Victory of Lapu-Lapu chief draws 10,000 spectators
About 10,000 spectators came to watch the mock battle but had to wait for the tide to rise.
By 9:30 a.m., the drama on the beach of Mactan began.
Native warriors engaged in hand-to-hand combat with other actors playing the role of Spanish soldiers in yesterday’s reenactment of the 1521 Battle of Mactan, an annual event that is Lapu-Lapu city’s biggest tourist event and claim to national history, marking the discovery of the Philippines.
Half of the crowd waited patiently in the shallows, waist deep in water, so as not to miss the excitement.
“Never mind if we all got wet, we had fun, especially the children,” said local housewife Edna Escardo, 41, in Cebuano.
She carried a one-year-old daughter in her arms, one of five children with her waiting for hours near the Lapu-Lapu Shrine.
The battle scene had a “galleon” arrive on the sea and five huts set afire by invading Spaniards.
Datu Lapu-Lapu, chief of Mactan island, was portrayed by a bare chested Polo Ravales, a TV actor. With a thrust of his kampilan, he slayed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan played by actor Troy Montero.
A helicopter overhead dropped flower petals as “natives” erupted in celebration.
The cast of 180 included sports enthusiasts trained in arnis, an ancient Filipino form of stick fighting.
It’s important to highlight heroes and promote pride in Philippine history, said Cynthia Lazo, director for planning and promotions of the Department of Tourism.
In a speech at the event, she said celebrating historic events like this are important for “sustainable tourism”.
“The familiarization of culture focusing on our heroes will serve as an instrument for the sustainability of the tourism industry and will certainly contribute to love of our country and nation,” said Lazo.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, who won her recent protest against a diaper TV advertisement that spoofed the historic battle, called the good news another Kadaugan sa Mactan or “victory in Mactan.”
The 1521 battle was the first recorded victory of Filipinos against foreign domination.
Lazo said parents today worry about who their children idolize.
“Who are the heroes that children emulate? What are the heroes traits that serve to inspire our children to continue molding their values?” she asked.
She said Datu Lapu-Lapu was a good example of a leader who showed courage and love for his people. She said cultural traditions should highlight heroes, and values of determination, patience and hard work.
“Tourism sustainability is highly dependent on efforts to continue traditions and local practices,” said Lazo, adding that the industry “can create jobs and revenue for the country and locality.”
This includes preserving skills of craftsmen, historic buildings, indigenous knowledge of food, and traditional events such as the Battle of Mactan.
Cebu, a major tourist destination easily reached through its international airport, attracts over 1 million tourists a year with its mix of beach resorts and urban lifestyle.
Mayor Radaza recalled how city officials expressed outrage a few weeks ago over the EQ diaper advertisement that showed Lapu-Lapu getting provoked into a battle by an “inferior” diaper offered as a gift by Ferdinand Magellan.
The diaper company JS Uni Trade recently announced in its website that it was pulling out the commercial “out of courtesy” to Lapu-Lapu City .
“Nagmadaogon nasad ta. …murag mao sab nga usa napud ni natong Kadaugan sa Mactan,” said the mayor.
(We also won our battle.. it seems we have our own Victory in Mactan)
Radaza said Oponganons and other Cebuanos stood up to demand respect for their proud heritage.
“We must accurately promote our history and learn our lesson. Let us always stand proud of that time in our history where we were victorious in battle against foreign invaders,” she said.
Except for intense crowding at the reenactment scene, there were no d peace and order disturbances, said Lapu-Lapu city police chief Rey Lyndon Lawas.
About 250 police officers secured the area with reinforcements from the Air Force, Aviation Security Group (ASG) and bomb-sniffing dogs.
Police estimated the crowd of visitors at 10,000 at its peak.
Some spectators stayed near the shore or beside the mangroves.
Others watched from the bleachers.
Despite the big crowd, vendors and stall owners selling food and souvenirs said sales were less than expected.
“Daghan man tao pero mas daghan to sa una. Karon pa ni nga nigamay gud ang halin namo,” said Ariel Medel, a souvenir shop owner.
(There’s a lot of people but there were more visitors before. We had less sales this time.)
Medel, a stall holder there since 2011, said prices were kept at the same level but visitors seemed reluctant to buy them.
“Siguro tungod kay nagtipid pud sila,” he said. (Maybe people are also trying to hold on to their money.)
Meanwhile, the Lapu-Lapu housewife who came to watch with her children, said the beach side battle was entertaining and a lesson in identity.
“Dili lang siya lingaw, daghan pud kaayong makat-unan ang mga bata. Para unsa nalang ang ilang pagka Cebuano kung di sila makahibaw kabahing Lapu-Lapu ug Magellan,” said Escardo.
(This isn’t just for amusement. Children can learn a lot from this. What’s the use of being Cebuano if they don’t know anything about Lapu-Lapu and Magellan?)/ With SilLiman University intern Katrin Anne Arcala and correspondent Norman Mendoza
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