Amid the continuing pandemic, there’s growing but still subdued excitement over the Quincentennial Commemoration of the Victory of Mactan, pegged on April 27.
Most people I talk to are aware of the battle where Lapulapu repelled and killed Magellan, together with some of his sailors.
The Quincentennial, what a mouthful, is important, a chance to set our history right. I’m hoping that this will put an end to history classes where students are made to memorize, as we were in our youth, March 16, 1521 as “the day Magellan discovered the Philippines.”
There is now a pending House Bill No. 8897 proposing April 27 as a nonworking holiday, a second attempt preceded some years back by another proposed bill which did not pass, although Lapulapu Day was allowed as a non-working holiday only in Lapulapu City.
I tried to dig up more information about Lapulapu and the more I read the more I’m convinced that while he did represent the first anti-colonial resistance, we might want to use an April 27 holiday to commemorate many other anti-colonial revolts, against the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese.
There’s actually very little factual information available about Lapulapu. A Wikipedia entry about him, it turns out, is based largely on the transcription of a dance-epic, “Aginid: Bayok sa Atong Tawarik,” by Jovito Abellana, which was first published in 1998 by the Cebu Normal University Museum. The title translates as “Glide On: Odes to Our History,” aginid being a dance with gliding movements similar to the balitaw.
A folklore specialist, Romola Ouano-Savellon, analyzed Aginid in a published article in the University of San Carlos’ Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society and verified that the presence of archaic Cebuano words and the style of the poetry suggests Aginid has ancient origins but at the same time, there are other signs the story has been embellished, mainly to give more prominence to Humabon, who was originally Lapulapu’s rival.
In contrast, Ouano-Savellon notes that there are two other works, Gerry Yaun Desabelle’s “Lapulapu City: Its Role in the Birth of the Filipino Nation” and Lina Quimat’s “Cebu: Our Glimpses in History of Early Cebu,” that literally glorify Lapulapu, giving him superhuman powers.
My concern is that all this focus on Lapulapu might obscure the many other revolts during the Spanish era. In Bohol, just across from Cebu, there were several major revolts against the Spaniards led by Sikatuna, Tamblot, Handog, Guba-guba, Baylan Karyapa, and by Francisco Dagohoy, who started a revolt against polo (forced labor), bandala (taxes) and generally oppressive conditions. Dagohoy, a cabeza de barangay, and an orasyonan (one who uses oraciones or prayers to heal) led a revolt that outlived him, lasting from 1744 to 1828, a total of 85 years and 20 Spanish governor-generals.
So strong was the impact of Dagohoy’s revolt that in Bohol there are still sukdan or local shamans (healers who go into trance states) whose rituals of song and dance commemorate Dagohoy’s courage and leadership. These are well documented by Boholano Ulysses Aparece, also in the Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society (The journal is published by the University of San Carlos, which is playing a pivotal role in the Quincentennial commemorations.)
I should clarify I am not a purist insisting on historical facts around our heroes and heroines. Being more of an anthropologist, I see an opportunity for us to build a sense of nationhood by drawing from folklore and cultural memories, which is why I so enjoyed Aparece’s article, where he also mentions growing up with stories of “spirit warriors in hot pursuit of Spanish soldiers.” Well, in UP Diliman, there are still stories in the appropriately named Dagohoy area about spirit Katipuneros passing through at night… on spirit horses!
Lutgardo Labad, a Boholano and master of theater, launched some years back “Dagon sa Hoyohoy,” playing on the origins of the surname Dagohoy, dagon being a talisman or anting-anting and hoyohoy being a gentle breeze.
Let’s look at this year’s Quincentennial as a time to push harder to retrieve our anti-colonial past, spanning the length of our archipelago. To name a few, from the revolts of Diego and Gabriela Silang up north, down to Jolo and the Muslims’ resistance to the Americans, exemplified by 600 men, women and children massacred, with no survivors, in 1906 in Bud Dajo, an extinct crater. Their ghosts wait to be resurrected in our textbooks, in our theater, and in our memories.
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