Magellan was killed by Boholano Sampong Bahâ, but the honor was given to Lapu-Lapu

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Magellan was killed by Boholano Sampong Bahâ, but the honor was given to Lapu-Lapu

Topic |  


As part of the quincentennial (500 years) commemoration of the victory of Lapulapu over the Portuguese turned Spaniard Ferdinand Magellan, we will write historical informations that are seldom taught in school.

The most commonly used reference book for the so called “Battle of Mactan Island” is the recorded stories of Antonio Pigafetta who was a participant of the Magellan expedition. Even though it has some errors in the chronological order of events and erroneous names of places and people, it is considered factual enough as a reference.

In our case the most commonly used version of the record is Volume 33 of the 55 volumes “The Philippine Islands” authored by Emma Blair and James Robertson.  The Volume 33 has both the Italian language version written by Pigafetta and the English translations by Blair and Robertson.


Local Records

It is possible that local versions of the events were also written.  However, due to our Americanized education, we are inclined not to believe the local versions.

At the Cebu Studies Center of the University of San Carlos, there are available local records that I have read.  There are Affidavits submitted by the Igot and Baring families saying that they are descendants of Lapulapu and telling their version of the story of the Battle of Mactan.

There is also a story done by Atty. Vicente Gullas, the founder of the University of the Visayas.  The most controversial is the booklet or small book written by Mr. Jovito Javellana entitled “Aginid sa Atong Tawarik”.  It is written in the old Pre-Spanish Bisayan script that we now call badlít that was published in 1952.  I have met Mr. Javellana in the early 1990s when we were attending meetings of the LUDABI in Cebu City.  He claimed that the story in his booklet is true.

After studying these historical records in my study of local history I found out that the local history are also credible if you will consider that Antonio Pigafetta did not emphasize the local version of the story but only the “invader’s version” of the story. (Note: I finished my Master of Arts in History in 1995 and Ph.D. in 2002.)

I will deal mostly on the data of the stories that will reveal that the person who actually killed Ferdinand Magellan was the Boholano named Sampong Bahâ.


However, it is very usual in the writing of history that the credit will be given to the leader of the group.  Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany during the Second World War was credited with the killing of about 6 million Jews.  Hitler did not actually kill the Jews but the atrocities were credited to him.


In like manner we can say that Lapulapu did not actually slay Ferdinand Magellan but the deed is attributed to him.

The Story

According to the accounts of Atty. Vicente Gullas, the following is the life story of Lapulapu.


A few years from 1457, Sri Mohammed and his wife Malindang and son Datu Manggal, left their place which was at the south-east part of Malaysia.  Accompanying them were thirty-three (33) families.  In all, there were 127 people in the group which sailed towards the present day Philippines.

The group first landed at Negros island and stayed awhile.  They then proceeded and landed in Calape, Bohol.  Here in Calape, the group stayed for a few months.  The group then proceeded to Argao, Cebu which is just across the sea from Calape.  Finally the group arrived in Mactan, Cebu in the year 1457.  It was in Mactan where Sri Mohammed and his group decided to settle.


About the middle of the month of Daghangkahoy (February) 1481, Lapulapu was born to the couple Datu Manggal and Matang Matana. So, Lapulapu was a grandson of Sri Mohammed, the leader of the first settlers.  Lapulapu had a younger brother named Buyog, and sister named Mingming.

The name of Lapulapu’s grandfather was Sri Mohammed.  This name indicates that he was a Muslim.  The inhabitants of Sugbo were not Muslims.  They easily converted to Christianity.  However, Pigafetta said that a Moro (or Muslim) trader met the flagship Trinidad and acted as interpreter.  So there were already Moro residents in Cebu.

Note also that the other chief in Mactan, Datu Zula, sent only two (2) goats and did not send the requested pigs.  It indicated that the residents of Mactan were Muslims and that will include Lapulapu.  So we can understand why Lapulapu did not agree with Humabon in converting to Christianity.

Trained as warrior

Datu Manggal, the father of Lapulapu hired expert warriors to train Lapulapu in the art of warfare.  Datu Manggal had a local title of “Dimantag”.  It comes from the old Bisayan word “mantaga” which meant tyrant.  Therefore Dimantag means not a tyrant.

The expert-trainers of Lapulapu were a.) Balì Alho; b.) Dusdos; c.) Sawilík, and d.) Sampong Bahâ.

Dusdos (to thrust) trained Lapulapu in the art of fighting with the spear (Bis: bangkaw) and lance (Bis: tumbák).  Sawilik (to fling the hand) trained Lapulapu in the art of fighting with the hands like wrestling, bare hand fighting, and stick fighting (Bis: arnis).

The word Bali Alho could either be Bálì Alho, with a grave accent of “ì” in balì and the meaning will be “can break a pestle”.  If it is sounded with and acute accent as in “í”, the meaning will be “can reverse or invert the pestle”.

I prefer “Balí Alho” can reverse the pestle, because the traditional training of Bisayan peddlers was how to use the “hamitang” or carrying pole as a weapon, just like in Jackie Chan movies where the hamitang was used in “staff or pole fighting”.

According to the booklet Aginid sa Atong Tawarik by Jovito Javellana the álho was the weapon used by Lapulapu during the Battle of Mactan. The reason is very logical.  The alho or pole or stick is heavy and longer than a sword.

Magellan and his soldiers were wearing armors.  Those armors were not penetrable by arrows or swords.  What was done by Lapulapu was to pummel (Bis: mákmak) the armor so that it will crumple. Once the armor will crumple, the arms, body, etc. of the Spaniard will be squeezed to immobility and they can be easily killed with the kampilan or weapon of the natives.

This weapon is missed in emphasis by our historians because the term used by Blair and Robertson in their translation is “stake”.  In the original Italian the word used by Pigafetta is “pali”, which means “poles”.  It is practically the Bisayan alho.  If you say “stake” it means a short stick about one foot long and pointed at one end.  So a mistranslation by Blair and Robertson caused the record of the Aginid to be doubted.

The other expert was Sampong Bahâ. His name means to block or cover a flood.  Since there was and is no river in Mactan that will flood, then Sampong Baha came from somewhere else.

Sampong Bahâ was an expert in the use of a large bladed weapon.  The original term used by Pigafetta in the Italian version is “terciado” and it is mistranslated by Blair and Robertson as “cutlass”.  A cutlass is short, similar to the Bisayan sundang.

Blair and Robertson made an additional comment; “it is curved like a scimitar but only larger”.  A scimitar is puláng in Bisayan.  However most people will use the term kampilan.  A kampilan is a very big sword that normally requires two hands for its handling.

If a fighter can use it with only one hand, he must be big and strong. Again, another mistranslation by Blair and Robertson has deprived Sampong Bahâ of his importance in the battle. (To be continued…)

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