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3 Myths About the Battle of Mactan, Debunked!

In honor of the historic battle's 500th anniversary, we list some of its myths that were debunked by historians!

A few months ago, Ez Mil, a Filipino-American rapper based in California, went viral for his song, “Panalo (Trap Cariñosa).” Its lyrics, which portray the winning spirit of Filipinos and their resilience, received mixed reactions from the online audience.

In what some call a pseudo nationalistic song, Ez Mil mentioned the Battle of Mactan where the infamous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan died at the hands of the Cebuanos. The rapper inaccurately described the events that transpired on April 27, 1521, which Mayor Junard Chen of Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, deemed disrespectful. (Read: Filipinos in Spain Celebrate 500 Years of PH Christianity)

So what is the true and accurate story about the 1521 Battle of Mactan? Here are some myths that historians have debunked over the years, in honor of the historic battle’s 500th anniversary today!

Myth: Lapu-Lapu and Magellan Had a One-on-One Battle

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Photo from edhaje YouTube

In most real-life and fantasy stories, heroes and villains would always have a one-on-one battle before the ending. And for the longest time, that was how the story of the historic Battle of Mactan went.

However, according to historian Prof. Xiao Chua, there wasn’t a sword fight that happened between the two. (Read: Four My Pope-approved films that will stir your Filipino pride)

“There’s always this imagination that Lapu-Lapu was one-on-one with Magellan, which was not the case. People just assumed that the two leaders will have their man-to-man but they did not,” Chua said.

Myth: Magellan Discovered the Philippines

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QUINCENTENNIAL. The “First Contact” between the crew of Ferdinand Magellan and locals in Guiuan, Eastern Samar as illustrated by artist Derrick Macutay. (Photo from NHCP/Philippine News Agency)

Some refer to the Spaniards’s arrival on Mactan’s shores as the “discovery of the Philippines,” but that isn’t the case. They arrived on Philippine shores in 1521— long after early Filipinos have established a society with a form of government.

When Magellan and his crew arrived, there were already Datus and Rajas who were ruling the islands in Cebu. This shows that Filipinos were already civilized way before the Spaniards arrived, and already living as a society. (Read: The 500-Year History of Catholicism in the Philippines)

As a matter of fact, in 2007, a team of researchers found a foot bone in the Callao Cave which dated back around 67,000 years ago. It has been named the Homo luzonensis as the bone was found in Luzon.

Myth: Lapu-Lapu Died in the Battle of Mactan

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Lapu-Lapu Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

In Ez Mil’s song, his lyrics said “Pinugutan si Lapu sa Mactan.” But that is far from the truth. Historical records show that Lapu-Lapu was born in 1491, but had no date of death. Accounts say that he was around 70 years old during the Battle of Mactan, 29 years Magellan’s senior. But he didn’t actually die in battle against the explorers, nor was beheaded.

Varying accounts say Lapu-Lapu died a year after the battle (probably due to old age or illness), while some say he moved back to Borneo after the battle and then died there.

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