about the tale of Lapu-Lapu, portrayed with a very muscular built charging toward Magellan to kill him with his weapon. He claims that this is false.
The historian said that Lapu-Lapu was not the one who killed Magellan. It could have been any one of the thousands of warriors the chieftain deployed to fend off the foreigners in the Battle of Mactan.
Gerona pieced together the story of the battle from different sources in the original Spanish and Portuguese manuscripts and the accounts of Portuguese chronicler Gaspar Correa, who came to the Philippines with another Spanish expedition four years after Magellan died.
He discovered that Lapu-Lapu was mentioned in the chronicles of Antonio Pigafetta, a Venetian who was not the official chronicler of Magellan's voyage.
Proof, Witnesses, and Testimonies
Eighteen out of 27 members of the Spanish forces who survived the battle described the opposing leader as Viejo, the Spanish description of people over 60 years old. Gerona said it is impossible for the battle of Mactan to be led by Lapu-Lapu since the chieftain the survivors described was already old, about 70 years old.
There are also documents that showed Lapu-Lapu recognizing the Spanish Crown's authority through Magellan and have allegedly agreed to pay tribute to the foreign forces.
The relationship lopsided when Magellan appointed Rajah Humabon as supreme chieftain and demanded Lapu-Lapu to kiss Humabon's hand as recognition of his authority.
After Lapu-Lapu's refusal, Magellan's troop immediately infiltrated the chieftain's village twice, burning their houses. The foreign forces launched a full battle to neutralize Lapu-Lapu and his men.
Why Magellan Lost
Gerona said Magellan misjudged the limit of the local warriors, who just had unrefined weapons. The Portuguese declined Humabon's offer to send many local warriors to strengthen the Spanish powers, who would be advised to use advanced weapons and wear body protective layers.
Only 57 members of the Spanish forces docked and launched an assault on Mactan. The Spaniards were up against 1,000 warriors Lapu-Lapu had sent.
Gerona said Magellan was initially immobilized by a poisoned arrow that hit his leg. The pioneer of the Spanish endeavor was then executed with a bamboo spear to the midsection.
Eighteen members of the Spanish troops were able to return to Spain while 9 survivors were given asylum by Humabon.
After his glorious victory in battle, Lapu-Lapu demanded that Humabon executes the survivors. The latter refused and instead sold the survivors as slaves to Chinese traders.
According to the historian, way before Magellan arrived in the Philippines, Cebu was already a melting pot for trade with a community so vibrant and involved in commerce.
Lapu-Lapu was the preeminent boss among four chieftains administering Mactan at the time. From records by writers, Lapu-Lapu was also a pirate. He would bait exchanging boats to his domain and interest tributes.
Gerona additionally found that Lapu-Lapu was really the sibling of Humabon's central spouse in any case, for reasons unknown, the two chieftains' relations were not sincere.