NHCP corrects error over true hero of Battle of Bangkusay
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has corrected a centuries-old error committed by Spanish and Filipino historians, by proclaiming an unnamed leader of Macabebe as the hero and martyr in the Battle of Bangkusay.
This was the conflict where warriors of Pampanga province and their allies from Bulacan province resisted the first attempts of Spain to colonize Luzon.
Rajah Soliman, nephew of the rulers of Manila and Tondo, had always been credited for leading that battle.
The unnamed Macabebe hero was recognized in a marker that was unveiled on June 3 by NHCP Chair Maria Serena Diokno in Macabebe town on the 445th anniversary of the battle.
The marker’s inscriptions honor “The Young Leader of Macabebe,” which is described as the hero who “led more than 2,000 Moro warriors from Macabebe, Hagonoy, and other parts of Pampanga to expel Spaniards from Luzon, 31 May 1571.”
It says: “He tried to convince Lakan Dula of Tondo to join in his campaign, but the latter had already pledged his loyalty to the Spaniards, together with Rajah Matanda and Rajah Soliman of Manila. He refused the friendship offered by Governor General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and instead challenged him to a battle at the mouth of Bangkusay estuary, Tondo, Manila Bay. He was killed in the battle, along with 300 more Moros, 3 June 1571.”
The defeat in Bangkusay allowed the Spaniards to reach Betis and Lubao, then Muslim settlements.
Ian Christopher Alfonso, an NHCP researcher, called the marker unique because the state “honors a nameless hero and saves him from obscurity, oblivion, and anonymity—the first of its kind in the 83 years of the NHCP’s existence.”
It took the NHCP more than five years to address the request of Robby Tantingco, executive director of the Holy Angel University’s Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS), to put a marker for the Macabebe martyr.
Tantingco told the NHCP that the controversy over the martyr’s name has “eclipsed the discourse on his role in history and derailed efforts to give him due recognition.”
Legazpi and chroniclers with him did not record the martyr’s name, writing accounts only of his bravery. In 1934, town officials built a monument for him, calling him “King of Macabebe.”
So-called misinterpretations of earlier accounts or search for early freedom icons led to the error, Alfonso said.
The NHCP settled with the title “The Young Leader of Macabebe” because its research publication and heraldry division rejected the names Bambalito, Tarik Soliman, Bangkaw and Tarik Soliman Bangkaw as these did not have documentary evidence.
“This Kapampangan should be honored as the first Filipino to give up his life defending freedom against foreign invaders,” Tantingco said.
CKS also launched Alfonso’s book, “The Nameless Hero,” which revisited primary, secondary and tertiary sources on the battle. Tantingco hopes the book and the marker would “underscore the role of the youth in nation building.”
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