The photo at the left shows the statue of Lapulapu at the Mactan Shrine.
(Click on the photo to view a larger picture.)

Lapulapu is considered one of the greatest figures of ancient Philippine history. Although the first thing that usually comes to mind when the name of Lapulapu is mentioned is the fact that his battle with Magellan led to Magellan's death, Lapulapu is not honored because of that. Rather, he is honored because he was among the first to reject submission to a foreign power even though Raja1 Humabon, ruler of the neighboring island of Cebu, and other chiefs recognized the king of Spain as their sovereign and agreed to pay tribute.

On April 28, 1521, Magellan and some sixty of his men battled with the forces of Lapulapu on the shores of Mactan island. During the battle, Magellan was wounded in the leg. Seeing this, several members of Lapulapu's forces rushed at Magellan and killed him with their spears. With the death of Magellan, the Spaniards retreated to their ships and left. Lapulapu's victory is celebrated annually with a re-enactment of the battle at the site where the original battle is believed to have occurred.

Little is known regarding Lapulapu's life. However, he figures in several legends one of which is the legend of the Origin of the Coconut. Lapulapu also indirectly figures in a 20th-century legend, the legend of the Bow and Arrow.


In 1518, Ferdinand Magellan convinced King Charles I of Spain that the Moluccas, then known as the Spice Islands2, could be reached by sailing west. Magellan told the king that the Moluccas belonged to the Spanish side of the demarcation line drawn according to the Treaty of Tordesillas3. The king agreed to send an expedition to the Spice Islands under the command of Magellan. On September 20, 1519, the expedition sailed southward across the Atlantic Ocean. Magellan reached the southernmost tip of South America where he crossed the strait to the Pacific Ocean4. Magellan crossed the Pacific Ocean and, in March of 1521, reached the Marianas. After resting his men and procuring provisions, Magellan continued his voyage and, on March 17, 1521, sighted the mountains of Samar, marking their arrival in the Philippine Archipelago.


  1. "Raja" means "chief" or "king".
  2. Interest in the Spice Islands is understandable since trade in spices was very lucrative.
  3. The Treaty of Tordesillas, concluded by the kings of Spain and Portugal on June 7, 1494, drew an imaginary line from north to south at a distance of 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. In the treaty, the two monarchs agreed that lands east of this line would belong to Portugal and those west of the line would belong to Spain.
  4. The strait is now called the Strait of Magellan.

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