President Rodrigo Duterte claimed on National Heroes’ Day that Lapu-Lapu, the first known Filipino hero, has been forgotten by history even though he has statues made for him, a city named after him, and a holiday to commemorate his victory.
“History forgot him. He was the first hero” the president said during his speech at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig.
When asked in an interview if he would consider a proposal to rename the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to “Lapu-Lapu International Airport,” Duterte replied that “Magellan was the first invader to set foot in the Philippines and it was Lapu-Lapu who fought [him]. Why is [Magellan] more honored in our country?”
“May Lapu-Lapu hotel tapos isda Lapu-Lapu, its crazy. Lapu-Lapu fought for our country … he was able to kill the leader of the expeditionary force [of Spain]. Bakit ko ipangalan sa hindi natin kadugo?” Duterte said.
Giving reverence to the legendary chieftain
Contrary to Duterte’s claim that history has forgotten Lapu-Lapu, the “Hero of Mactan” is among the most famous historical figures in Philippine history for defeating Portuguese navigator-soldier Ferdinand Magellan in the Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521.
In Rizal Park, Manila stands the 30-foot tall bronze “Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom” which depicts Lapu-Lapu standing tall and ready with his native “kampilan” sword firmly planted in the ground.
A 20-meter bronze statue of Lapu-Lapu in Mactan Island in Punta Engaño is the most notable relic that paid homage to the native hero. A few meters from it, the Magellan Monument had stood since it was built in 1866.
Lapu-Lapu City, named after the hero in 1961, is located on Mactan island and is a thriving city that is part of Metro Cebu.
It was then Congressman Manuel A. Zosa who sponsored the city charter on June 17, 1961, wherein the former municipality of Opon was converted to the present-day Lapu-Lapu city.
Moreover, the Lapu-Lapu fish or the leopard coral grouper is a sought-after type of reef fish found in the provinces of Cebu, Palawan, Sorsogon and Romblon.
Last July 2018, Duterte signed Republic Act 11040 that declares April 27 as a special working public holiday throughout the country and a special non-working holiday in Cebu to celebrate Lapu-Lapu Day.
Duterte has also created the “Order of Lapu-Lapu” which is composed of three medals that are awarded to government workers and private individuals.
The Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection have a profile of Lapu-Lapu on their official seals while his face was also previously on the one-centavo coin which is no longer in circulation. —Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos