Mactan Shrine: The Symbol of the Original Filipino Grit

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The 20-feet bronze statue of Datu Lapu-Lapu which serves as the focal point of interest of the Shrine.

Beyond the typical exterior of the Mactan Shrine park, where both public and private transportation traverse forming part of the daily grind of Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City lies the hallow ground, where one fateful day a long time ago, a fierce battle was fought in the name of freedom and love. That battle was then centuries later dubbed as the ‘Battle of Mactan’.

The Battle of Mactan: The Fight that Started It All

One cannot separate the relevance of the Battle of Mactan from the Mactan Shrine or the significance of the latter from the former in as far as the parallel historical connotation of both is concerned. As the Battle of Mactan planted the very first seed of nationalism and autonomy along the then [perhaps] jagged coast of Mactan Island, the Mactan Shrine, in turn opines this gallant crusade, embracing fervently the memories of the perilous adventure in the dim and distant past.

On March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan (a.k.a. Fernão de Magalhães) a Portuguese explorer and conquistador commissioned by Spain made his first landing in the Philippines via Homonhon Island, in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where he openly claimed a portion of the Philippine archipelago, specifically the ones he had seen as part of the possessions of the King of Spain and as such, named them ‘Islas de San Lazaro’ or ‘Archipelago of Saint Lazarus’.

A few weeks after, Magellan and his crew proceeded with their journey and reached the Island of Cebu, on April 7, 1521, which, at that time was under the kingship of Rajah Humabon. Magellan was auspicious in befriending the local chieftain, and in fact, was as well equally successful in converting the royal family, their kin, and some less than 1000 natives to Christianity. This friendship later ensured allegiance and submission of the nearby local chieftains to the Spanish crown, except for one local chieftain in Mactan Island named Datu Lapu-Lapu.

It is to be noted that in Mactan Island, there were two local chieftains leading two different tribes. One was Datu Zula—who pledged allegiance to Magellan, and thus, accepted the Spanish rule, and the other one was Datu Lapu-Lapu who vehemently resisted the idea.

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A painting depicting the heroic Battle of Mactan in 1521 featuring Lapu-Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan 

The Cause of the Battle:

Datu Zula, for his part accepted the friendship of Magellan, and hence, swore loyalty to the king of Spain.  Therefore, to uphold his vow, on April 26, 1521, he purposed to send one of his sons to bring two live goats as presents to Magellan as a sign of his loyalty and thus, to fulfill his promise of allegiance; however, this action was preempted by Datu Lapu-Lapu and barred Datu Zula from taking such an action. This provocative act by Lapu-Lapu further deepened the rift between the two Mactan rulers. Datu Zula, unable to send his presents because of Lapu-Lapu’s intervention, bid Magellan to send a boatload of men so he could fight Lapu-Lapu. Instead of one, Magellan nonetheless, sent three boatloads, with sixty of his men, himself included to personally lead the attack. Some of his men disapproved his decision of joining the invasion, but Magellan did not pay heed. Confident of their imminent victory, Magellan tagged along Rajah Humabon to witness the supposed looming European triumph.

Three hours before dawn, on April 27, 1521, Magellan and his troops landed on the sleeping coast of Mactan Island. With the help of a local Muslim merchant who acted as Magellan’s interpreter, Magellan admonished Lapu-Lapu to surrender, yet the latter was still formidably defiant. The premature attack did not happen right away, but Magellan and his men returned to their boats and had to postpone their plan of invasion until in the morning.

According to some historians, Magellan’s victory could be easily guaranteed if not for the terrain of the battleground. Accordingly, the sea was brimming with rock and corals which hindered Magellan’s boats, especially the large ones from approaching the shore and the huge fleets from firing munitions as a support. In fact, Magellan and some of his men had to paddle ‘three crossbow flights’ just to reach the coastline.

With forty-nine men including himself, Magellan undertook a ‘suicidal’ attack against Lapu-Lapu’s approximately 1,500 men, based on the recorded chronicle of Antonio Pigafetta. In this vantage, being under-numbered would mean a clear and easy defeat for Magellan and his men. But it was not the case. Armed with warfare and battle strategies far more advanced than that of the natives’, not to mention the impenetrable battle outfits which seemed invincible, they were still at leverage.

The battle was orchestrated in a manner that Lapu-Lapu’s warriors grouped themselves into three, while Magellan divided his troops into two. Lapu-Lapu’s men attacked the two groups of Magellan around and in front, while Magellan, on the other hand, instructed his men to engage the local fighters with arquebuses and crossbows, and consequently backed with the firing of missiles. Comparing with Europeans’ sturdy war paraphernalia, the native warrior’s spirit remained tenacious. Apparently, the mishandling of the missile usage caused the then-approaching defeat of the Europeans. The wasteful firing of the missiles held up the upper-hand position of the Europeans for but half an hour only, after which, Lapu-Lapu countered Magellan’s missiles by launching a barrage of bows and poisoned arrows, even with some stones.  However, the fired weapons seemed to have a little effect as there was only a recorded of eight Europeans who were killed in the entire course of the battle.

The Europeans were wearing ‘corselets and helmets’, and as a consequence, the fired missiles stood a little chance in puncturing their armors. Despite the seemingly invincible front of the invaders, the local warriors’ spirit remained intact.  In Magellan’s attempt to distract the local warriors, he ordered two of his men to burn the huts of the natives, which fueled the native warriors’ rage even more. As their fury mounted, they showered more poisoned arrows, which acutely hit Magellan in the legs. It was not clear though if it was a lucky hit on the part of the native warriors or it was a contemplated shot that aimed on the exposed legs of their opponents.

Magellan called for a withdrawal of troops. Most of his men were demoralized, and some fled away, leaving Magellan with only six or eight men to protect him. To ensure the safety of his remaining troops, Magellan with the (six or eight) eight remaining men, covered the retreating soldiers.

According to Pigafetta’s journal, there were only a total of eight deaths, and a large number of unspecified wounded in the part of the Europeans, while, he accounted fifteen killed and an unspecified number of fatalities in the side of Lapu-Lapu.

Mactan Shrine: A Symbol of Valiancy

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The four-sided obelisk engraved with the names of Ferdinand Magellan, et. al., vis-a-vis the copper figure of Lapu-Lapu.

Many centuries have passed, the very first act of nationalism to defy foreign rule still remained in the hearts of the Filipinos, and as a commemoration to this gallant act, in the very place where the historical Battle of Mactan was instigated was erected a shrine in memory of the greatness of the early Filipinos led by Datu Lapu-Lapu.

The Mactan Shrine is encapsulated in a public park dotted with trees and a variety of tropical floras that accommodates family picnics, outings, lovers’ rendezvous, and sightseeing destination for those curious souls who want to remember the enormity of distant past.

Within the square are souvenir shops, refreshment stalls, and a four-sided obelisk engraved with the names of Hernando de Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan), as well as Reinando Ysabel II and the words ‘Glorias Españolas’ and ‘Siendo Gobernador Don Miguel Creus’ on each facet. A few meters away towards the coast is where the 20-feet bronze statue of Datu Lapu-Lapu—the locus of the Shrine is situated. In front of the statue is the platform where the actual Battle took place.

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The setting of the actual Battle of Mactan in low tide. The platform also serves as the venue where the re-enactment of the said combat is staged in ‘Kadaugan sa Mactan’.

To honor the brave and heroic feat of Lapu-Lapu and his warriors against the foreign invaders led by Magellan, the local government of Lapu-Lapu City launched the ‘Kadaugan sa Mactan’ in 1981, and has since then became an annual festival.

The ‘Kadaugan sa Mactan’ or ‘Bahugbahug sa Mactan’ is a week-long festival which commences with a street dancing, and culminates with the re-enactment of the Battle of Mactan at the Mactan Shrine every morning of April 27th, where the start of the dramatization depends greatly on the condition of the tide.

See Also:

Fort San Pedro-A Reminder of Cebu’s Colorful Past

Cebu City–The Queen City of the South

 

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Fort San Pedro-A Reminder of Cebu’s Colorful Past

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Fort San Pedro or Fuerte de San Pedro is known to be the oldest Spanish fortification in the Philippines. The triangular-shaped fortress whose two sides look out onto the sea, while the remaining side faces the land—a strategic position at that time to carefully observe the immediate environs, thus protecting the Spanish settlement effectively, is the smallest citadel in the country with a total interior area of 2,025 meters square.

Its towers are 30 feet high from the ground, with walls of 20 feet in height, and 8 feet in thickness. Imagine an average one-storey wall-height of a typical house in the Philippines and turn it horizontal-wise. That would serve as the thickness of Fort San Pedro’s limestone walls!

Built in 1565, with the main purpose of border defense and/or land claim, it was originally constructed out of wood in the coastal area of the present Cebu City, specifically in the adjacent grounds of the present-day Plaza Independencia under the mandate of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first Spanish governor-general of the Philippines. Hence, Fort San Pedro served not only as a fort, but as a garrison as well to defend the [first] Spanish enclave in the Philippines—the Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus (Village of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), in what is today called as Cebu City.

 

Metamorphoses and Renovations

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Over the years, the citadel underwent several metamorphosis and renovations. From the initial wooden structure, the fort many years later welcomed a new anatomy of stone mortar construction, as a defense to the intermittent uprisings of the displeased natives. By 1898, Fuerte de San Pedro fell to the hands of the Cebuano revolutionaries when the Americans under the command of Commodore George Dewey subjugated the Spanish fleets in the Battle of Manila Bay, which marked the fall of Spain. The said battle resulted in the cession of the Philippine archipelago by Spain to the United States.

During the American regime, the fort served initially as the American barracks, after which, in 1937-1941, it was transformed into a school, where Cebuanos were given formal education.

During World War II, that is, from 1942 to 1945, with the successful invasion of Japan, the fort served as the Japanese stronghold. However, it was converted into an emergency hospital to accommodate the wounded in the fight to liberate Cebu from the Japanese Imperial forces later on. Then by 1946-1950, Fort San Pedro functioned as an army camp then following 1950, the Cebu Garden Club assumed the management of the fort, renovated its interiors, and laid out a mini-garden.

Despite of the heavy ruins, the fort was still functional, the upper deck, at least, were used as offices. Its almost-demise came with the announcement of then mayor Sergio Osmeña Jr. to demolish the place and erect in place of it the new Cebu City Hall; nevertheless, it was impeded by massive protests and demonstrations.

After the nearly-demise, Fort San Pedro was used again to house a zoo, which was managed by a religious sect. However, by 1968, the zoo was relocated and the serious and tedious effort to restore the ruined fort started.

Outside the walls of the existing Fort San Pedro are the separate individual statues of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines, who commanded the building of the fort; and Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler who joined Ferdinand Magellan’s mission, and who was among the three people who first circumnavigated the world.

 

Fort San Pedro Today

At present, Fort San Pedro is used as a museum where it houses the Spanish memorabilia and artifacts like documents, files, and the original Spanish flag, as well as some exhibits involving the important rulers of Cebu City, some mini-galleons, and the Cebuano fighters.

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Apart from that, the interior garden of the fort sometimes hosts private functions, cultural events, and wedding receptions and is also favorite spot for pre-nuptial pictorials.

And finally, with its relaxing surrounding, Fort San Pedro is also a popular destination for family bonding, romantic rendezvous, and for friendly meet up venue, as well.

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Cebu City–The Queen City of the South

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Cebu City also known as ‘Dakbayan sa Sugbo’ in Cebuano, is located in the central part of the Philippines. Being the capital of Cebu province, and of Region 7, i.e., the Central Visayas Region, it is considered to be one of the giant economic powerhouses of the Philippines, next to the Imperial Manila, with industries sprawling from BPOs, tourism, banking and finance, service, hospitality, shipping, and manufacturing enterprises. Thus, it is not a surprise when it is referred to as the ‘Queen City of the South’.

It is said that Cebu got its name from the Cebuano phrase ‘Sinibuayng hingpit’ which literally means ‘place for trade’, which was later on abridged to ‘Sibu’ or ‘Sibo’ meaning ‘trade’. Other variation of its etymology is ‘Sebu’ which suggests ‘animal fat’.  Still others, as history would point out, ‘Sugbo’ the local name of Cebu was coined after its founder Sri Lumay’s  (a prince of the Hindu Chola dynasty of Sumatran origin) winning stratagems in the extermination of the Moro pirates, as immortalized in his gallant ‘scorched earth’ war tactics called ‘Kang Sri Lumaying Sugbo’, which means, ‘that of Sri Lumay’s great fire’, hence, ‘Sugbo’ means ‘great fire’.

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Cebu was known to be a fishing village which gradually transformed in to a trading community. It has an organized social structure, headed by a rajah. A long time ago, Cebu City was a component of the island ‘Pulua Kang Dayang’ or ‘Kangdaya’ which formed part the Rajahnate of Cebu, an ancient Philippine state and was ruled by Sri Lumay  (or alternatively called ‘Rajamuda Lumaya’), a half-Tamil, half-Malay native ruler.

 

Cebu’s modern history can be traced back to Spain’s first attempt to conquer lands in the Far East by virtue of its territorial expansion under the guise of finding spices at Moluccas Island, and that expedition was spearheaded by Ferdinand Magellan.

The Spaniards’ presence was first felt on April 7, 1521 upon the arrival of Magellan in Cebu. He befriended the incumbent ruler at that time, Rajah Humabon, the grandson of Sri Lumay, and converted him and his wife, Hara Amihan to Christianity including some less than 1000 natives. As a gift, he bestowed to the king and the queen the image of Sto. Nino, which is at present housed at the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino. To further mark the Christianization of the island, Magellan then planted (or as some source claimed, ordered his men to plant) the so-called Magellan’s cross, and that consequently transpired to mark Spain’s first colonization attempt of the Philippines. Shortly after though, on April 27, 1521, Magellan was killed in the famous Battle of Mactan, in the hands of Lapu-Lapu, a native ruler of the adjacent island, Mactan. It was said that after Magellan’s death, Rajah Humabon poisoned Magellan’s remaining men on account of threat of foreign occupation. Rajah Tupas, Sri Humabon’s nephew was the last ruler of Sugbo.

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A few years after Spain’s first futile attempt to colonize Cebu came Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. De Legazpi brought with him the Augustinian friars that marked the first diaconate presence not only in Cebu, but all over the Philippines. By virtue of the Treaty of Cebu concluded between Rajah Tupas and de Legazpi, the formal mandate of the possession of Cebu City on behalf of the King of Spain took place. As a result, Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement in 1565 and called the city ‘Villa de San Miguel de Cebu’, and later called Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus, thus making Cebu the oldest city, anteceding Manila for 7 years.

The growing territory was then fortified by building the military fortress ‘Fuerte de San Pedro’ (Fort San Pedro) located in the area currently called Plaza de Independencia. The fortification, despite being the smallest in size in structure, is said to be the nucleus of the Spanish settlement.

With the advent of trade exchange, the Spanish colonization became extensive. Seven years after it conquered Cebu, de Legazpi’s troops moved toward Manila.

Spain’s appetite for power was insatiable. Its further usurpation of the Philippine islands resulted to their treacherous and malicious machination of countering Filipinos against each other. Because of their greed for power, corruption was rampant, hence, coercing the Filipinos to widespread nationwide uprisings. In Cebu, General Leon Kilat led the insurrection against the Spanish conquistadors on April 3, 1898 where he staged his revolutionary war on the present-day streets of V. Rama and Leon Kilat. The three-day revolt ended, unfortunately, with the treacherous murder of Gen. Leon Kilat and the arrival of the back-up native fighters from Iloilo. Some memorabilia of the aforementioned uprising are exhibited at the Fort San Pedro Museum as well as at Museo Sugbo.

By virtue of the Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded the entire Philippine archipelago to the United States until the establishment of the Commonwealth government, which would prepare the Philippines to its full independent status. One of the highlights of this era was the ratification of the bill Commonwealth Act 58, granting Cebu City its ‘independent Chartered City’ status. The bill was authored by Sen. Vicente Rama, who then later on was considered as the ‘Father of Cebu City’. On February 24, 1937, the City was inaugurated. Sworn as the first mayor was Hon. Alfredo V. Jacinto who was appointed by Pres. Manuel Quezon. By virtue of Republic Act No. 244, the first appointed Vice Mayor was Hon. Arsenio Villanueva who took his office on July 16, 1948. The first elected Mayor though was Hon. Sergio Osmeña Jr., and Hon. Ramon Duterte as the Vice-Mayor.

Being the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu boasts of the many historical firsts and in the country which include Colon Street as the oldest street, University of San Carlos (formerly known as ‘Colegio de San Ildefonso’) as the oldest school not only in the country, but also in Asia, Fort San Pedro as the oldest fort / fortification, and The Jesuit House Museum as the oldest documented house built in 1730, are some of the source of pride of Cebu City.