Correcting a historical blunder

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Sunday, April 27, 2014


BEFORE becoming a star-studded event, the reenactment of the Battle of Mactan was played by local personalities who used real weapons during the mock fight.

The first reenactment was staged on April 27, 1979 by the then Ministry of Youth and Sports Development during the administration of former president Ferdinand Marcos.

“We wanted to correct a historical blunder,” retired Bureau of Customs collector David Odilao Jr., who also served as the ministry’s regional director, told Sun.Star Cebu.

“We were celebrating all the falls--such as the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor, which we commemorate as the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor)--but we never gave enough importance to the only battle that we won against a foreign aggressor,” he said.

Datu Lapu-Lapu and his men defeated Spanish colonizers led by Ferdinand Magellan on the shore of Mactan on April 27, 1521.

Odilao conceptualized the “Bahug-bahug sa Mactan,” which featured not only a mock battle but several activities as well, including a performance of rituals, parades and variety shows.

Local personalities

“Bahug-bahug” is a Cebuano word for free-for-all or melee.

The ministry also constructed the first monument of Lapu-Lapu in what is now the Mactan Liberty Shrine, where the actual battle took place.

(As the ministry’s regional director, Odilao also initiated the Sinulog Festival in 1980, earning him the recognition as the “Father of the Sinulog.”)

Odilao said local personalities played the role of Datu Lapu-Lapu, Reyna Bulakna, Ferdinand Magellan and other historical figures involved in the historical battle. “We never imported talents,” he said.

For the past 10 years, the Lapu-Lapu City Government has tapped celebrities from Manila to play the roles of Datu Lapu-Lapu, Reyna Bulakna and Magellan. The event has also been renamed “Kadaugan sa Mactan” (Victory at Mactan).

World boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao was the most prominent celebrity to play Lapu-Lapu. The role of Reyna Bulakna has been played by the likes of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and actress Geneva Cruz. Among the actors who played Magellan were Patrick Garcia and Troy Montero.

In today’s reenactment, Miss Universe 2010 fourth-runner up Venus Raj is set to play Reyna Bulakna. Japanese-Brazilian model Daniel Matsunaga will take the role of Lapu-Lapu while actor Carlos Agassi will play Magellan.

Battle training

Apart from the reenactment, the highlights of the Kadaugan sa Mactan include street parties and the Rampada street-dancing contest.

Unlike in recent years, Odilao said the actors used real swords and bolos during his time. “If you reenact a battle, it has to look real,” he said.

The actors, he said, underwent training by arnis grand master Ciriaco Cañete for a month.

Although the Battle of Mactan is commemorated every year, Odilao said he feels the historical event has yet to be given the level of attention it deserves.

“It should be considered one of the biggest, if not the biggest event in the country’s history,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 27, 2014.

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