Quantcast
Latest Stories

Inquirer Visayas

Reexamining Pigafetta’s Battle of Mactan

By

TRIBAL men headed by Datu Lapu-Lapu battle with Spanish invaders headed by Ferdinand Magellan during last year’s Kadaugan sa Mactan reenactment at the Mactan Shrine. JUNJIE MENDOZA/CDN

CEBU—Had it not been for Antonio  Pigafetta, the ethnographer, people would know very little about explorer Ferdinand Magellan and the world’s first successful circumnavigation.

Pigafetta’s keen observation of the events during Magellan’s historic voyage also enabled Filipinos to learn about the lives of their ancestors before the Spaniards formally staked their claim on the Philippine archipelago in 1565.

Although his testimony was meant for European readers and was not entirely free of bias and outright lies, it gave a detailed account of the Battle of Mactan, the first successful Filipino resistance against foreign invaders.

And in today’s celebration of the 492nd anniversary of the historic battle, it is timely to reexamine Pigafetta’s testimony of the event.

It can now be told that Lapu-Lapu, the valiant chieftain who led his men to fight the Spaniards on April 27, 1521, might have held a grudge against the abusive foreigners for burning Bulaia, a village beside Mactan, for unknown reasons.

Other chieftains

But other chieftains, for personal reasons, had already allied themselves with the Spaniards. Humabon, the king of Cebu, befriended the Spaniards to save his skin, especially after hearing from some Asian traders that the same group of men had conquered India and Malacca.

Another chieftain was Zula, whom Pigafetta identified as another Mactan chieftain.

Zula’s plan to ally with Magellan was revealed on the night of April 26 when he sent his son to offer two goats to the Spaniards. He could also have  fulfilled his other promises had Lapu-Lapu recognized the king of Spain.

Already angered by Lapu-Lapu’s obstinacy, Magellan was persuaded to send his men to help Zula defeat Lapu-Lapu.

Magellan wanted to personally teach Lapu-Lapu a lesson. “We begged him not to go,” Pigafetta wrote, “but he, like a good shepherd, refused to abandon his flock.”

With 60 men and accompanied by Humabon and other chiefs in 20 to 30 balanghai, Magellan sailed for Mactan that midnight, reaching the island three hours before dawn. He waited until daybreak before sending another message to Lapu-Lapu to surrender to Spanish sovereignty. The native held his ground.

Forty-nine men disembarked and waged the war of conquest. Humabon volunteered to help, but Magellan declined. Only 11 stayed to guard the ships.

“When we reached land,” Pigafetta continued, “those men had formed three divisions to the number of 1,500 persons.”

While the number of men who left the ships may be accurate, the battle positions taken by Lapu-Lapu’s followers may have been a figment of Pigafetta’s imagination since they might not have employed any other fighting strategy than asdang or hand-to-hand combat and stealth.

Pigafetta may also have intentionally bloated the number of Lapu-Lapu’s men so the Spaniards would appear heroic before the eyes of his European audience. But having more than 1,000 fighters was simply untenable.

According to  Miguel de Loarca, the entire island of Cebu had only 2,490 “indios” in 1582, on top of about 1,600 from Camotes, Bantayan and Mactan islands.

Swords vs spears

Magellan’s men used standard European arms, such as swords, crossbows and muskets, while the natives wielded bamboo lances and stakes, as well as stones and mud.

Even with their enemies’ puny arms, “we could scarcely defend ourselves,” Pigafetta wrote.

Finding the situation hopeless, Magellan sent some of his men to burn the natives’ huts  to terrify them.

When they saw their homes in flames, they became more furious. “So they charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with poisoned arrows.”

With the snake venom taking its toll on his body, Magellan ordered a retreat. However, the pullback was slow. Besides fending off the raining bamboo spears, wading through the muddy shores of Mactan on boots must have also aggravated the situation of the Spaniards.

This gave the defenders the chance to pounce on them. Specifically directing their attention at Magellan, whom the natives saw as the leader, “many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet … twice.”

Embellishing his story with a dose of chivalric fiction, Pigafetta continued: “But he (Magellan) always stood firmly like a good knight … . Thus did we fight for more than an hour, refusing to retire farther.”

Unbelievable as it may seem, the end finally came for Magellan. “An Indian hurled a bamboo spear on the captain’s face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance.”

He wanted to draw out his sword but before he could do this, the natives “all hurled themselves upon him.” Wounded by a kampilan or cutlass, Magellan fell face down.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Antonio Pigafetta , Battle of Mactan , Cebu , Ferdinand Magellan , History , Lapu-Lapu




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. US teacher fired over comment on black president
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. Filipinos, Dane re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  4. Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  5. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Massive infra spending set
  8. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  9. Easter crucifixions draw huge crowds
  10. Korea ferry captain arrested, divers spot bodies
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  9. Massive infra spending set
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  5. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  6. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  7. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
Advertisement

News

  • Russia promises support to ending Ukraine crisis
  • Busted valve delays water interruption
  • Cardinal Tagle decries human ‘commercialization’
  • Religion builds bridges in ethnically split Cyprus
  • Iran general urges Tehran to make new UN pick
  • Sports

  • Vettel hoping for resurgence at Chinese GP
  • MLB pitcher donates $100,000 for Sewol ferry victims
  • Hamilton takes pole at Chinese Grand Prix
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015
  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus
  • 5 Filipinos with MERS in UAE reported in stable condition
  • PH boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare
  • Canadians back PH plea to take back waste
  • We treasure our Sierra Madre
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement