Seares: Lapu-Lapu stature reduced by move to change his monument

LAPU-LAPU was not among the nine persons in the shortlist that the National Heroes Committee--created under then president Fidel V. Ramos’ 1993 executive order 75--recommended in 1995 to be declared national heroes.

No action was taken on that list and to this day no historical figure has been proclaimed by law or executive order as a national hero. Several persons though are honored “for their significant roles” in nation-building and contribution to history: Rizal and Bonifacio, among others.

Cebu’s “historical figure” Lapu-Lapu didn’t make it to the Heroes Nine list under Ramos’ term. Yet he is honored by the law that declares April 27 of each year as non-working special day in Lapu-Lapu City.

The Battle of Mactan, reenacted during the annual local celebration, presents Lapu-Lapu as the hero who killed Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who sailed in 1519 from Spain with five ships bearing the Spanish flag.

Criteria of a ‘nation’

It is held unlikely that national leaders will pick up the idea of FVR to proclaim national heroes. Ramos himself dropped the plan, realizing it would set off controversy and it was more prudent to leave judgment of the heroes to history.

But should the present or future President pursue it, the criteria the committee adopted in 1995 would probably not change for Lapu-Lapu’s benefit.

The said guidelines talked of a “concept of nation” and “struggle for a nation’s freedom.” Heroes must “aspire and struggle for the nation’s freedom” and “define and contribute to a system or life of freedom and order for a nation.” Heroes are “those who make the constitution and laws” and “contribute to the quality of life and destiny of a nation.” They “must think of the future, especially the future generations.” Choosing a hero “involves not just the recounting of an episode or event in history, but of the entire process that made a particular person a hero.”

Lapu-Lapu would be struck out, as he was from the 1995 selection, under all the criteria. He wasn’t moved by love of nation or concern for the future generation when he battled Magellan almost 500 years ago.

Monument to replace statue

And under the plan of the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC) for the 2021 celebration of Magellan’s arrival in the country, Lapu-Lapu, who has been credited with killing Magellan, will be depicted with a less than heroic role.

His statue at the site of the Battle of Mactan will be moved to the courtyard of a soon-to-be-built museum. It will be replaced by a monument, named “Shrine of Liberty,” that will depict the killing of Magellan as “a collective effort,” not a one-man assassination.

An article last week in “National Geographic” said Magellan was killed by a poison arrow while attacking Lapu-Lapu’s people when the foreigner became “embroiled in a rivalry between Humabon and Lapu-Lapu, two local chieftains.”

It was an “unnecessary war” that, historian Laurence Bergreen said, was Magellan’s “undoing.”

Italian scholar Antonio Pigafetta wrote, the NatGeo article reported: “They all at once rushed upon him with lances of iron and of bamboo, so that they slew our mirror, our light, our comfort and our true guide.” The crew left Magellan’s body behind, which reflected not much affection for their skipper.

“Killed by locals”

No mention of swordplay between Lapu-Lapu and Magellan, which the annual “palabas” in Mactan depicts. A timeline of NatGeo lists April 27, 1521 thus: “Magellan is killed in battle with locals.”

Lapu-Lapu’s role in the event the nation commemorates two years from now will be diminished. But some historians such as Ambeth Ocampo believe he won’t cease to be “a symbol or resistance and pride.”

I don’t think Rep. Paz Radaza would care if Magellan didn’t actually die in the hands of Lapu-Lapu or for whatever reason the foreigner was killed.

She wouldn’t withdraw her bills seeking to declare April 27 of each year as a non-working holiday throughout the country and to rename the international airport in her city as Lapu-Lapu International Airport.


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