The rape of 50 dalagas and the massacre of Spaniards in Cebu

Topic |  

The rape of 50 dalagas and the massacre of Spaniards in Cebu

Topic |  


During the so-called “Battle of Mactan”, on 27 April 1521, Ferdinand Magellan and 7 other Spaniards were killed.  Four (4) Cebuanos were also killed due to “friendly fire” from the mortars from the boat, and fifteen (15) Opongánons (people of Mactan) were killed.

The newly baptized Christian Rajah Humabon of Cebu and about 600 to 900 Cebuanos were also there but did not participate during the battle.

Given this scenario, why would Rajah Humabon massacre the Spaniards, including the priest Fr. Pedro Valderrama, four (4) days later on May 1, 1521?


Pigafetta’s Record

The account of Antonio Pigafetta as found in Vol. 33, “Philippine Islands” by Blair and Robertson, do not mention of rape of the women of Cebu. The only statement that indicated that something went wrong was “On Saturday, the day on which the captain was killed, the four (4) men who had remained in the city to trade, had our merchandise carried to the ships. Then we chose two commanders, namely, Duarte Barboza, a Portuguese and a relative of the captain, and Johan Seranno, a Spaniard”. (B.&R., Vol. 33, Phil. Islands, p. 183).

The end-note of Vol. 33, p. 342, mentions of a certain Spanish writer Peter Martyr asserting that the violation (rape) of the women by the sailors was the cause of the massacre.

Dr. Gregorio Zaide in his book, “Phil. History and Government (1980, p. 98)” said, “Saavedra carried a letter from the Cortes to the Cebuano King apologizing for the rude conduct of Magellan’s men in 1521.” These records indicated that the Spanish authorities in Spain knew that “violation of the women” of Cebu occurred.

Dr. Luengo’s version

Rev. Dr. Jose Ma. Luengo in his book “A History of the Philippines with Focus on Bohol” (Mater Dei Pub., 1991) and citing Dr. Zaide and a certain Leandro Tormo Sanz, Entrevista en el Insituto de Cultura Hispanica, Madrid, España, said that the real reason was the rape of fifty (50) Cebuano maidens (dalaga) by the Spaniards who did not went to Mactan to fight.


The sixty (60) Spaniards in three (3) boatloads left Cebu on the midnight of April 26. The battle of Mactan Island started at sunrise and ended before noon of April 27, 1521. In the afternoon the Spaniards and Rajah Humabon and the Cebuanos were back in Cebu.


If 50 dalagas were raped, it must have been a massive undertaking done by the Spaniards to be accomplished in so short a time.  It was possible because the Cebuanos that were left behind were women, children, and the old. The able bodied Cebuanos were in Mactan Island.

Javellana’s Version

In 1952, long before the history book of Dr. Zaide was written (1980), Mr. Jovita S. Javellana wrote his local version entitled “Aginid, Bayok Sa Atong Tawarik (Glide On, Ode to Our History)”. The book is written in the old Bisayan Script now called “badlit” with Latin letters equivalent. It is said to be based on old traditional written and oral records in Cebu.


The story of the rape of the Cebuano women was mentioned by Javellana as the main cause of the massacre.

In the afternoon of April 27, Rajah Humabon, his men and the Spaniards returned. They were busy in the burial of the dead Spaniards. Rajah Humabon was secretly told by some Cebuanos what transpired in his absence. Rajah Humabon then decided to plan for revenge. Meanwhile, he pretended to be busy with the negotiation to retrieve the body of Magellan that Lapulapu kept as a trophy.


Standard Spanish Version

As a conquered people, our previous historians followed the official version imposed by the conquerors.

As conquerors, you would not expect the Spaniards to reveal that the Spaniards under Magellan committed rape in Cebu. The conquerors only emphasized Christianity and the advancement in civilization.

The official Spanish version for the reason of the massacre was to put the blame on Enrique (Bis: Makiyong) the slave of Magellan.  It was supposed to be Enrique who told Humabon when the Spaniards will leave and help plan how to capture the ships and seize the goods in the ships.

The banquet that was prepared and given in the morning of May 1, 1521 was emphasized as a treacherous plan of the Cebuanos.

Since the Spaniards on the ships, who did not attend the banquet, hurriedly lift anchor and fled, the only recorded that all the 27 Spaniards who went down were killed. In fact they have no way of knowing what really happened.

Something to Ponder

In saying or recording that the Spaniards were massacred, the Spaniards are telling everybody that the Cebuanos were savages and did not have an ounce of chivalry.

If you will think about it, why would the Cebuanos kill the Spaniards who were with them in Mactan? For sure the Cebuanos would know that those Spaniards in Mactan could not be the rapists. Only the rapists were killed.  According peripheral records the other Spaniards were only taken as slaves. The Cebuanos could profit if the Spaniards will be sold into slavery.

Bear in mind that slaves in the Visayas were not tied in chains. They were free to accompany their master in raids and can buy-out their freedom.

One strange information that I have found in my research is that that when Legazpi arrived in 1565, Tupas, who was yet a young price when Magellan arrived and the Chief of Cebu when Legazpi arrived, still performance the “challenges” or rituals that Magellan used when he (Magellan) initiated Humabon into the Knight of St. James of Compostela.

It is an indication that a kind of “Masonic Lodge” was organized in Cebu by the Spaniards that were left behind. The gap of 44 years (1565-1521) could make Tupas forget what Magellan did to Rajah Humabon.  When Legazpi arrived, Tupas, as well as the other Cebuanos, made challenges or give passwords in the 3rd Degree of Freemasonry.

(To be continued).

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